When it comes to celebrity hair stylists, Kim Kimble is the real deal. After working with stars for two decades, the pro showed no signs of slowing in 2016 when she crafted what were arguably the year’s most talked-about coifs: Beyoncé’s Superbowl curls and MTV VMA’s braid as well as more than 20 awe-inspiring looks for Lemonade. And as if being one of Queen Bey’s go-to hair gurus wasn’t enough to fill up her 2016 to-do list, she also taped season five of her We TV’s hit series L.A. Hair (which premieres January 5) and capped off December with the launch of her hair care line, the Kim Kimble Silk Hair Collection, for HSN. We called up Kimble to get the scoop on her new products and returning show, as well as to reflect on her 15 years styling Bey, the fate of her most memorable hair pieces and the highs and lows of her illustrious career. Below, everything we learned from Kimble.
When did you know you were destined to be a hairstylist?
My grandmother and mother were hairdressers, so it was always in my mind. But I wanted to be a fashion designer, so I actually thought, ‘I’’ll go to school to become a hairdresser so I can work while I’m in college.’ But when I interned for a designer, I realized I didn’t really like sewing! But what I did fall in love with was the challenges of hair cutting, cuts and extensions — and watching my clients transform. It was almost like I was a designer, but for hair, not clothes!
What was your big break?
After four years of working in a salon and building an amazing clientele, I got an opportunity to work on a film with Robert Townsend called B*A*P*S starring Halle Berry. He was looking for crazy hairstyles and I had plenty because I had been doing a lot of hair shows and fantasy competitions. So I got hired. And from there I worked on TV shows and films and that’s when I met Beyoncé, on [the TV movie] Carmen: A Hip Hopera for MTV [in 2001]. I started working with her a lot when she started on Austin Powers in Goldmember [in 2002] and right after that her career was about to take off with her solo album Dangerously in Love [in 2003] and I became her go-to person for everything. And the rest is history.
Of all the looks you’ve created for Beyoncé, what’s the most requested?
To this day, her soft, sexy, wavy hair. But whatever she’s doing, that’s what they want. I have been getting a lot of requests for braids because of Lemonade and her recent appearances. But really, people want that long, luxurious hair.
Did you know the first time you created that look for her that it’d be a hit?
I remember when she was trying to figure out what to do for Dangerously in Love and I remember we did a shoot before the album packaging and she said, “this is the look.” And from that point on it was her signature to me because it’s beautiful and effortless — and she’s just an effortless beauty. She doesn’t have to try hard to look beautiful, and I think it just speaks to who she is.
And what’s your favorite Beyoncé hair moment of all time?
The wet hair look at the Grammys! It was challenging because the hair dries, so we had to wet it before she went out. But I think she pulled it off really well, and what was cool was how it dried. And I loved her BET Awards hair with the braids, and when she recently did the MTV VMAs and the Superbowl. Everyone’s used to seeing her hair long and wavy, so I like the fact that we got to do something different with the texture. And Lemonade was such an amazing project, I really loved how the looks came out, I felt like it was so different. These are all of my new favorites!
When you work with her on top-secret projects like Lemonade, is it hard to stay mum?
I think most artists — and I am like this, too — if I am working on something I won’t really talk about it until it comes out. She has a vision and a lot of times I don’t know what’s going on until I see it, so I don’t talk about it because I don’t know enough about all the details.
After many years side-by-side, you’re longer working with Beyoncé 24/7 — was it hard to walk away from that life full-time?
I still work with her a lot, I just don’t tour with her because she’s gone for so long, and I have a child. At some point I had to make a choice. You have to take chances and follow your dreams. But I’m blessed that she continues to work with me on all her amazing projects, like Lemonade and the MTV VMAs this year. But I have businesses to run, and other clients, great clients that I got because of her the fact that they love the work that I have done with her. And because she was my first big client, I still make myself available if she needs me.
What was the moment you knew you were a household name?
Working with Beyoncé definitely helped catapult my career. But I think a defining moment was when I got to appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show as one of the top stylists in the country. That was pretty major for me. So to get the chance to do makeovers on her show, I knew then — this is a big deal. I never had the problem of getting booked again!
So many celebs come to you when they want to have a major wig moment, where are these iconic pieces now?
Some of the pieces the celebrities have kept, which is a good thing! But we’ve kept some. One day I did hope to open up a hair gallery of pieces and things that we’ve done. I mean, I kept the [3.5-pound] wig that Oprah Winfrey wore on the cover of O. That one I don’t really let out! It was such an amazing moment.
What hair tip do you always swear by no matter what hair texture you’re working with?
Well the one thing for me to really keep your hair healthy is a 100% silk pillowcase. It really keeps the hair from drying out. When I use them, my ends don’t feel dry.
You’re kicking off season five of L.A. Hair with five new stylists. What do you look for in a hairdresser?
Loyal people. You look for people that are passionate, talented, but people that are moldeable, people that are willing to learn and stay innovative. Because yes, you want to make money, but that doesn’t drive me. I love doing hair, I love making people look good and feel good about how they look and it just so happens I can make money doing it. It’s a win-win, and I want to make sure I find people that are on the same page. Because when they care about the work, they’re going to do great work and not just look for the money and leave someone looking crazy. Sometimes you have to redo something and I want people that understand that and want to work with me in creating a happy customer.
You’ve had such a successful career. Has there ever been a time when you thought you were failing?
Every other week! No, it’s not that often. But I’ve had ups and downs with L.A. Hair and with my product line with HSN. But I don’t look at the challenges as failures, they are learning experiences that give me the fuel to go back and figure it out and come back stronger and better.
After all these years in the hair industry, what inspires you now?
When you want to be ahead in this business, you have to constantly be on the lookout. I don’t have a lot of down time, but I believe you have to keep searching. I go to hair shows, look at the internet and magazines, take classes, and work with other people. I will never stop learning.