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Home > Features > The lucky one: Celebrity hair stylist Mark Townsend talks about his famous clientele, his rise to the top, and his advice for new stylists

The lucky one: Celebrity hair stylist Mark Townsend talks about his famous clientele, his rise to the top, and his advice for new stylists

By Shayna Wiwierski

MarkTownsendWhen Mark Townsend visited New York with a friend who was attending an interview for college, little did he know that that opportunity would lead him to styling the hair of some of Hollywood’s most famous it-girls.

Before styling the locks of A-listers like Rachel McAdams, Jennifer Lawrence, Natalie Portman, Rachel Weisz, and so many more, Townsend started off as a stylist at New York’s famed Oribe salon.

“I went to New York City with a friend for his interview for college.  When he was there I went to Oribe and the manager happened to be at the front desk and I asked if he needed any help.  He took the time to give me a tour and asked me to try out to be on the Oribe team.  Using a model, I had to style her hair three different ways; the stylists took a look at it and liked it.”

Opportunity came knocking again when Townsend went on to assist legendary hair stylist Danilo (who is responsible for Gwen Stefani and Katy Perry’s tresses) for two years, and after, Sally Hershberger for three years. It was working with Hershberger (who is based out of L.A.) that Townsend got his first opportunity to work on the hair of the rich and famous.

“I lived in New York and she was in L.A., so I would see her clients.  She referred me to Tom Cruise and then I worked on Vanilla Sky with him, Cameron Diaz, and Penelope Cruz.  The movie took me to L.A. and I was asked to do another film.  I wanted to stay in L.A., so I got an apartment while I was working on that second film.”

As of right now, Townsend currently splits his time between New York and Los Angeles, mostly doing freelance work.  He accompanies most of his clients on set with them or pops on over to their houses to give them cuts in between.  Although he works on everyone from the Olsen twins to Jessica Biel and Christina Aguilera, Townsend admits he still gets star-struck sometimes.

“When I met Rachel [McAdams] I was so nervous and star-struck.  She was so down to earth and sweet,” says Townsend.  “She’s such an inspiring person to work with; she lets me play and create.  I was working with her for the Sherlock Holmes 2 premiere and for premiere’s and press junkets most times we don’t have even a mirror in front of us because there are so many people working on the artist.  That night I just stood behind her and used my fingers and sculpted her hair into an updo.  I think that’s the night that sealed our relationship together.  She told me she felt like she was wearing a piece of art on her head.”

Aside from working with his celebrity clientele, Townsend is also a celebrity stylist with Dove hair care and actively uses and promotes the brand.  His top three products?  Dove’s Style + Care Invigorating Dry Shampoo, Frizz Proof Cream-Serum, and the Nourishing Oil Care Anti-Frizz Serum.

Although he recognizes that he is a “very lucky guy”, he encourages stylists to never give up and to keep educating themselves.

“A lot of times when you get out of school you think you know everything but you can learn something every single day.  The one thing about freelance is that it is kind of a drag; you lose that sense of community.  When you are in the salon I personally loved to bounce ideas off hairstylists.”

Townsend also says to look everywhere for inspiration.  When he styles his clients, 99 per cent of the inspiration comes from what they are wearing.  He works with the makeup artists and client to create a cohesive silhouette.  He recommends ripping out pages of magazines or going online and looking at references, always be inspired by new trends so your technique doesn’t get boring.

“You have to constantly inspire yourself.  I’m guilty of that myself; once I cut someone’s hair I don’t want to change it.  I don’t want to look at new ways of styling. Get out and experiment and go to the shows.  You can get so much inspiration from hair shows.  Being a hairstylist you are in such a great community, ask other stylists for their tips and inspire one another.”

Celebrities and runway shows can make or break a trend.  We asked Mark what’s hot for 2012.

Ombre is a trend that has been around for at least a year now.  Is it still in demand or are clients shying away from it?

It’s not as extreme as it was when it first started.  I worked a lot with Jessica Biel for The A-Team press and she said she didn’t have time to get her roots done, so I said ‘you should just leave it, it looks great.’ Her and Sarah Jessica Parker really started that trend.  I personally love roots and we are still seeing a root, but it’s not as drastic; it’s a softer version.

What will we be seeing in 2012 in terms of hair?

Updos and ponytails are really popular.  Also, braids are another trend that is sticking around; there are even braid bars that have started to open in Los Angeles.

Where does your inspiration come from?

Ninety-nine per cent of the inspiration comes from what they [the client] is wearing; you want to make a cohesive silhouette.  It’s up to me, the makeup artist, and the client to work together and collaborate.  It’s my favourite part of the job until you don’t agree on something.

If you had to choose one product that you couldn’t live without, what would it be?

Dry shampoo.  It’s not just dry shampoo; it’s a styling product, a volumizer, and a texturizer.  The Dove Refresh + Care Invigorating Dry Shampoo is made from starch, not powder (which can leave white roots) and it attaches to the hair and builds on it and create unbelievable volume.  I cannot tell you how many women have said I don’t have time for a round brush blowout  everyday and before this dry shampoo came out there was no instant cure for a revitalized hair.