Chopping It Up With Johnny Wright
January 2017 marks the end of the Obama presidency and while many of us are still reeling and gathering thoughts about the state of our country for the next 4 years, the majority of us can agree that it’s been not only an honor but an absolute privilege to witness the beauty, grace and elegance our First Lady Michelle Obama has displayed over the last 8 years. From magazine covers, state dinners, public appearances and Democratic National Conventions and more, Mrs. O has worked with D.C. based hairstylist Johnny Wright as she’s tackled motherhood, nationwide childhood obesity and brand new bangs. I had the opportunity to talk to Johnny about not only working with the First Lady but his career as a hairstylist. Check out our interview below along with a few of Johnny’s top Flotus hair moments .
How did you get started as a hairstylist? – I started doing hair at a very young age. My grandmother did hair until she was 91 and she passed when she was 93. She started doing hair when she was 13 and I started styling hair at the age of 12. My grandmother always told me that I always greased her scalp and pulled her hair into a clean ponytail at the age of 3. It was then that the seed was planted that would change my life forever.
What would you say was the moment that took your career in beauty to the next level? – In 2002, I met Jacqueline Tarrant who at the time was the educational director of Soft-Sheen Carson, a division of L’Oreal. She hired me as a technical consultant and platform artist, which is when my career started to flourish.
For those who don’t know, you have been the go-to hairstylist for our beautiful First Lady over her time in the White House. What has that experience been like & how did you begin working with her? – My agent, Ken Barboza, called me in 2007 two weeks after the president announced he was running with an opportunity to do her hair for an Essence photoshoot. I was working in a salon at the time and also owned my own business, a traveling salon, where I served professional women at home or their place of business but I happened to have the day off, so I agreed to it. Since doing Mrs. Obama’s hair for that first photoshoot, I had moved to L.A. and when she came for television appearances, I would get a call to do her hair. After I came out to the Democratic National Convention in 2008 to do her hair, that’s when things changed. I was invited back for her photoshoot with Vogue in 2009 and asked me if I would move to DC to be her hairstylist. I couldn’t believe it, but of course I said yes. It has been an absolutely life-changing experience and my hands have literally been able to touch history.
What has been your favorite moment – hair related or otherwise – during your experience working with Flotus? – There have been so many amazing moments during this journey. I have been to over 30 countries and those are some of the experiences that I will cherish the most.
Johnny, Flotus and his parents
What are some of your favorite short hair moments? – One of my notable loyal clients is Tamron Hall. Some of the short styles I have created for her have been some of my favorite looks. Halle Berry’s hairstylist Neeko Abriol made a mark on the hair industry and it was such an era in time with her short looks that I absolutely love. I have enjoyed all the creative cuts that have developed in more recent years from undercuts, shaved sides to precision cuts.
Describe the importance and significance of the relationship between a hairstylist and their client. – The client/stylist relationship is a constant conversation and collaboration. It’s important to create some type of bond. As hairstylists, we are a part of the illustration of a woman’s story. It’s really important to have a connection so you can tell that story correctly.
What are the big hair trends for 2017? – I have never really been one to follow trends. As an artist, I am more interested in creating stories for my clients that suit their personality and lifestyle. My number one rule with my client is that their hair is healthy and we work from there. Trends come and go.
Where do you find your greatest source of inspiration? – I find inspiration in so many thing but trees would be the number one thing. As crazy as this may sound, trees have personality to me. They represent life and have character which is inspiring to me.
If someone didn’t know you and you had to describe yourself to them in one sentence, what would you say? – I am a person that truly embodies self-love.
A FEW OF JOHNNY’S FAVORITE FLOTUS HAIR MOMENTS
1. “The ‘bang’ heard around the world. It was simply time for a change.”
2. The UpTuck- “This look mimics a short haircut and it was so chic.”
3. More Magazine Cover: “I loved the softness of this image.”
4. InStyle Magazine October 2016 Cover – “She looks so young & fresh!”
5. Time Magazine – “Timeless.”
6. China State Dinner – “I love the drama in this picture! It was such a different look for her.”
7. Blunt bob – “I am always in love with my most recent creation and this picture speaks volumes in particular to the word ‘change’.”
8. 2016 DNC – “I thought it was sexy and powerful at the same time.”
[Images via Instagram, W Magazine]