Celebrity hair stylist Justine Marjan didn’t get to 188,000 Instagram followers overnight.
After assisting another famous celebrity hair stylist, Jen Atkin, for a few years, Marjan graduated to independent work about two years ago and began building her personal brand. She’s now a stylist to celebrities including the Kardashians, Olivia Culpo and Chrissy Teigen.
Thanks to social media, stylists to the stars have more exposure and access when it comes to building their own audiences, a common move now for those with influencer-crossover appeal. Some, like Atkin, branch out to develop their own product lines, while others, like Erin Parsons — a makeup artist beloved by Gigi Hadid — have scored work as head stylists for major companies like Maybelline. Marjan is now represented by Sherry Jhawar, co-founder with Allison Statter of the entertainment and branding agency Blended Strategy Group, who also works with Atkin.
“She was this triple threat of being really talented, really hard-working and a great editor of content,” said Jhawar, referencing Marjan’s other gig at the time as a creative consultant to Mane Addicts, the hair styling website founded by Atkin in 2014. Jhawar, who likes to work fast, came to Marjan with a brand partnership opportunity the day after signing her.
Today, Marjan is the North American ambassador for Ghd Hot Tools, the global stylist for Tresemmé and a brand ambassador for the vitamin company Olly. She routinely works with other brands in a smaller capacity, as well.
We called up Marjan and Jhawar to get their tips on growing a personal brand.
Focus on exposure, not money.
“Sherry wants to see our careers really elevate, not just make us as much money as possible, as quickly as possible,” said Marjan. Indeed, said Jhawar, her goal from the beginning was increased visibility above all else: “It’s not about which opportunity has the biggest check, but which brand will give her the greatest exposure.”
Although numerous hair-care brands had reached out to work with Marjan, Jhawar settled on the Tresemmé ambassadorship for two reasons: First, Marjan was going to be the first female lead stylist for the brand, an honor in line with Marjan’s own feminist beliefs. Secondly, the brand has a significant presence at New York Fashion Week, an audience Jhawar was eager to get Marjan in front of.
“Although Justine had already had some exposure there, being one of the key stylists at a bunch of high-profile shows was going to be a huge opportunity for her that allowed for new visibility,” explained Jhawar. This past season, Marjan headed up the hair styling for shows including Creatures of Comfort, Rebecca Minkoff, Cushine et Ochs, Tanya Taylor and Alice + Olivia.
“Once you have that visibility, the rest starts to fall into place: More celebrities request you, and more brand deals come through,” said Jhawar, adding that it also makes it easier to launch a brand down the line.
Be authentic, but think outside the box, too.
According to Jhawar, Blended receives several partnership inquiries for Marjan each month. The team evaluates these opportunities based on some obvious criteria, including Justine’s availability in the category (Is she working with a similar brand?), the deliverables needed and the time required, plus whether or not it’s an authentic fit.
“The first questions I ask Justine are, ‘Do you like this product? Have you used it? Do you even know this brand?’” said Jhawar. If she’s not a fan, Jhawar won’t entertain it. “I’ve seen partnerships where someone has forced a square peg into a round hole, and they’re hard. The talent gets frustrated because they don’t like the product, and the brand gets upset because the talent doesn’t seem invested,” she said.
However, Jhawar advises all of her clients to think outside the box with partnerships, not just relegating themselves to obvious brand categories (which, in Marjan’s case, includes hair). “Look past what you’re most known for, and consider [other categories] that are still authentic to your lifestyle,” she said. “Those can make for some of the best partnerships.”
Marjan, for example, is now working with the hand sanitizer brand Olika Birdie. “It’s not the first thing you would think of for her, but the product is so necessary when she’s touching people’s hair and traveling all the time,” said Jhawar.
Marjan’s partnership with Olly, the vitamin brand, was similarly inspired. “I can tap into the wellness world, which is something I’ve always been into,” said Marjan, who has worked as a yoga teacher.
Know when it’s your client’s moment, not yours.
Working with celebrities while becoming a celebrity yourself might pose a challenge for some people, so it’s important to know your place in any given moment, said Marjan.
“There’s a fine line [when building your own following], because when I work with celebrities, I definitely don’t want to be at the forefront,” she said. “You want the focus to be on them and making them feel as confident as they can be.”
Despite all her new obligations, Marjan’s work with celebrities has only increased in the last year, she said, and she doesn’t intend for that to change. “My clients give me credibility and keep me on the pulse of trends,” she said. “I want to continue relaying how celebrities are really wearing their hair to brands and the everyday girl.”
Don’t skimp on social media.
A large social media presence isn’t crucial for celebrity hair stylists today, said Jhawar — but it certainly helps. “It’s where we all search and discover things now,” she said. “And it’s also a good platform for these artists to show their portfolios of work, since people aren’t going to websites as much as they used to.”
Marjan has upped her social media game since partnering with Blended by creating a calendar for all of her brand-related posts. “It gives me the time to create the content needed, while also making sure to execute it all on different days, so that my feed doesn’t have five brand posts in one day,” she said. Her personal posts are more instinctual, as she likes to post things as they happen, though she aims for three to five posts per day. “That’s what I’ve heard helps to build a following best, with Instagram’s algorithm.”
Her other pointers? Use hashtags, but sparingly, so as not to look “thirsty;” tag any relevant brands or people to increase exposure; and always respond to any questions from your fans. “I want to create a real community on my feed,” she said.