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Lizzo 'Cuz I Love You'
Lizzo 'Cuz I Love You'Photography Luke Gilford, hair Kendall Dorsey, make-up Grace Ahn

From Lizzo to Solange, hairstylist Kendall Dorsey is here to make an impact

TextAlex Peters

We caught up with the hairstylist to find out more about his formative visual references, his dream project and what advice he would give to upcoming stylists

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.

From Lizzo’s epic, sweeping wig that provides the singer’s only coverage on her debut album cover, to the soft, dreamy hair that Solange sports throughout When I Get Home-era visuals, Kendall Dorsey’s fingerprints are all over some of the most defining pop culture imagery of the past few years. He is also responsible for creating Nicki Minaj’s 50-inch bone-straight silky wig for the 2017 Met Gala – as well as her Dazed cover hair – and Yara Shahidi’s expansive Diana Ross-esque beehive at the Gala last year. 

That’s just the tip of the iceberg of an impressive roster of some of the coolest women in the industry. Rihanna, Teyana Taylor, Elaine Welteroth, Cardi B, Bella and Gigi, and Justine Skye have called on Dorsey for his signature elegant but always impactful style. As have ball stars like Leyna Bloom, Amiyah Scott, Shanice Ebony, Temptress who have all visited his chair before walking balls. 

Dorsey’s interest in hair first started with styling his barbies while growing up in Annapolis, Maryland and grew from there. After university, he trained at Richard Ashforth’s SACO Hairdressing Academy and then with Oribe Haircare where he eventually became an educator for the brand. From there, he continued perfecting his precise hair techniques and, informed by his art history background, has been creating timeless looks up and down the fashion industry. 

We caught up with the hairstylist to find out more about his formative visual references, his dream project and what advice he would give to upcoming stylists. 

Do you remember the first time you were conscious of your appearance?

Kendall Dorsey: I don’t remember when I became conscious of my appearance it had to be early teens, however, I would always ask my mom how did I look and she would say ‘you look like Kendall,’ which means I had a look at an early age! 

Growing up, what informed your understanding of beauty and identity and the way you presented yourself visually?

Kendall Dorsey: For me growing up in a family filled with culture and diversity, my references were Saturday morning music videos, Oprah after school – I was obsessed with her hair and style – and my older cousin who would wear designers like Gucci, Rick Owens, and Cesar Paocitti. I also loved Lil Kim’s forward fashion in the 90s. Carrie Bradshaw’s beautiful hair. The list could go on. Jet Magazine was a classic in my house. With these references, I was bold with my vision and interpretation of beauty and as I grew into it I elevated and diversified my eye and level of craft as a hairstylist with a fashion background. 

When did you become interested in hair? 

Kendall Dorsey: As early as the age of eight I had the urge to play with barbies and from then on in my free time I was always doing something to do with hair or beauty. I became a hairstylist when I was 21 however I was styling hair for my entire teen and college years with a full clientele in college. 

Is beauty something you try to capture in your work or something that you reject? 

Kendall Dorsey: Beauty is something I focus on in my craft. I find beauty in shapes, tone, texture, and love. And wholeheartedly that’s what inspires my process. 

You’ve done so many amazing looks over your career and the Met Gala looks for Nicki and Yara particularly stand out. Do you enjoy creating those big moments? What is that creative process like? 

Kendall Dorsey: I love the idea of collaboration, which means for things such as the Met Gala, it’s such a collective process between the artist and teams. The process is incredible! You get to watch the designer create a piece of art, while also connecting with the stylist and MUA to come up with strong ideas to present and then we SLAY together.

Do you ever feel like you’ve been pigeon-holed as a ‘black hair’ hairstylist?

Kendall Dorsey:  No, I don’t feel pigeonholed because I work with all hair textures. I feel that the industry has, and is becoming, more aware of how to hire within the community of brown skin artist.

What are the projects that you’re most proud of? 

Kendall Dorsey: I am so proud of all of my projects. After each time I call a friend and say ‘Oh my god I’m super happy, this was the best project ever!’ And they say ‘you say that about all of them’ which means for me, each time I’m growing. So I’m just enjoying each moment and am so thankful.

What is your dream project to work on? 

Kendall Dorsey: A dream project I would love to work on is travelling around the world starting in Africa creating a vocational training program for teens having a desire to work in the hair industry; founded by me to help them get verification. That’s a dream.  

What advice would you give to young artists hoping to get into the industry?

Kendall Dorsey: The best advice I can give to a younger artist is perfect the craft of studying and, of course,  patience and self-care. Then you can focus on mastery in developing your lane of artistry. 

What are you currently working on?

Kendall Dorsey: Currently, I’m developing a product line and opening a salon for all textured hair types. 

Who would you like to shine a spotlight on next?

Kendall Dorsey: I would shine a spotlight on Micheal Warren and Coree Moreno.

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