What do you want to become?
Alternate Career Titles:
Hair Stylist, Stylist
Career Overview: A Hairdresser will work to prepare an Actor’s look to suit the scene. Hair pieces, wigs, hair extensions, and hair dye are all tools of the trade.
General Salary Range: $50,000 to $70,000
Become a Hairdresser
Like many jobs on set, the job of a Hairdresser can be a lot of work with long hours. Ash Ortiz, who earned her hair stripes during New York Fashion Week before making the leap to film, breaks down a typical day: “If I am doing a day in production for freelance in hair, I will talk to the Director, Producer, and 1st AD and get an idea of what the look is that they are going for and see if I can get headshots of our leads.”
Ortiz then spends time breaking down the look for every Actor on set. A big tip she offers: “If hair is down, make sure you can always see the character’s face.”
Ortiz also works on very short term day jobs. “Sometimes people can’t afford to have me on set, but they want my work. I will drive to the client’s house or hotel and set up their whole hair look. I’ll then send pictures to set, and to the Director, and when the look is approved, the Actor will go to set.”
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As with typical set work, there is no clear path for advancement. Ortiz recommends finding as much Assistant work as possible. “For me, personally, what has helped has been assisting — starting at the bottom. It is unfortunate that you have to take the lowest paying gigs, but once you have a portfolio, it’s easier to get Assistant gigs. In assisting Hair Leads, you will learn their ways. If a Stylist is working with celebs, you want to learn what they are doing. Taking that back when searching for jobs and networking is huge. Treat each client and each gig like it’s a million dollar gig, and that everyone is a true celeb. No matter what, you know you have done the best job when treating people like a million bucks.”
Education & Training
Ortiz does stress education is essential for doing hair. “Cosmetology or styling schools are a good route. At a styling school, you can learn in just a few weeks how to style, and they really provide a high level of education.”
Experience & Skills
Ortiz says the most important thing about becoming a Hairdresser is to practice, practice, and more practice. “If it’s not a natural skill set then it’s a lot of practice. Education is also humongous. I don’t believe in just being able to say, ‘I can do it all myself.’ A lot of people put a lot of hours into it. For me, my education was 1,600 hours just on hair. Education is a huge key to this.”
She also stresses you have to be a people person to do the job. “When people come to us, it’s not just getting their hair done, it’s hair-apy… it really is therapy every time they sit in my chair. We do know how to talk to people. It’s being able to have the connection, and to read the person in your chair and read their energy, and really understand what they want, and when to talk, and when not to talk, and making sure that you are still getting everything done in a timely manner. Time is everything, especially in production.”
You can’t be a wallflower to do the job either, according to Ortiz. “It takes a strong but loving personality. I say strong because you are going to deal with a lot of people and if you aren’t built for it, it will break you… but loving in a sense that you still have humans sitting in your chair, and you need to treat them with respect. Most importantly you have to remember why you started doing it in the first place — to connect with people, provide a positive experience, and to have your art out there.”
Working hard as a Hairdresser is pretty much a given. Ortiz says she has put in nineteen-hour days! “You really need to love what you’re doing,” she emphasizes. She also wants to make sure that aspiring Hairdressers know they will be living a freelance life. “There are a couple of ranges of payment in the freelancing world, you can either be put on a net 30, so you will be paid within in 30 days, sometimes same-day pay, sometimes you will be on payroll. It can really range depending on the job, and you have to be ready for that.”
Ortiz gives a great tip for ensuring you work often — when you find the people you love to work with, keep working with them. “For me, at this point, it is a huge part of networking and having previous productions reach out to me. I personally like to have set productions that I work with that have a good couple of jobs every month. I am usually Hair and Makeup that they call first. I do like to stick with production companies that I know treat me right. I like working for a well-oiled working machine.”
Ortiz earns a living through two primary methods: “Do and Gos,” where she sets hair or makeup and leaves or working a full production. “Having a bunch of Do and Go’s is always great because they are short days and you can make a good amount of money, but production is nice because it provides consistency and it usually ends up paying more,” she explains.
Unions, Groups, Social Media, and Associations
Local 706 serves as the union for Hair and Makeup. Ortiz is not currently in the union but she does consider eventually joining. She recommends Production Resource as a helpful resource for getting assisting work. She does note “the union makes you pick between Hair and Makeup, you are not allowed to do both. I would ultimately probably choose Makeup, but it would be a really hard decision — I might choose Hair, too! It’s a craft and an art.”
- According to Ortiz, your first step is getting an education.
- Next, you want to get your foot in the door to gain experience as quickly as possible.
- Finally, say yes to opportunities and assisting others.
What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?
“You need to be dedicated and passionate. You need to really get an education and find someone to assist and just put your whole life into it. Work now, party later.”
What’s the #1 mistake people make when trying to get into this career?
“People think because they can do their own hair and makeup on social media that they are able to do it on other people and don’t realize that everyone has different hair types and textures. There is more to it than just doing your own. Also, many think that you will make a ton of money in the beginning. At first, you will put more money into it than you will get back.”
What is the question people should ask about this career but rarely do?
“When people come to assist me they assume it’s going to be quick, short days but they’re just not so maybe finding out what your day is going to look like is a good idea before you come to work.”
If you could describe in one word what makes you successful, what would it be?
Originally from Charlotte, North Carolina, Ash Ortiz started as a Makeup Artist doing body paint, special effects, and beauty with Quinton Jordan at The Photo Dojo Studios. She graduated from Paul Mitchell The School: Charlotte where she found her love for hair. While still in school, she worked New York and Paris Fashion Week 2017.
After graduating, Ash moved to Los Angeles and hit the ground running. She has worked in film, television, music videos, editorials, red carpet, and fashion weeks. She reunited with Stevie Boi and led his makeup team for NYFW 2018. Committed to giving back, she volunteers with Lava Mae, giving haircuts to the homeless in DTLA. She enjoys further honing her skills while skateboarding with GrlSwirl.