Celebrity hairstylist and beauty influencer Justine Marjan is known for creating some of the most iconic looks on the most influential stars (including Kim Kardashian, Ashley Graham, Dove Cameron and Kerry Washington!) and her expertise has been featured in magazines such as Cosmopolitan, InStyle, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, and Allure. In 2018, she launched her own hair accessories with Kitsch, and, most recently, she became the lead hairstylist for Bravo’s 2019 Project Runway. We had a chance to chat with Justine about how she worked her way up in the beauty industry to launch her dream career.
WHAT WERE YOU DOING 5-10 YEARS BEFORE LAUNCHING YOUR BUSINESS?
JM: I started working at a salon in my hometown right out of high school as a receptionist and loved it so much that I ended up staying there for eight years, working my way up to lead stylist before moving to Los Angeles and starting over as a freelancer.
IS BEING A HAIRSTYLIST & BEAUTY INFLUENCER YOUR DREAM JOB?
JM: I am definitely living my dream job! It’s amazing to be able to be creative, work with so many amazing people, and have the opportunities to work my craft in so many different ways. I’ve had the opportunity to lead hair backstage at fashion week, create looks for celebrities on the red carpet, create my own line of hair accessories with Kitsch, be the lead hairstylist on Project Runway, and work with amazing brands while traveling the world.
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO START YOUR BUSINESS AND DID YOU HAVE AN “AH HA” MOMENT WHEN EVERYTHING CLICKED?
JM: When I left the comfort zone of my hometown and leapt into the unknown as a freelancer everything came together one piece after the other. I realized that the only thing holding me back was myself and that the best way to succeed is to go after what you want, be persistent, and work hard while being a nice person.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THIS BUSINESS CONCEPT AND DID YOU HAVE EXPERIENCE IN IT PRIOR?
JM: Before I moved to LA, I was working at a salon in a small town. I was unfulfilled, so I explored other endeavors while doing hair. I started a blog and became a certified yoga instructor. When I moved to LA, I landed my dream job with Jen Atkin because she needed someone to be her assistant who was also an experienced writer to head her blog, Mane Addicts. I worked as the Editorial Director for Mane Addicts for 2 years while also acting as a hair assistant, personal assistant, and taking my own clients on the side. While it was a lot of work, the experience I gained in these two years have now made me an experienced interviewer and writer—and I’ve been able to create content for brands and grow my own social media following.
WAS THERE A POINT WHERE YOU THOUGHT THINGS MIGHT NOT WORK OUT AND WHAT WERE SOME OF THE OBSTACLES YOU HAD TO OVERCOME WHEN CREATING THE BUSINESS?
JM: A freelance career always has its up and downs, highs and lows, and emotional turmoil. I try not to compare myself to others and know that my path is different. Having passions outside of work and a strong support system like my husband and family keeps me grounded.
WERE THERE OBSTACLES YOU FACED THAT WERE SPECIFIC TO YOU BEING A WOMAN TRYING TO CREATE A BUSINESS?
JM: Absolutely. Men are naturally more aggressive in their pursuits and, in my experience, I’ve found that aggressiveness is not received the same way when it comes from a woman. Unfortunately, expectations are different for women than they are for men; we are held to higher standards. I’ve received online bullying from prominent men in the industry and have been backstabbed by people who I thought were friends. It’s also hard when I work a job with a male artist only to find out that he got paid more than me and had better accommodations or travel. It has taught me to value myself, ask for more, and to be a kind person.
HOW DID YOU FUND YOUR IDEA?
JM: All of my brand partnerships have been in collaboration with brands that have already existed. I have a capsule collection with Kitsch that has been an amazing partnership. They are owned by an amazing female founder who had already created an amazing brand. The idea to work together came naturally and has been a fun collaborative and creative process.
WHAT IS YOUR PIECE OF ADVICE TO ANYONE WHO WANTS TO STOP WHAT THEY’RE DOING AND CREATE THEIR “DREAM JOB”?
JM: Be prepared to take 5 steps backwards in order to take one step forward. Be willing to work hard, do jobs you don’t want to do, and sacrifice to make your vision a reality. Build a strong and supportive team and network in the beginning and be nice to everyone, because you never know when you will need their help.
photos courtesy of Justine Marjan/justinemarjan.com