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Janina Zais’ game-changing buzzcuts make fun, radical statements

Forget slogan t-shirts, your scalp is the place to air your political views

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‘Hair art’ doesn’t necessarily mean a towering wig or an intricate, adorned arrangement of braids. In fact, Janina Zais proves that a basic buzzcut can have the same wow-factor, with every heart, skeleton face or multi-tonal flames she spray-paints on or shaves in, and can ultimately turn even more heads. She’s also a face painter who’s done Brooke Candy’s make-up, but it’s the hair artist’s cuts and colours that elicit the best kind of creative surprise. Her clients are usually all ‘business’ in the front, maybe you can see a hint of vivid colour, but flip them around and it’s a bonafide party at the back. That’s the point. “My hairstyles should be fun,” the multidisciplinary creative explains. “They should encourage you to stand by yourself, be crazy and not to live a boring and adapted life. To give the middle finger to all who do not believe in freedom, love, and openness.”

With peace, gender, and anarchy symbols among Zais’ hair motifs, political statements are made alongside LOL and creative ones – a novel way to reach a wider audience, especially when exhibiting on Instagram. “The head can be seen as a kind of poster. No matter where you are, people will pay attention which I find very funny when I watch my friends. So why not make a statement with the back of your head?” she says.

It’s obvious why the creative is generating such a, well, buzz, booking editorials for Numero and Vogue Germany and continuing to generate radical styles for a diverse array of collaborators. The deceptively simple nature of Zais’ hair art can downplay the meticulous detail involved, but styles exude an infectious irreverence that will bring a smile to your face in the most troubling of times. “In January, my favourite designer from Paris asked me to cooperate with him. The request alone is already a great honour,” Zais shares, leaving us hanging on the name and awaiting the sure-to-be amazing results with bated breath.

 Here, the hair artist gives us the lowdown on her hair highs and non-conformist mindset.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and where you grew up?

Janina Zais: I live in Berlin but I was born in Hildesheim, a small town next to Hannover. I grew up in a family of artists: my grandma was a painter who worked with watercolours and my father is an artist who specialises in airbrushing.

What’s your earliest beauty-related memory? 

Janina Zais: I was a ballet dancer for 12 years and I started really early aged three. I remember that we had a stage show and I was a poodle so we painted our faces black and white. I think I was four or five.

What is it you do and why do you do it?  

Janina Zais: Heads are my canvas. I mostly paint or colour buzzcuts with the patterns and faces I think of. Working as a normal hair and make-up artist in Germany, you are seen as a service provider which means you just do what the customer or photographer wants. I was bored of that and wanted to do my own thing.  

How did you get into it? 

Janina Zais: By chance. I met Tom Galle, a Belgian meme art artist, and did my first hair art with and on him and the Sucuk & Bratwurst guys from Berlin. It all started about a year and a half, two years ago.

Who/what inspires you? How and Why?

Janina Zais: My friends, things I see on the street, and I look at Pinterest for old signs or writing. I get inspired by everything that comes my way, politically, or things that happen in the world. I still have 1000 ideas which I want to realise very soon. 

Can you talk us through some of your favourite hair art?

Janina Zais: My first real customer Sacha was visiting Berlin from Marseille and he had a tribal earring that inspired me. The same evening he went to a big art party in Berlin and the hair art was photographed by various people. I work with dancer Nina Burkhardt a lot and I was inspired by an old vintage shirt of mine with flames on it. The flames look is the most successful hairstyle I've done on Instagram so far. Thirdly, my artist friend Mateusz von Motz founded an artist collective called Sad Artist Club after his father died. His father collected toys and clothes for over 30 years and stored them in the hotel he inherited, which gave him the idea to start a vintage shop and sell them there. I made the sad smiley for him to support the project.

You’ve opted to be cryogenically frozen in hopes of continuing the human race. When you’re awoken it’ll be your responsibility to kick-start the breeding. How will you wear your hair on your first date? 

Janina Zais: I would shape my hair into a giant penis, with a big question mark and spray everything pink. So there'd be no ambiguity about what it was about.

Can you describe your beauty aesthetic in three words?

Janina Zais: Loud, perfectionist, and honest.

What beauty, skin and hair products are you using the most right now?

Janina Zais: I’m a big fan of Kevin Murphy products and my all-time favorite product is the Tom Ford highlighter. For hair colours, I love Artistique Freak Direct as the colours are super intense.

You’re the editor of a time-travelling beauty journal 100 years from now, what beauty trends are you reporting on? 

Janina Zais: How to transplant your head to any dream body. How to conjure up the right make-up for your hologram contact lenses. The buzzcut trend of 2019 revived and how you can bring colour back into your boring life.

Which fictional character do you most relate to and why?

Janina Zais: Lana Del Rey. I love the character Lana, the modern pin-up girl from Hollywood, and many people have called me Lana because I look like her.  But now, as I recently dyed my hair platinum blonde, it's time for a new fictional character.

Who is your beauty icon of all time? Why?

Janina Zais: A cross between Brigitte Bardot and Priscilla Presley. Timeless beauty. 

Tomorrow you wake up with another face of your choice. Whose is it and why?

Janina Zais: Shin Chan as he has the perfect eyebrows.

What does beauty mean to you?

Janina Zais: I’m a Libra so I am a very beauty-loving person. Beauty for me is an interesting face, a big nose or pointed ears, something extraordinary, unique. A beautiful character only makes a person more beautiful in my eyes, regardless of his or her appearance.

It’s the year 2100. You’re the owner of the largest beauty tech company in the world, what five products or treatments will you dedicate your resources trying to invent?

Janina Zais: A sleep helmet in which you can catch up on your beauty sleep in five minutes, a device that stops the aging process, and a massage robot that finds the areas of the body that are cramped and massages them professionally. Then a toothbrush that destroys bacteria in the mouth immediately but cares for and bleaches teeth at the same time, and a beamer where you can beam to the most relaxed places in the world to bring your inner center back into balance.

Are you optimistic about the future?

Janina Zais: I am always optimistic. At the moment the future of the world as we knew it until now does not look so rosy, but communities will form, people will help each other and we will return to even more humanity. That’s my wish for the future.

What is the future of beauty?

Janina Zais: Hopefully not the Kardashians.