Vanessa Price

Celebrity hairstylist Vanessa Price, who’s best known for coiffing the celebrated locks of Justin Bieber, started her working life as a sales person for a greeting card company in Indiana. Although she was saving up money to go to grad school for psychology, an article about “cool jobs” in a magazine changed her career trajectory. “I saw a write up about being a hairdresser and it seemed so fun and interesting,” Price recalls. “The person profiled had gone to Vidal Sassoon in California, so I packed up and made the move.” Twelve years later, Price is one of the most sought-after hair and makeup artists in the music scene.

How did you get started?

After I finished my training at Vidal Sassoon, I started working in a Beverly Hills salon…and I hated it. I quickly realized that salon life wasn’t for me. During that time, a friend who was a freelance hair and makeup artist asked me to come assist her. Once I got a taste of the freelance life, I knew that was what I wanted to do. After assisting on several shoots, I discovered that the way to get booked on my own—and get the credit in the magazine—was to be versatile, so I learned to do makeup as well as hair. From there, things took off.

Who was your first celebrity client?

One of the first celebs was former Hole bassist Melissa Auf der Maur. She dated Dave Grohl, so I started working the Foo Fighters. I also worked with a Welsh singer named Jem and gave her a signature cut—a deconstructed bob with disconnected pieces in front—that garnered a ton of attention in the UK. People were going into salons and asking for “the Jem.”

You seem to be really drawn to musicians. Any reason why?

My mom was a rock ‘n’ roll hippie chick, so music was big part of my life growing up. I was into the hard rock punk scene growing up in Indiana and have just always been friends with musicians. Working with them now is a natural fit.

How did you get hooked up with Justin Bieber?

Working in industry, I built a reputation for myself. My agent got a call from Justin’s label for his first photo shoot ever—they wanted someone with an edgier vibe to do his hair. I hadn’t worked in pop or hip hop to that point, but I brought a rocker/skater aesthetic to the table. It ended up being a great pairing.

What’s it like grooming some of the world’s most talked-about locks?

To be honest, I just do what I do and try not to think about all of the buzz surrounding it. When we first started working together, Justin wasn’t famous. It just so happened that people started paying attention and they dug it the style we created.

Now, we’re always trying to think of new things to do without freaking people out. We like to have fun, and we regularly talk about what styles we like. As he’s gotten older, he’s explored what his style is.

What’s it like being on tour? Do you create different looks?

I pop in and out of Justin’s tour to give him a trim and do press on the road. I actually spent the past two weeks on the buses and going to venues. It’s pretty bananas and takes a special mindset; it’s a lot of work, and you have to be able to make the road your home. The hardest thing to adjust to is sleeping on the bus. But it’s also a ton of fun…it’s kind of like camp.

What’s a typical day on tour like?

You wake up on the bus in some random city, walk out into a parking lot, grab your bag, find a shower then join everyone eating together in catering. We usually have press and photo shoots during the day. Justin usually does a meet-and-greet, then it’s time for the show. We keep the looks for his concerts consistent—there’s not a lot of time between songs, so it has to be a well-oiled machine. Since it can get so hot and sweaty onstage, I try to keep the hair pushed off his face (everyone wants to see his face!) and flexible enough for him to run his hands through (another thing people want to see). The hairstyle needs to look good no matter what he’s doing—he should be able to move without having to worry.

What’s his standard concert look like?

It’s deconstructed but somewhat coiffed. I try to keep products to a minimum on tour. I start by focusing on the blow dry, then spray Dry on his roots and throughout his hair and then muss it with my hands. I have to keep it super simple and easy to work with.

What other celebrity clients do you work with?

I’ve worked with the Foo Fighters on and off for eight years. I recently worked with Dave [Grohl] on a documentary that’s premiering at Sundance. I’ve done a lot with Zooey Deschanel, including 500 Days of Summer, which was so much fun. Some other celebrity clients include Elijah Wood, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Jack McBrayer. To be honest, Justin has kept me pretty busy the past 18 months!

What’s your favorite type of music? What are you listening to on repeat these days?

I really just love music in general…it doesn’t matter what kind. My favorite record right now is the new Cat Power record, Sun.

Do you listen to music while working?

I try to as often as possible, but you have to gauge the environment and the client.

What inspires you?

I get to meet amazing people and constantly explore the world and discover new things. I love my job, I really do. Being able to share ideas and form creative relationships with people keeps me going.

Who is your dream client?

If I could go back in time, I would love to be doing Debbie Harry’s hair in the heyday of Blondie. I’ve always loved John Waters and would love to have styled Divine’s wigs in Polyester.

Nowadays, I’m a huge fan of Lena Dunham—I’d definitely like to work with her.
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