tokyo stylez makes killer wigs for rihanna, nicki, kylie (and himself)
The Nebraska native has taken the art of wig making to new heights.
i-D Hair Week is an exploration of how our hairstyles start conversations about identity, culture and the times we live in.
Tokyo Stylez was only ten years old when he first started experimenting with hair. While his mother was serving time in prison, he was put in charge of doing his younger sister's hair. Confident that he could pull something together, he took on the challenge, but he quickly learned that he was capable of more than just a ponytail. By age 11 he was already working with extensions and eventually he started building his own wigs.
Today, Stylez is one of the most sought-after celebrity stylists, who counts Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, and Naomi Campbell as his clients. The Omaha native's rise to fame was ignited by his Instagram, where he models each of his custom hairpieces himself. He fills his feed with such fierce selfies that people can't help but ask, "Who is this boy with this bomb-ass wig on?"
His incredibly natural-looking creations include the calf-length tresses that have become a favorite of Kim Kardashian and Nicki Minaj, the sexy wet bob worn by Teyana Taylor in Kanye West's iconic "Fade" video, and the popular baby blue waves rocked by Kylie Jenner. We caught up with Stylez to talk about the new wave of hair experimentation, stigmas, and the future of wigs.
You taught yourself how to do hair at a young age.How did you learn how to make your own wigs?
I was doing extensions at first, I had never really thought about doing wigs, but I started helping out a few friends who were working with organizations for cancer patients. They asked me if I knew how to make them [wigs]. I was like, "Sure!" I had never did one before, but I figured it out and they looked really realistic and everyone loved them. It just became this big thing overnight.
What got everyone's attention?
What made them stand out the most was mainly me modeling them myself. I was posting the videos and pictures, but I had just moved to DC and I didn't have any clientele really. I didn't have any models, so I was just like, 'I will do it myself.' That is what made it really take off. People were like, "Who is this boy with this bomb-ass wig on?"
How long does it usually take for you to build a wig?
It can take anywhere from two to nine hours if I do it in one day. The most difficult part of it is the color process. Most of the hair comes in a darker color, so if they want blonde or platinum, I have to lift it all the way up to a level 10 to get it to a bright blonde and that is a process.
I usually do about four to six wigs a day. The day before I will print all of the wigs and I will color all the hair and then the next day I will just go straight to building nonstop until I am done.
It seems more celebrity women are opening up about wigs, especially Kylie Jenner. How did your relationship with her come about?
I had done Karrueche Tran's hair for the BET Awards. She had worn silver hair and Kylie saw that. Hrush, the makeup artist that we worked with referred me and gave her my number. Kylie Facetimed me, but I missed the call. I had no idea who the number was and then she texted me like, "This is KJ, call me back."
In my head, I was like the only KJ I know is Kylie Jenner. So I am like this is crazy. I called her back and she said, "I saw what you did with Karrueche, I want blue hair like tomorrow." She literally flew me out and I was there the next day. She had this big event and we did the baby blue hair. That is when that color became super popular. That was the first time I worked with her and since then we've been glued to each other.
Why do you think more women are open to experimenting with wigs now?
The trend has definitely grown and wigs have progressed over time with the way they look and the way they are constructed. There are new techniques coming out every day. I am constantly learning more about wigs and how to make them look more realistic.
Women just don't like to deal with their hair, I think that is a big part of it, and a lot of people are dealing with hair loss and different health issues. They can still achieve a look similar to their real hair. Women also just like to play with color and become different women at night sometimes, just performing, and then they go back to being their regular selves. Celebrities and public figures can't put in a permanent extension because they have photoshoots every other day, so the wigs are easy to take on and off and create different looks.
It's really hard to tell if these women are even wearing wigs.
To this day people think Teyana Taylor cut her hair for Kanye's music video. That was definitely a wig. What I loved about that video too was when everyone tried to mimic it. There were memes after where everyone kept putting wet wigs on their head and pretending that they were working out. I don't think anyone can pull that look off, it was crazy.
Do you think before celebrities started being open about wigs there was a stigma?
Definitely. It just wasn't as accepted as it is now. They didn't look as good as they do today. Even today, people will say, "Do you think they will know I am wearing a wig?" They still have that self-consciousness about it. As acceptable as it is, before it wasn't so common, so I feel that is why people would try and hide. It is a new day and age.
Text Erica Euse
Photography Tokyo Stylez