From Freelance to Kanye, Hair Stylist Kristine Murillo Shares How She Does It All!

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Working with high-profile celebs and managing your own business is a lot of hard work. Thankfully Kristine Murillo has passion and experience in spades. She discovered her passion for hairstyling at a young age and worked hard to make her dream of working as a stylist come true. Now she has her own “boutique”-style salon, and a plethora of experiences working for Kanye West, The NFL Superbowl, Miss United States Pageant, and Serena Williams, just to name a few.  

The road to dreams is long and paved with difficulties, but Kristine Murillo is just one example of how when you truly love what you do, your hard work and perseverance will pay off. In our interview with her, she talked about some of her favorite projects and shared some advice for young hairstylists and business owners. 

How did you get started on becoming a hairstylist? 

KM: As a kid, I would love to go to the salon with my mom. Oddly enough the smell of a hair salon just put me in a happy place. I have photos of myself at around 4 years old putting rollers in my uncle’s hair, and I always played with my grandmothers’ hair. When I was 16, I signed up for a 2-year program to become a licensed stylist and then started out assisting other stylists. That’s where I learned the business of how the salon industry works, how it changes, and learned skills from more senior stylists. I went on to continue my education, mostly in Manhattan with Tigi, Paul Mitchell, Matrix, etc.. I worked behind the chair for someone for about 12 years, educated for an extension company, worked at multiple trade shows in NYC and Las Vegas, and then went out on my own. I started in a single studio alone, then expanded to a small storefront studio with another hairstylist friend and an assistant. I now have a full-service salon with a staff of 9 as well as my freelance career. I always had big dreams of working behind the scenes and at fashion week, so I made it happen.  

Are there any projects or clients that stand out as being the most challenging or surprising? 

KM: There was one time in the beginning of my freelance career that I was working with an actress who grabbed the brush out of my hands and completely messed up my work. Then she demanded that I fix it. Once I “fixed it” we ended up having a great friendship, but that was scary for a beginning freelance artist. In the salon, I would say the most challenging client is the one that does not have realistic expectations. Basically, someone who brings in a photo of a model and believes I’m going to make her look that way completely. I always tell them to put their thumb over the face and focus on the hair. As long as they understand the photos are usually photoshopped, filtered, styled, and hopefully the same density and texture as their own hair, I can do it. They should also realize some colors are a project.  Dark to light or vibrant colors need to be glazed in between to keep the vibrancy, you can’t just “dump gray” or “make it all blonde” in an hour, etc. 

Is there any hairstyle or concept that you haven’t tried that you would like to? 

KM: Not really. Between freelance, behind the chair, weddings etc., I have had many challenges thrown at me.  I also continue my education as often as possible to keep up on the latest trends and not fall behind.  So, if something new is out there, you will find me in the next class to learn it! 

What is your dream project? 

KM: NAHA!  The North American Hair Awards Competition.  It’s pretty much the only thing left to accomplish! When the time is right, I will go after this project! 

You’ve worked for some high-profile events like the Kanye West “Sunday Services” and the NFL Super Bowl LI. What was that like?   

KM: One word… AMAZING!  Not only do I love what I do, but it makes me so proud to see that all of my hard work paid off and I get to experience some amazing things! Kanye was great to work for, he really took care of his HMUA (Hair and Makeup) team. And being part of the Super Bowl LI as well as the 10-second countdown that year was surreal, and I was so happy to finally see Texas! My absolute most favorite project was working with Sean Lennon and Les Claypool on their music video “Bubble Burst.” Both were amazing to work for and being that I am a huge John Lennon fan, it was the most amazing experience. I truly love what I get to do. 

You own Fedora Lounge Boutique Hair Salon. What made you decide to set up a boutique?  

KM: I wanted a salon but I wanted it to stand out and be different. It’s on the small side but packed with services so I made it a “boutique” style. People come for a more personal experience rather than the normal salon experience. I also wanted to have the best of both worlds of working behind my chair and my freelance career, which can be challenging when you work for someone else. So I went out on my own and created what I saw in my mind.   

You have a very wide range of experience from commercials to editorial to pageants, how is each different creatively? Do you get to suggest styles and ideas? 

KM: Each project is very different.  With Commercial and Editorial work, we mostly work off a mood board. We take the designer’s or producer’s vision and make it a reality all to their liking. Pageant work is usually up to the girls, but we can give some creative suggestions. There are times where we have complete creative freedom, every single project is usually different.  

In addition to hair, you do lashes and other beauty services. Are these just as important for a hairstylist to know? 

KM: I personally only do hair.  I have a license in cosmetology not just hair, so I can continue my training in any direction. But my main focus is the hair on the head, the other services in my salon are performed by an esthetician or nail professional. 

Have you ever felt like you weren’t being appreciated for the work you have done on a project? How did you grow from that? 

KM: Nothing is standing out to me, although I’m sure if I think back, I can find some scenario that would. That being said, you grow by learning from it and moving forward, which is why I probably can’t think of anything right now. 

What advice would you give to young hairstylists/business owners just starting out? 

KM: STAY HUMBLE!  You don’t walk into a full clientele. You don’t walk onto a set for a pageant or fashion show and just get to do the job. You don’t know it all. And owning a business is A LOT of HARD work!!!! It takes time, effort, knowledge, and experience. If you stay true to what you want you will achieve it.  I am asked all the time, “how do you get those jobs?” “How did you get that gig?” “When did you know it was time to open a salon?” My answer is always… if you want something bad enough, you will make it happen.  Make a plan and work your way up the ladder! I’ve dedicated most of my life to building what I wanted out of it. It wasn’t easy and there are still days where I want to throw in the towel, but at the end of the day, I know I always put 110% into everything I do, and that’s how you will make it. 

For more info about Kristine Murillo: www.Kristinemurillo.com

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