Backstage

  • Bradley Irion with Kelly Bensimon
  • An editorial look by Bradley
  • Bradley describes his style as 'a little bit country, and a whole lotta rock and roll.'
  • 'My advice to a young stylist is to never arrive to a job as a fan,' Bradley says.
  • A textured look by Bradley
  • Victoria's Secret Angel Candice Swanepoel, styled by Bradley
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Bradley Irion

Before Bradley Irion moved to New York City, the idea of styling celebrities seemed so far-fetched he used it as a punch line. “When people from home asked me why I moved,” Bradley says, “I would always laugh and say, ‘Well, I guess I will just meet a supermodel and do her hair.’”

Now, A-lister tresses are the Spokane, Washington, native’s livelihood: Bradley counts Leighton Meester, Mariah Carey, Taylor Swift, and, perhaps most notoriously, Real Housewives’ Kelly Bensimon among his clients. We chatted with the on-the-rise stylist about where he gets his inspiration, what it’s like to work with the housewives, and how you can get the same glossy waves that Ms. Bensimon tosses about on the air.


Why did you decide to become a hairstylist?


As a kid, I was always drawn to people and toys that had long hair, no matter what or who they were. It’s funny: It’s like when you are a kid and you see a magic trick for the first time, then as you get older and learn to understand how it works the sparkle can fade a little. That's what I love about changing my career path into editorial styling, because that sparkle is bright again, and I feel lucky every day I work.

Did someone inspire you growing up?


As a child, it ranged from Cher to Barbie to Ace Frehly of KISS; as a teen it was Blondie, Stevie Nicks, Paulina Porizkova, Pete Burns of Dead or Alive and the rest of those ’80s dance pop queens. Last but not least is Madonna: The queen of change still inspires me.

You have what some people might consider a dream job – working with celebrities and styling models for glossy magazines. How did you break into the industry?


When I moved, I worked in my friend’s new Tribeca salon. Two months after being there, we got a call from a client who was a publicist. She had a model who needed her hair done very last-minute for a Sports Illustrated party. I was the only one free, and that girl was Petra Nemcova [Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue covergirl in 2003]. After that night, I started styling her hair for red-carpet events, television appearances, campaigns and editorial shoots. The coolest thing is…not only did I get a supermodel, but I got a true friend for life.

Was it always your goal to work with celebrities?


Well, I used to look at magazines with clients when I worked in Spokane, and I would see these pictures in cool locations and wonder, “How the hell do you get a job like that?” Celebrities are a bonus perk to this job; when I was a young stylist, models were celebrities – they were the ones on the covers.

How would you describe your personal style?


A little bit country, and a whole lotta rock and roll.

How do you find inspiration for different shoots and projects?


Makeup artists are one source. Sometimes just watching them do an eye gets my mind spinning.

Who inspires you style-wise?


Designers. And random people on the street.

What’s the most glamorous assignment you’ve landed?


I love working in Harbor Island. There is a little bed and breakfast called Pips, and on the walls are all these framed pictures from different editorials shot there with Elle Macpherson, Cindy Crawford. Most are shot by the photographer Gilles Bensimon, and the sunrise there will make you cry. It’s beyond.

Did you ever reach a point where you stepped back and thought, "Wow, I’ve made it?"


Well, I'm making it happen now, so those moments are happening all the time. I'm currently working with Gilles Bensimon on a 24-page, three-day editorial shoot. Gilles is a legend in this business, and I feel lucky to make beautiful pictures with him.

What’s been the most surprising aspect of working as a celebrity stylist?


Celebrities are cool. They’re people like you and me, with real highs and real lows. My advice to a young stylist is to never arrive to a job as a fan; it will be the death of you.

You’ve gotten a lot of press lately for being Kelly Bensimon’s stylist. What’s it like to work on a show that’s so popular but also pretty widely ridiculed for being so catty?


You know, I get asked that question a lot. Kelly is as beautiful inside as out, with a true heart. When she and I talked about me doing her hair for the show this season, it was important that no matter what the hair would always look its best. Love her or hate her, you cannot deny she looks hot!

What’s the secret to her gorgeous waves?


I apply Volumista and Crème for Style to damp hair, then I rough-dry her hair upside down for maximum volume and texture. I wind sections of hair around a 1 ½-inch iron, and I drop the curl in my hand, letting it cool. I pull it down straight while it’s still cooling to give it an irregular wave. Once the hair is curled, I take a Mason Pearson brush and a blow-dryer and blow out some of the waves to loosen and get a nicer mix of textures.

You’ve also worked with Mariah Carey, Taylor Swift, and Leighton Meester. All big names, but who’s your dream client?


The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.

Of course we have to ask, what Oribe products do you use and recommend?


I love the Shampoo for Beautiful Color and Signature Moisture Masque. I always give these to my celebs. They love it; the smell is heavenly. In my bag I always have Superfine, Soft Lacquer and ImperméableDry, Volumista, Crème for Style and Royal Blowout. The fact the hairspray works amazing and smells great makes it easy to use on hair spray-phobic clients and supermodels.

- MOLLY FERGUS
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