When celebrities arrive on a red carpet or at a special event, they seem so naturally put together with bold hair looks that make a statement, often inspiring an attempt at imitation by the public during their next salon appointment. However, a trendsetting hair moment captured by countless photographers and shared almost instantaneously around the world has become a major business in its own right. And for Chris Appleton, award-winning celebrity hairstylist, business is booming.
Appleton, 37, discovered his passion for hairstyling when he was around nine years old in his hometown of Leicester, England, using his mom as his first hair subject and quickly realizing the power of hairstyling going far beyond just the physical look. “I used to do her hair and I wanted to make her look like a Hollywood star,” Appleton recalls about his mom. “I liked to make her stand up in the mirror [after]. She would smile and her shoulders would go back and for a minute, she probably forgot she was a mother of five with jobs to do. It was kind of addictive for me, making people feel good.”
Following his mom’s suggestion, Appleton took his first job at a salon at the age of 13. After years of loyal salon clients into his young adulthood, Appleton began to also do hair at various Fashion Week events. When singer Rita Ora’s makeup artist recommended Appleton for his hairstyling talents, one hired gig with Ora ultimately turned into two years traveling around the world with the music artist.
When Jennifer Lopez (“J.Lo”) began her Las Vegas residency in 2016, Appleton began receiving emails from her team. Appleton knew then that this was his time to leave England and take a chance in Hollywood. “I literally just made the decision to go. I finished working with Rita on the 23rd of December on The X Factor and I left to Hollywood on the 24th of December. Left my apartment, left everything,” Appleton reminisces. “If I don’t do this now, I am never going to do it. I got to take the jump.”
Appleton’s first three months in Hollywood were not off to a great start. Appleton shared that he had yet to find work since he arrived, he had spent all of his money and he playfully remembers thinking to himself, What have I done?! Fortunately, opportunity was right around the corner. He was soon hired for his first Hollywood job with Christina Aguilera on The Voice, which would follow with hired bookings with Ariana Grande, Katy Perry, J.Lo, Adele and Kim Kardashian West.
One of Appleton’s favorite hairstyles so far is what he created with West at the 2019 Met Gala. “Kim calls me ‘The Master Manipulator of Hair.’ The idea was that she looked like she came out of water. This hairstyle was very different for Kim. It was something she had not done before, so it was very risky. I think a lot of people really respected that we took things to a different level and did something that was actually quite edgy but still kept it beautiful.”
Lately, Appleton has worked very closely with J.Lo, styling her hair for the Versace Spring/Summer 2020 Show in Milan, where she wore her iconic Grammys 2000 Versace dress again on the runway nearly two decades later. “The dress is the talking point. J.Lo is the talking point. The hair had to fit in with the outfit,” Appleton remembers. “She has got this beautiful face. Keep it tight off the face, show the face with this beautiful, rich-looking hair, so when she walked, it kind of bounced and moved with the dress.”
Next for Appleton came the Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show with J.Lo back in February of this year, which he reflects on as an amazing yet overwhelming experience. “I saw J.Lo’s rehearsal and I was like, This is good. How am I going to get a hair worthy of this performance? Because J.Lo really is a performer that uses her hair. My biggest challenge was making every head flip and every head turn always come back to it looking beautiful. I was really surprised about the response of the Super Bowl. It was crazy the amount of people that loved the hair.”
The memorable impression that Appleton has left alongside these powerhouse women has helped him build a strong business name of his own within the entertainment and beauty industries. He has surpassed 1.4 million followers on Instagram and recently decided to create his own YouTube channel to help other hairstylists and people everywhere achieve that Hollywood-type look. He is also a stakeholder and the Global Creative Director for Color Wow professional hair care products. Appleton considers eventually writing a book about his journey, from being that little boy in England practicing hairstyles on his mom to the sacrifices he has had to make along the way in becoming the globe-trotting businessman he is today.
Appleton’s passion for styling hair in 2020 seems to maintain the same selfless mentality he embodied as a child, even as he continues to have a lasting hand in modern celebrity glamour and once-in-a-lifetime pop culture moments. “It doesn’t matter if it’s J.Lo or someone in a salon or just my friend. For me, it’s about channeling into them and making them feel great,” says Appleton. “That’s when the magic happens and I think that’s what is priceless. I just want to be the best at what I can do.”