With nearly 300,000 followers on Instagram, a roster of celebrity best friends and the beachy blonde hair of our dreams, hairstylist Riawna Capri is one of the ultimate cool-girls in the Hollywood hair business. Not to mention she’s the mastermind behind Julianne Hough, Jennifer Lawrence, Nina Dobrev and more stars’ strands, and is the owner of one of the hottest salons in LA. But getting there was a journey — and we got the scoop for our new series, The Pro Files, in which we’ll share the stories of the biggest names in beauty in 15-questions. Read Capri’s inspiring Q&A below.
What got you into the beauty business?
“My mom has this book of everything I want to be when I grow up, starting from preschool all the way to senior year in high school. In third grade it says, ‘I want to be a hairstylist for the movie stars.’ How I even knew that it was actually a job, I have no idea. I asked my dad for scissors and clippers for Christmas when I was 16 and started cutting hair in the garage — $5 a haircut. But when I graduated high school, my parents said I had to go to college, even though I wanted to go to beauty school. So I went to community for two years (and started charging $10 a haircut). When it was time for me to apply to college, I applied to San Diego State because all of my friends were going there. I literally got my application back in the mail and it said ‘Sorry, you turned your application in too late.’ I was like, ‘Dad, I am going to beauty school.'”
Where did you get your start?
“I wanted to work at the best salon in L.A., which at the time was Fred Segal Beauty in Santa Monica. I went in there to see what everyone was wearing and went back to apply with a cute outfit I chose. But the guy that did all the hiring wasn’t there that day, and I lived an hour and a half away, so my sister and I decided to just stay the night and sleep in the car. I woke up the next morning, went to Starbucks, brushed my teeth and went back in to apply. Luckily I got the job.”
How did you land your first celebrity client?
“I met Nikki [Lee], my business partner at Nine Zero One Salon, when we were both assistants at Fred Segal. We both left and went to a salon called Cush, and then went to get certified to do extensions. One of the guys in the salon was doing Nelly Furtado and she needed extensions, so he asked us to do them. From day one, we tag-teamed every client. The word got out that you could get your extensions done in two or three hours instead of six to eight hours which was probably our selling point. Then, Great Lengths (the company that certified us) heard we did Nelly, and told us Brittany Murphy needed extensions. She loved us, and was like, ‘My friend Kenny [Paves] just opened a salon, you have to go work for him.’ So we worked there for about three years before we opened our own salon.”
How did you go about opening your own business?
“Someone offered to invest in us to open our own salon. We were like, ‘Huh? Okay, we could do this.’ So when we we’re looking at locations we fell in love with this salon on 901 Westbourne Drive. It was awesome — but by the time we were ready to sign the lease, the investor backed out. We had two days left and Nikki looks at me and is like, ‘How much money do you have in your bank account?’ Neither of us came from any money whatsoever, but we put our life savings together and opened up three credit cards and opened Nine Zero One ourselves.”
When did first realize that you’d really made it as a stylist?
“Have I even made it? When Heidi Klum was calling the front desk to get in with me, that was f—–g awesome.”
What’s your most-requested look?
“‘The Julianne’ is what people call it. It’s that short, textured haircut that I created on Julianne Hough about three or four years ago. She was one of the first people to actually experiment and go short and not do a perfect short haircut — it’s more of of a disheveled f—-d up haircut.”
How would you consider yourself unique in the beauty world?
“The cool thing I love about Nikki and I is that we cut, we color, we do extensions, we style. I love being able to create the entire picture. If you were to tell me I can only cut or I can only color, that would be one artist drawing the picture and the next artist coloring the picture. I want to create the whole entire picture.”
What’s the most important lesson that you teach your clients?
“How to wave their own hair at home. Not everyone can have someone style their hair every single day. A lot of times I will put the curling iron in their hand and make them do it so they learn.”
What’s the coolest part of your job?
“Making people smile. Making people feel good, people who come in and have had a sh—y day or have just been broken up with or are just going through bad times. You work your magic, you cut, color, style and blow them out and they look in the mirror and smile.
Did you ever fail miserably?
“I was doing this old Hollywood Veronica Lake wavy look on Julianne for Grease, and I could not get it together. I was like, ‘Jules, I’m not liking this, are you?’ And she’s like, ‘No, not really,’ but she had to get in the car in 15 minutes. So we decided to put her up in four different ponies and make one long one, and it got so much buzz.”
What’s your favorite celebrity memory?
“The first time I did Jennifer Lawrence’s hair, cutting it into her pixie. I took it step by step. I cut to her shoulder, then the chin, then the cheek, then the pixie — mainly to gain her trust and just in case we changed our minds. But she went for it, and she still trusts me now!”
What’s your all-time favorite look that you’ve created?
“I basically begged Nina Dobrev to rock her natural curls because she always straightens it. I made her hair big like a lion’s mane — it was so pretty.”
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What was the proudest moment of your career?
“When we first opened Nine Zero One, we had four shampoo bowls. I was like, ‘Damn, Nikki, do you think we’ll ever be using all four of these shampoo bowls at once?’ The first time all four shampoo bowls were filled I was like, ‘Nikki look!’ And and we kind of got teary-eyed. Anyone can open a salon, but keeping it busy and full is the hard part.”
If you could only use one product for the rest of your life, what would it be?
“Unite’s 7Seconds Detangler. It protects from heat, the sun, moisturizers, keeps hair as healthy as possible with just one product. I’ve been using it for 8 years.”
What’s your beauty mantra?
“I once asked Steven Tyler how he looks so great and he said, ‘Oil up!’ So always stay moisturized — put oil all over your face and body.”
What do you think of Riawna’s story? Who do you want to see next on The Pro Files? Tell us below!
— Jillian Ruffo