Ursula Stephen is the magician behind Rihanna’s edgy hairdos, so it’s worth hearing her out about all things hair-related
Hair and fashion go together; the defining factor has always been whether or not women put effort into their hairstyles.
American celebrity hairstylist and image expert Ursula Stephen knows all about accentuating those dominant features by creating a look that will best define your personality.
She is known as the woman who reinvented Rihanna’s edgy bob-cut, now called The Rihanna Cut and winning the most innovative hairstyle of the year according to InStyle and People magazine.
She says that grooming forms an integral part of her job, as she deals mostly with people’s images and teaches them how to maintain them.
Stephen is also responsible for the striking looks of many of Hollywood’s celebrities, including Jordin Sparks, Michelle Williams, Kerry Washington, Paula Patton, Christina Milian and teen sensation Keke Palmer.
She says that people need to understand the shape of their heads and identify where their hair is short and where it is long.
“Haircutting and styling is more than just a snip or cut with a scissor or a razor; it’s actually an accessory.
“If it’s done in the right way, it plays an important part in the general shift of styles and dress codes, which contributes to the overall fashion sense and enrichment of society.
“Image is everything to me, because the hair, the make-up, the clothes have to be perfect – one has to be a complete package.”
She says that being the ambassador and spokesperson for the Motions haircare range has taught her the value of real hair.
“Women should wear weaves and that shouldn’t be a problem, but they should also embrace their natural hair.
“It’s an amazing gift that we have and we should always nurture that with the right products.
“Presentation is everything and my aim always with my clients is that I want to leave them the envy of many.
“The presentation of different and conflicting female identities breaks down some of the ‘rules’ about hair and certain looks.
“I remember the time before and after Rihanna – the envy of many for her bob-cut, but also for her other styles. “But the one that got many talking was when she decided to go red and everyone thought she lost it, but to her, she was just continuing the trend.”
Stephen says many women are afraid of parting with their long hair, but if they put more effort into how they dress, then their hair will complement their look. “Women should never hide behind their hair.
“I try not to keep the lines too hard, and I leave a longer piece in the front, like a sweeping bang, which feels good to be able to push away; it’s sexy. It should be wispy around the edges.”
She says that Rihanna’s do started trends and many said the star’s hairstyle made her outfits.
Ursula says that wherever she goes and whomever she interacts with, she always has these simple, straightforward tips to keep hair looking good.
She shed a bit more light on the reasons Rihanna chose to reveal the bad girl in her with that radical short cut.
“She wanted something different for her Good Girl Gone Bad album, but the night before the shoot, there was a rep from the label watching me the entire time.
“I had to be careful; we made a pact that I’d go easy on her that night, just trim a bit, but the next day, I’d put the room on lockdown and went crazy and everyone ended up loving it. After that, we just kept going shorter.”
Given that our weather is harsh, Stephen says there is a need to nurture our hair with moisturisers that work with our weather. I asked the celeb stylist for a few tips for South African hairdos.
Stephen says she has only just begun working and, even though she still can’t give a full definition of what she does, she loves every minute of it.
How can women keep their hair from being damaged?
Moisturise, moisturise and moisturise, it’s that simple. I use deep-treatment masques at least three times a week on my clients, swear by leave-in conditioners and never skip a protective spray, which acts as a buffer between your hair and the heat. But I don’t use irons and dryers every day. If I fry your hair one day, I’m going to rely only on product the next day and give you a funkier look.
How can women avoid tangled hair?
After shampooing, focus conditioner on your ends. Comb it through in one direction, flip hair over and comb through again – it detangles from all angles.
What’s an easy way to change up your hairstyle?
If I get bored, I turn to accessories – a sparkly headband will dress you up in an instant. Right now, I’m wearing a weave – it’s well-maintained and I can take it off at any time. I also use different products, experiment with them to create a variety of looks. You never get the right consistency or the right shine with just one product.