Here we talk to Roxie about her signature technicolour technique and the emotional relationship we have with our hair
From digital artists to photographers, body sculptors and hair stylists to make-up and nail artists, in our Spotlight series, we profile the creatives tearing up the rulebook in their respective industries.
“It was earth-shattering,” says Seattle-born hairstylist Roxie Jane Hunt, of the first time she realised the emotional power of a haircut. “I got a bob when I was nine and felt like a different person entirely, like all of the sudden I could re-define who I was into who I wanted to be.” Since then hair has played an integral part of her life. During her school years, Roxie would spend her lunchtimes hacking away at her friends’ hair as a way of earning some extra money, which she would later spend on fried chicken and a bag of weed - something that would eventually prompt a school counsellor to point her in the direction of beauty school.
Since then, Roxie has spent her career creating fantastical and ethereal looks – hair that seems to glimmer and sparkle in the light, catching and reflecting rainbows. Inspired by everything from the beauty of the natural world to artist Ul De Rico (“his work definitely helped shape the landscape of my dreams”) to the freaky freaks of Rocky Horror Picture Show (who “cracked open Pandora's box for me at just the right time”) to Peter Max – “I see in hyper colour like a butterfly so his work is like a native language to me,” she says – each hairstyle feels to her a cosmic trick, inspired by the divine. Now Roxie is on a mission to educate people through “Free Your Hair” – a project which teaches haircare in conjunction with self-care, offers workshops, and seeks to empower creativity and collaboration.
Here we talk to Roxie about her creative process, why taking a holistic approach is so important to her and our emotional relationships with our hair.
You started cutting hair very young. Why do you think you were so drawn to beauty and hair?
Roxie Jane Hunt: Hair was a way to connect with people and transmit love. I didn't come from a family that was very physically affectionate and I craved a loving touch. I started doing hair because I had a babysitter who would braid my hair and it was like one of the most holy experiences of my childhood, having her braid me. I wanted to be a person who could make other people feel that holy feeling of love through the crown. It was a knowing, from very early on. Also, I loved playing with how I looked, and facilitating that for my loved ones. Helping people see themselves in different ways. It just always felt so powerful and transformative and like such a cool way to collaborate with people. I feel like every haircut, braid, colour, style, every time I work on someone’s crown it is a collaboration between myself and the person in the chair, on a creative and a spiritual level.
What was your experience at beauty school like?
Roxie Jane Hunt: My beauty school experience was completely old school, which I'm actually now really appreciative of. I learned from some older generation masters of the craft and culture of hair. Once I got out of school I was really lucky to find a mentor who helped me unlearn the parts of beauty that didn't resonate with me. I learned which rules i could break, and which ones I should continue breaking.
Tell us a bit about your creative process. From initial idea to final image.
Roxie Jane Hunt: Usually, something visual sparks fire, I see a vision clearly in my mind. Or perhaps it comes from a dream. I let the vision marinate a bit, maybe for a few days, to see if it sticks around. Sometimes they fade and I move on. If they stick around, I follow them. Sometimes a common theme will pop up three times in different places. I see that as a sign to create from. Then, for days, I fall asleep thinking about hair. How can I use the fibre of hair to create and articulate this vision. I begin to make a plan to carry out the vision. Materials, time, space, models. What do I need to make this happen. I mark out some time on my calendar. I gather my materials. When it is time to dive, in, I have a clear plan of the steps necessary to take, I have my materials laid out. I put on a podcast, I light a candle. I get into the creative zone. Then I start doing the thing I came to do. I have in my mind a clear idea of what I am creating, but I am not attached to it. It is there to keep me moving forward, not to be an end goal. I allow the creative flow and the divine to guide me, and I trust it. I often go way off course or make a mistake and that becomes the challenge to overcome. I let myself be led by my own curiosity. I let myself be challenged to push into new territory. I let the process be the magic, and see where I end up. It almost feels like a cosmic trick. Prepare specifically for a desired outcome and then just abandon it with relish but let it still be there as the muse. I inevitably hate what I have created at some point in the process. Maybe I step away from it for a bit. I always come to love it again.
We often tie emotional upheaval in our lives to drastic hair decisions. Why do you think we have such an emotional relationship with our hair?
Roxie Jane Hunt: I think that our hair is the biggest identity signifier that we have. It is how we present to the world. It is how other people identify us without knowing us. It is the story of us, in colour, texture, fibre. When we are ready to write a new story of ourselves, drastic hair changes are available to help us communicate the story to ourselves and others. It is something safe to let go of, cut off, strip out, alter. But it always grows back true to us. I think it is culturally ingrained in all of us to use our hair to signify big changes in life. It is encoded with our DNA and the DNA of our ancient ancestors for a reason. It is our connection to other unseen worlds. So our emotional relationship with our hair also has to do with the function of our hair as our barometers for the energies of multidimensional life.
You’ve become known for your rainbow hair colouring technique which looks almost as if light is shining onto the hair. How did you come up with this? Where did the idea come from?
Roxie Jane Hunt:I came up with the reflective effect of painting with colour, and utilising light and dark elements to make the colour pop and look alive sort of by accident, just stumbled into it like everything else I do. Curiosity led me there and I got stuck in the magic of the full spectrum that lies within the paradox of dark and light. It is where my soul shines the brightest and it is a source of constant creative spark for me.
Your mantra is “Free Your Hair: and it has turned into an education movement. How did it start?
Roxie Jane Hunt: It became my slogan when I went on a year crusade trying to get people off of shampoo and conventional hair products and treatments and back to their natural textures. It stuck because it is like one small fractal of the larger picture that we all have so much to free ourselves from in this life if we are to move forwards towards a better future, I believe. Start with the hair and the rest will follow. Stuck in hair, stuck in life. Free your hair, free your life.
Why are natural and holistic approaches so important to you?
Roxie Jane Hunt: Because we live on a planet that is asking us very critically to pay attention to the things we put into our bodies, our soil, our air, and our waterways. I have three kids and I want them to be able to exist on a livable earth. I cannot afford the luxury of not caring.
Self-care is part of what you preach. Why is self-care so important?
Roxie Jane Hunt: I truly believe that the ways we care for ourselves become the ways we care for our families, communities, earth. I fundamentally believe that transformation and healing begin within. My grandmother Suzi taught me that being a mother of 3 children means you have to get serious about self-care for your own survival. It really clicked for me with my 3rd pregnancy. Caring for the self feeds the inner wellspring of potential to keep caring for others. It's like the oxygen mask on the airplane. Simple, fundamental. Self-care (like beauty) doesn't look like anything in particular either, it can be as simple giving yourself permission to move at the speed of yourself for 5 minutes instead of the speed of the world around you. That is what my self-care looks like these days. Allowing myself time, and allowing myself to not have all the answers and being okay with it.
How do you implement these mindsets into your work?
Roxie Jane Hunt: By practising them personally. I believe that when I practice self-care, everything I do for others reflects that care and it is transmitted that way. Like osmosis. There are so many things that we don't learn mentally. We take in information all day long on so many levels. When something is being offered to you with love and care, you feel it.