On her way to becoming an Emmy-nominated hairstylist and department head (you’ve seen her work on NBC's Songland, ABC's Shark Tank, and NBC's The Voice), Jerilynn Stephens has used some pretty powerful “F” words. Not that “F” word (though maybe she dropped that bomb, occasionally) but a list of five words starting with “F” that distill her recipe for success into an impactful formula. Stephens even put it into a book, “The 5 “F” Words to Manifesting Your Life”. But before she could come up with this roadmap, she had to travel it.
A Michigan native, Stephens didn’t grow up wanting to do hair but in her early 20s, while living and working as a bartender in Seattle, a friend pointed her towards beauty. “I knew I needed to figure out what to do with my life,” Stephens shares. “My friend suggested I go to beauty school and while there I discovered my purpose. I found that I love making people feel and look good.”
When the opportunity to visit a local film set presented itself, she also fell in love with the filming process. “On set, everyone was so nice and encouraging. I knew then that I wanted to do film and television and that I would have to put a portfolio together if I wanted to work.” She learned makeup, she apprenticed in a salon, she started working with photographers to get any experience she could doing hair and makeup for camera. “It took about six years of hard work, acquiring confidence as well as experience, before I took the leap and moved to Los Angeles in 2001.”
In LA, the hustle was extra hard, pre-social media days. “Finding work meant working to make connections, looking at The Hollywood Reporter or Craig’s List, everyday, while nowadays, there are lots of Facebook hair and makeup freelance groups you can get into and you’ll often see postings from small production companies looking for crew. These are great places to start.”
The Five “F” Words
Stephens has been speaking to beauty schools about how hairstylists can get to Hollywood and she shares her tips, tricks, and guiding principles—the “F” words. “The ‘F’ words came about because someone asked me, how is it that you say something and it happens?” she explains. “And I have to say that about 16 years ago, I hit rock bottom and had some pretty hard days but you can only go up from there and the five “F” words helped me.”
- Figure out what you want. “They all work together but this one must come first.”
- Fearless action
- Feel it existing already. “I had to get into that feeling of, ‘I’m a Hollywood hair stylist’ before I was even in Hollywood.”
- Faith. “Faith in yourself, that you’ll be taken care of, faith that it will happen, faith in the universe.”
“Working on The Voice means we get to transform the singer into a star throughout the season,” Stephens says. “It’s really fun to be part of their journey. You want to start out with them being themselves and then there is a slow progression in their looks and by the time you get to the live shows, they are a star. Also, we have to consider how they want America to see them. I have them make inspiration boards in the beginning so I can have a vision for their look and its progression.”
While Stephens specializes in hair extensions and color, she spent four years working in a barber shop on Sunset Boulevard before she broke into television. “That has helped me so much. One of my clients is Robert Hershavek from Shark Tank. I cut him every three or four weeks and I’ll do his hair for photo shoots, too.”
Can’t Live Without
We asked for a peek into her kit and to describe her favorite tools and products.
“My absolute must-have is the Paul Mitchell Neuro Flat Iron. It makes the hair like glass.
“I love an InStyler. Curls I create with it really hold and it creates shine, too.
“Setting spray is a must and my favorite is the Kenra Hot Spray. My favorite flexible hold spray is Kenra #25 Volume Spray. It will hold all day long but you can also restyle with it and it has a touch of shine.
“For The Voice, I use so many extensions and I have bins full of clips-in. Sometimes I will buy wefts and create my own customized pieces.
“For my men, I love the products from 18.21 Man Made. They smell so great.”
“This is what I have to tell people: you need to show up on time, be respectful, dress professionally, and be likeable and willing. If I’m going to stand next to someone for ten hours, I better like you. Sometimes, the creative brief for a show will call for me to hire someone proficient in certain skills and I’ll hire based on that. But other times, it’s just who do I want to hang out with and be grateful for?”