From Salma Hayek to Kim Kardashian to Naomi Campbell, hairstylist Jennifer Yepez has worked with just about everyone. The pro, who was formerly the ambassador for Jessica Alba’s Honest haircare line, has just teamed up with Kérastase as the brand’s newest celebrity stylist. We spoke to Yepez about her new gig, how she got her start in the industry and that time she played seamstress for Emily Ratajkowski.
What sparked your interest in the beauty business?
I’m Latina so beauty is so important. You’re always taught that you should never leave the house undone. You should always have makeup on and always have your hair done. I always had curly big hair, and I always thought, “I want beautiful hair.” So I always liked beauty. In school, I would do half of the school’s braiding. I’d sit on the corner stoop and do hair for $20. I grew up in New York so back in the day it was the twists and braids and I always did that on my girlfriends and the guys, and then I moved to Ecuador when I was 16, and I started working at a salon there.
How did you get you get your start in New York?
When I came back to New York, I started working at John Frieda. And a little bit after I started working there, Serge Normant came in and I started working with him. So I’d go with him and do editorials and all the photo shoots and runway shows, and I just knew that I didn’t want to stay at the salon anymore, I wanted to do editorial and all the fashion weeks and campaigns. So I started assisting Orlando Pita and Guido Palo and Luigi [Murenu], Sam McKnignt, pretty much everyone in the industry. I stayed with them for about 10 years. It was such an amazing experience. I always tell everybody that it’s so important to assist for as long as you can.
You’re friends with some of the biggest models in the industry. How did you meet them?
When I went off to do my own thing, I made such good relationships with all the models. Joan Smalls wasn’t big back then, I made friends with her, and all the girls were just starting out as well. So those girls became my friends and clients and as they grew big, that really helped me. That’s how I got my roster.
After that, I kept on building and I got really lucky and landed great clients that stayed with me for a while. I was only doing fashion editorial and I wanted to do more celebrities, so I switched agencies, and I went to The Wall Group, where I am now.
You’re the new brand ambassador for Kérastase! Tell us about the partnership.
I think being with Honest beforehand was a great opportunity, and after that I got Kérastase, which is my dream. It’s the most luxury brand of haircare and what every stylist would love to do. Luigi had it for so many years, and I was like that’s never going to end. And they had that opening, and I’m so blessed and I’m so honored to be the brand ambassador of Kérastase.
How did growing up braiding your friends’ hair as a teenager help to shape your career?
I was the head braider for Paris Fashion Week for Guido for a few years. And then we did Jean Paul Gaultier and it’s crazy to think that for $20 on the stoop braiding hair, I got to lead the Jean Paul Gaultier show because that’s what he wanted.
Who was your first celebrity client?
When I was really young I got to do Naomi Campbell. I was like, “Oh my God, I hope she likes me.” She was super nice. She was hosting a show and she did her own makeup, which I was super surprised about. That was my most memorable experience.
Are there any clients of yours who you’ve idolized and now work with?
Salma Hayek. Salma was my dream girl, from being Latina and seeing someone so successful and so beautiful, so intelligent, so caring, she was always my dream client. So when I started going off and doing my own clients for Paris and Milan fashion weeks, I told my agent, ‘I want Salma.’ We met, and we hit it off so well. I adore her.
You worked super close with Jessica Alba for Honest Hair. What did you learn from her about being a boss?
Jessica is amazing. She’s fun and such an incredible business woman. I don’t know how she now handles three kids, a company and still looks perfect all the time. We laugh a lot. When I would go to LA, I’d stay at her house and her kids would come wake me up in the morning. They’re really good at doing their own hair too.
Whats your favorite look you’ve ever created?
Top three would be Salma’s pink hair in Cannes, Emily’s bangs in Cannes and Elsa Hosk in Cannes, which was a Cinderella moment all the way.
How did you start working with the Kardashians?
Through Jen Atkin and Mario [Dedivanovic]. When Jen couldn’t be in New York, she’d send Kim or Khloé [Kardashian] to me. And a lot of times I do Kendall [Jenner] because she’s friends with Hailey and Gigi [Hadid], so they’ll get ready together, and I’ll do them all.
What transformations have you done that you’re proudest of?
Zendaya – the girl who has had the most transformations ever. She can look good in a mullet, and you’d be like, “I want a mullet.” One day in Paris we did three looks in one day. I did clean braids, and then we wanted to do a really short wig for the first show. And then we put another wig on.
How does Zendaya decide what look she’s going to try next?
It’s her stylist Law Roach. Law is incredible. I never know what she’s wearing so he picks the look and he has such a great vision. The last look we I loved was her big afro, like Diana Ross hair. He gives me references and I’ll do my thing. She can do her makeup wit no light and a small mirror. She’s goals.
How do you prep your clients’ wigs before you head to Cannes or Fashion Week?
I love the wigs I get in New York, I want them to look natural, not like they have a wig on. So I talk to my girls and they give me all their outfits, and we plan the hair for each outfit. And then I go to Aura Friedman, who is a colorist I really trust, and she colors all my wigs, then I’ll cut it and prep it and bring them all with me. I bring a whole suitcase of wigs and extensions, and I pray it doesn’t get lost.
What’s your funniest celebrity memory?
I was in Paris with Emily and she had this beautiful gold dress on for an event, and she looked so incredible. We got out of the car I started taking a video of her, and there was a hole right beneath her butt. So her boyfriend gave her a jacket and she wanted to go home but I was like “no, no you can’t go home you need to get photographed in this look.” Thank God I had hair pins, so I fixed it and you couldn’t even tell.
If you could only use one product for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Dry shampoo, because it saves me every day. A lot of women who have curly or wavy hair, they want it to last for like 3 days.
What are you most excited about for your partnership with Kérastase?
I’m excited to educate people! A lot of consumers don’t know how to use products and then it doesn’t work for them. People need to be educated on what works for them. If I post a photo on my Instagram of Emily and say what products I used, if a girl comments and says “I have thick curly hair, will it work the same?” I hope that I can say no, use these products instead to create this look. This partnership is such a dream to me. It’s luxury hair. I can’t wait for red carpets and fashion week and to educate girls everywhere.
What are your favorite products from the brand?
For daily use, the masques are amazing. I switch between the Résistance mask and the Chronologiste. It really helps with damaged hair and split ends so you can keep long, healthy hair. And I love the Climent Thermique. Before you blow dry your hair, I always put it in. It helps with frizz and to protect the hair. It’s my go-to for Salma.