Jennifer Yepez has enough juicy, celeb-studded career anecdotes to fill an HBO Max mini-series—and even that might not be enough to fully tell her story. She's most well-known for giving clients high-drama looks on the red carpet. Still, the celebrity hairstylist's work is versatile enough to appear in countless fashion editorial shoots, high-profile advertisements, and runway shows. And if you've spent any time at all scrolling through Instagram, you've definitely seen Yepez's work up and down your feed. She's responsible for the manes of every It Girl and A-Lister from Gigi and Bella Hadid to Salma Hayek to Zendaya and Cindy Crawford. Oh, and she happens to have some stunning hair herself, as her quarter of a million Instagram followers will be quick to confirm.
We went in-depth with the master stylist to look at her most memorable moments, top haircare tips, favorite clients, and must-have products.
When did you first realize or discover you had such a talent for styling? Was this what you always wanted to do, or did you discover this passion later?
"Growing up in a very Latina home, everything's about beauty. You know: do your hair, do your makeup. I grew up like that. I was really young, and I just loved doing hair and makeup—everything from my friends' hair to my own hair, trying different styles.
"I was doing all my friends' hair at school. In New York, that was a very big thing. I was braiding hair in junior high, and I was charging everyone $30! (LAUGHS) So around age 12, I got really good at it. Earlier than that, I think I was experimenting."
At that time, or maybe even now, was there anyone in the beauty world that you looked up to or were inspired by career-wise?
"At maybe around 17, I'd start going to one of the magazine shops on the corner. I'd look at Italian Vogue, and I would look at the credits to see who did the hair and who inspired me the most. I would jot them down because one magazine would be, like, $20 bucks, and I didn't really have that at the time! (LAUGHS) I'd look at the credits and see whose work I loved. It was Orlando Pita and Guido (Palau) and Luigi (Murenu). They inspired me. Then I saw Odile Gilbert later on—and she was the only woman in fashion, and I thought, wow, I want to be like that. That's how I learned about fashion and editorial."
Do you have a moment that you consider a turning point in your career when things started to take off for you?
"I knew all the girls [models] backstage. We were the same age, so we would hang out and be cool. Everyone always wants to do the girls that are popular at the time. You know, like Natasha Poly. And, I saw Joan Smalls just sitting there, and I was going over to do her hair. I asked, 'Are you, Latina? I'm Latina, too!' We were the same age, and we just bonded. I was doing around 42 shows a season, so we saw each other every day.
"I told her one day, 'Listen, if you ever need someone to do your hair for a red carpet or anything, just call me.' She did, and we became really close friends. And then, she landed Estée Lauder. So that was my way of getting editorial work; I got to shoot a Patrick Demarchelier cover with her. She helped me get my breakthrough because in that era, models were celebrities.
"When I wanted to switch over from fashion to celebrity, that was another big change, too. People say, 'You know, it's not promising to do celebrity,' but I knew I bonded every time on set. Another great moment was when I was said I wanted to work with Salma Hayek, and then I did!
Kind of going off of that, do you have any career or life advice from that time when you were coming up that's stuck with you? What's the best career advice you've heard?
"I'll never forget it. I was backstage at a Dior show when John Galliano was still there designing. I didn't understand French, and I got a French email, so I didn't know it said 'crimper' in it. I didn't bring one—Orlando Pita said, 'You always have to be prepared. What if John wants to change something?' Always be prepared for anything. I think that would be the best advice because that scarred me for life! (LAUGHS)
Speaking of advice, what's the best hair advice you've ever heard or could give?
"Own what you have. Growing up, I had curly hair, and I was told that I looked dirty with curly hair. It was very scarring. I thought ever since that curly hair was 'not professional.' So I would say just own what you have. Beautiful curls? Own it. Wavy hair, straight hair—whatever you have, own what you have."
I love that message, and I'm glad there are now people in the industry like you who would never perpetuate that awful cycle. Switching gears, I would love to know some of your favorite products. What do you keep in the shower? What are your day-to-day favorites?
"I kind of switch it up. For my curly hair, I love R+Co. There's a curl line called R+Co Casette with a curl shampoo and a curl conditioner, so I love to use those. And then, as a mask, I love the Hair Rituel balm by Sisley ($100). It's amazing, so sometimes I'll just throw that in. It's a reconstructive balm that works for any hair type.
"To style curly hair, I love to use R+Co Centerpiece All-in-One Elixir Spray ($32). It's an amazing conditioner that doesn't weigh down your hair. It's my go-to for any hair. Then I use their curl cream, the R+Co Turntable Curl Defining Cream ($29). With curly hair, it's so hard; you have to carry around a hundred products—like forget it! (LAUGHS) Those are my go-to's, so you don't carry around a bunch of stuff.
"When I'm blow-drying my hair, there's a UNITE set called Silky Smooth Systems, so I like to use that system if I'm going to have my hair straight. Especially in Miami or somewhere the humidity is crazy, and this works for me. It makes it smooth without weighing it down.
"I like to use Got2B's Volumaniac Bodifying Mousse ($5) to give me volume. I use that myself and on my clients. It gives me extra, extra volume. Got2B also has a powder spray I like to use on the roots. I like to change it up, depending on the texture. All these products smell amazing, too."
Over the course of your career or even in your real-life observations, do you feel like there's one misconception about haircare you wish everybody could unlearn?
"I would say—and I'm a victim of this, too—if I use one thing for years, I just keep on using it. And I'm like, 'Oh, it doesn't really work the same.' Instead of changing it up, I just go with it because I'm stuck in my ways.
Also, just because things are expensive doesn't mean they work better. I discovered this volumizing mousse and I was like, Oh my god, this is way more amazing than other expensive stuff I've tried!"
Earlier, you mentioned that 'bombshell' look. Do you consider that your signature?
What are the hallmarks of that Jennifer Yepez aesthetic?
"I love women, so the look is sexy but also iconic, glamorous, and it still looks fresh and young. When you see my hair, it's always those bombshell waves or sexy body, so that is definitely my signature. Like I said, I love it, too. I think all the girls who come to me know when they say, 'Okay, I want your signature look.' With Emily (Ratajkowski), it's done, but it's still undone, like her signature."
You clearly succeed! Do you have any advice for younger people just starting their beauty careers? What would you tell them, or maybe even what would you tell your younger self?
"Be patient. Now, everything has changed from when I started—you had to assist for so long. But the thing is to assist as much as you can, try to learn everything possible. And don't go out on your own—you can still do your own jobs, but don't go out on your own fully—until you've learned everything. You know how to do every texture, any hairstyle. Because you never want to go to a job and be unprepared. Or turn down a job! And don't ever take a job if you don't know what you're doing."