Session hair stylist Jennie Roberts is an industry heavyweight with over 30 years’ experience in the business – but she’s not resting on her laurels. The seasoned pro is not only excelling in her career as a celebrity stylist (see her work with the Babylon and Marvel Eternals film casts), but she is also passing on her expert knowledge on afro and textured hair through her masterclasses and on social media.
Here, Jennie explains the key to being a sought-after celebrity stylist, gives her opinion on modern salon service offerings, and dishes on her favourite Curlsmith products.
After 30 years in the hair industry, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt so far?
Listening to your client is the most important thing. Listen to their needs and wants and then coming up with a plan that can accommodate that. A happy client looking fabulous is my goal.
What else would you like to achieve in your career?
Career goals are when all salons offer curly/Afro hair services as standard. Being an educator helps me to demystify the difficulties when dealing with textured hair. Giving people the confidence to offer a great service and results.
We’ve seen some iconic celebrity hair moments this past decade, such as Zendaya sporting dreadlocks to The Oscars. What’s been your favourite celebrity hair moment and why?
The natural hair movement has gained so much traction in the last couple of years that there have been some magnificent moments seeing black and mixed-race women wearing their hair natural. I don’t think there’s been a defining moment as there are so many women choosing to be natural. Seeing Viola Davis with her natural hair did make me cry with joy that the message of loving Afro hair was spreading all the way to the top via one of the most influential black women in the media. I’d love to see Michelle Obama with her natural hair. I know she wanted to when she was the First Lady, but she didn’t think the world was ready to see her hair. That makes me super sad. We’re ready!! It’s about choices and a person needs to be ready to make that decision on their own turns but I’m absolutely loving seeing so many styles in the media. There’s a way to go but it’s in the right direction now.
What is it that makes a hairstylist sought-after by celebrities?
A good celebrity hair stylist must be versatile and able to make quick decisions. I’m a problem solver so if something isn’t working, I’ll work hard and quick to put it right without a drama. Being calm brings a good quality to any job.
Who’s your curl crush?
I don’t really have a curl crush as such, but I’d love to work with Viola Davis. She has the most beautiful texture, and she wears her hair with so much confidence that her beauty and love of her hair just radiates from her soul. My curl crush happens when I see mainstream TV shows and movies with people of colour wearing their natural hair!
There’s a debate online about salons no longer offering a wash on a wash ‘n go service. What are your thoughts on that?
I haven’t heard about salons refusing wash and go’s as a service. Black women spend five times more on products and services than any other race so it’s a massive market salons are missing out on! Training and education are needed if the reason is a lack of salons not knowing the texture. If it’s because of time constraints, then it must be priced accordingly. Today when we are all talking ‘inclusivity and diversity’ it would seem strange and discriminatory to exclude a whole society of woman.
Your textured hair courses are a hit, with some attendees even describing them as ‘emotional’. What is it about the way you teach that makes these experiences so unique?
When I teach, I like to demystify and deconstruct everything and take the fear away, which in turn empowers my students. I keep it very simple and don’t over complicate things. No fancy names, just straightforward, good information. Stuff on social media can lead to lot of misinformation given by non-experts.
I also touch on discrimination towards natural hair throughout the centuries and how, despite the natural hair movement, is still prevalent in schools and workplaces. People often get emotional hearing the stories I present or stories my models share. Recently one of the students was in tears on hearing that there is a policy to protect children with Afro hair and hair styles from being discriminated against at schools. She couldn’t believe it. Why would she know? It’s not affecting her and her children. When these stories are brought up it makes the students see the importance of them being there and learning how to manage ALL textures and not to discriminate. It makes them see how privileged they are in our society, and they want to change things up. I call them ‘Hair Activists’ by the end of the course.
What do you find most rewarding about being a Curlsmith ambassador?
I feel privileged to be Curlsmith’s Global Ambassador. The whole ethos behind Curlsmith from its inception to its well curated ranges and ingredients are all in alignment with my own. It was a no brainer when I was asked. For the first time I’m able to offer a range of premium brand products to ALL curl types including type 4. I don’t know of a premium brand that can offer the same expansive range as Curlsmith. I come from a diverse family with all textures from smooth wavy to coarse zig zag coily so it was great to represent the brand knowing everyone is invited to the party. It’s so inclusive in every way!
Which Curlsmith products would you recommend to someone who has never tried the brand before?
A great place to start if you’re not familiar with Curlsmith is the genius tool on the website. It’s called the Curl Quiz. Fill out the questions and it cleverly comes up with recommendations for your curl pattern and texture. It’s so smart and takes the guesswork out as well as saving money on the wrong products. It’s also great to use if you have any hair problems to tackle as you can take the quiz as many times as your hair’s needs and wants change. It’s the first place I send newbies to.
British weather is unpredictable! How do we avoid dryness and shrinkage from the rain and humidity?
So I get asked this question all the time. There’s no secret. Just keep following a great routine of regular cleansing and conditioning to lock in hydration during the winter months. The Curlsmith Essential Moisture Cleanser is great for gentle cleansing while the Essential Moisture Conditioner will leave hair feeling nourished. Your winter routine might include extra hydration in the form of a soothing or hydrating mask such as the Curlsmith double cream deep quencher or the Hydro Crème Soothing Mask as an added extra when needed. If hair is becoming super dry, try changing styling to a product with more moisturising qualities for added protection such as the Hold Me Softly Style Balm or Souffle! Keep out of the rain or cover your head. Obvious I know but there are no magic tricks, just good hair care practices and great hair products like Curlsmith.
What’s the biggest trend in afro hair styling in 2023?
There are so many fabulous styles and textures still emerging from the natural hair movement that I couldn’t pinpoint one look, but I will say I’m seeing more natural woman want volume and are loving embracing a little frizz with definition for a day two look! It looks more modern and effortless and also avoids lots of shrinkage.
Day two hair is a massive favourite no matter the style. Frizz isn’t a dirty word! We’re reclaiming it. It’s what gives type 3 and type 4 hair its unique 3D appearance. Frizz is our friend in the right context and doesn’t mean damaged.
Lastly, what’s your personal curl philosophy?
Keep it simple. Make it make sense.