Stylist to the stars, Kendall Dorsey tends to the locks of everyone from Nicki Minaj to Cardi B, Teyana Taylor to Usher. He took some time out from styling some of the most-seen celebs to tell us what it’s like to work with such high-profile stars, where he gets his inspiration, and what a client can expect when they sit in his chair.
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When did you first develop an interest in working with hair?
I first developed an interest in hair at the early age of eight years old. I styled my cousin’s Barbie dolls’ hair during the summer.
What were your first experiences of working in the industry like? How did you work your way up to having such an enviable client list?
Wow! Entering into the world of fashion and entertainment as a hairstylist that came from behind the chair hasn’t been an easy task. I worked really hard as an assistant, then when I got my first client it became a domino effect. I owe a lot of my foundation as a seasoned stylist to Oribe Hair Care for the extensive training I got as an educator for the brand.
Do most of your celebrity clients find you or do you approach them?
During my journey of building my celebrity roster, it’s been different experiences in connecting with artists. I have met artists while working with other brands, referrals from other hairdressers and just creating a buzz for my brand and name via social media and social settings.
Nicky Minaj with hair styled by Kendall Dorsey
Your client list is pretty diverse, from Usher to Nicky Minaj. Would you say there is a style or a hallmark that is exclusively Kendall Dorsey?
Yes, over time I have developed a style for my client base. What’s attractive to my eye is an expensive look. Clean and polished or lazy and sexy, I’m really inspired by the feeling of the hair itself, the connection I listen with my eyes to understand its rhythm.
Do you have a wishlist of dream clients?
My two dream clients are Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Lopez, and then to pass the baton!
Teyana-Taylor with hair styled by Kendall Dorsey
Do your clients come to you with ideas? Do they rely on your advice or is it more of a collaboration?
Clients have a team that collaborates on the image, which is ultimately finalized by the client. It’s fun to create different looks and ideas to present. It allows my artistry to flow to create magic.
What’s a typical session with Kendall like? Is it high energy or do you prefer to create a kind of therapeutic atmosphere?
A session with Kendall is an all-around unique experience. I like to create a clean, clear space with my favorite Diptique candle, bergamot. No matter where the client is located, I travel with my candle. I also start with a scalp massage after the consultation to release any unwanted tension and stress. I follow my client’s vibe and I like to have great conversations about travel, fashion, and fitness, as well as self-love topics. That’s an experience with Kendall in his home hair studio, The Living Room. Or with his A-list clients. I love a great vibe.
Hairstylist Kendall Dorsey
Where do you go to find new inspiration for styles?
I find a lot of my inspiration from growing up in the church. In African American church culture, it’s a fashion show of well-put-together women: hair, make-up, and wardrobe. Living in New York City, I see it everywhere on the street and the subway. I love to see the Spanish culture, it’s a very glamorous culture that I find inspirational in its bold statements and the bronze hair!
How does catwalk work differ from your regular work with clients? Do you have a preference?
The catwalk has been the glue that keeps my career inspired and refined. Working on high-energy teams around the world requires a certain mindset. Four a.m. call times versus daily clients “three-hour max“ I like them both because they are so different. I need those things to keep my eyes fresh.
Usher with hair styled by Kendall Dorsey
What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t a stylist?
I have a degree in fashion marketing, so if I wasn’t a hairstylist I’d like to be a fashion stylist or a 40-year-old model. I like the camera! [Laughs]
If we were to ask you for one golden hair rule for our male readers, what would it be?
A golden rule for men would be to invest in a shampoo and conditioner that targets men’s issues like hair loss, thinning, and receding hairlines. EvoLis is a great treatment system.
Cardi B with hair styled by Kendall Dorsey
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
The best advice I was ever given was don’t give up. When the going gets tough, don’t give up. There’s always sunshine after a rainy day.
Do you listen to music when you work? What are you listening to currently?
I’m currently blasting Nicki Minaj and Jhene Aiko.
What does downtime look like for you? Are you someone who turns off or do you prefer to stay busy?
Downtime for me is stepping totally away! Hydration and meditation. A little retail therapy always helps me, but I must do it alone so that I’m not judged on my splurge.
Kendall Dorsey’s favourite products
Milbon Weightless Replenishing Leave-in It’s super light and protect the hair.
Dove detox dry shampoo It’s my secret weapon to refreshing hair and extensions.
Amike flat iron It makes hair smooth and silky
Oribe shine spray It has the best scent and adds brilliant shine.
Mark Grassick joins us with over 17 years' experience as a journalist covering pop culture in the UK and Ireland. He's interviewed everyone from Alan Rickman to Iron Maiden and is currently a bearded, music-mad father of two and husband of one residing in London, England.