Nikay’s path to global hairstyling, educating, NAHA’s Men’s Hairstylist of the Year and the USA Cutting Director for Balmain was unconventional.
The Santa Monica native started out as a fashion designer but as fate would have it, she fell in love with cosmetology. Nikay quickly became immersed in editorial hair styling and runway styling but added another unconventional twist to her career. She decided she wanted to give back to the industry by educating future hair stylists and began teaching at the Aveda Institute. Nikay can point to a particular moment when it became clear to her that her true passion was for hands-on education.
She won the North American Hairstyling Award (NAHA) for Men’s Hairstylist of the Year, has been published in countless international magazines for men’s grooming and couture styling including Vogue Italia, Vulkan Mag, ANDmen, Jute Magazine, and many more. Nikay also mentored a student stylist to garner a NAHA nomination as well.
“The greatest highlight was the mentorship I was able to provide,” says Nikay. That experience pushed her to want to enhance her craft by improving the future for every stylist she meets that’s willing to learn. Now, when Nikay is not in the salon, she’s either traveling for photo shoots, on set or helping educate the next generation of hair stylists. You can find Nikay globe-trotting, grooming men and taming manes for clients including ABC’s bachelorette break-out stars Robby Hayes and Chayse Mcnary, Under Armour, Balmain, Kate Hudson, Vogue, and many more.
Hey Nikay, can you give us some background information on your career prior to where you are today?
Well, I started out as a junior fashion designer in Los Angeles. I knew I always wanted to be in the industry and I was sketching constantly in High School; so I went for it. I learned early on that perhaps design wasn’t for me; which is how I evolved into hair styling. I wanted to stay connected with the industry though; so I decided to take on hairstyling in editorial and it’s all just sort of evolved into this beautiful compromise of fashion and hair.
What training did you undertake?
I started out with cosmetology school at the Aveda Institute Denver, from there I was nominated for Student Hairstylist of the Year for the North American Hairstyling Awards, after that I apprenticed under some of the top hair stylists. Such as, Matthew Morris (known for his time on Shear Genius) and tried to evolve in every way I could.
What is a typical day in the life of you like?
Somewhat chaotic, I start out looking at my phone. I am an educator and Director for Balmain Hair Couture which is a Paris based company from the fashion house of Balmain; so I am usually waking up to a few emails.
From there I head to my salon, to do cut and color behind the chair while trying to juggle managing the salon; and keeping up with Balmain and emails from editorials etc.
What originally sparked your interest to become a men’s hair stylist?
Honestly? I was TERRIBLE at men’s hair when I first started. And if you know me; you know I’m a perfectionist so I saw that weakness as an opportunity to grow so I became obsessed with being the best men’s stylist I could be.
What is your favourite type of project brief or collaboration to work on?
Oh I love a classic luxury editorial! Think Chanel, Dior, Balmain inside of vogue with that beautiful hair moving and truly complimenting the style of couture.
Favourite season or particular trend?
I don’t have a favourite trend I like to say I’m a chameleon; I’m always excited for what’s new. Favorite season? That would probably be fall – where the guys are wearing awesome trench coats, pea coats, and button-ups but it’s not yet cold enough to hide their awesome style in a beanie.
How do you handle the pressure?
Quietly. I’m a very introverted person when it comes to pressure. I usually just roll with it put my head down and get the job done.
What about criticism?
I like to look at criticism as an opportunity to grow. I think we all can take it so personally (which I do believe me). But then I try to take a step back to use it as a way to improve. I’m always open to it.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
Do it for you; and no one else. Create work YOU are proud of and the rest will follow.
Best advice you could give someone?
It is what it is. It’s the mantra I live by. Just means; it happened to learn from it; grow from it, but don’t let small things bring you down.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Oh everything! Architecture, other stylists, nature, couture. Music lyrics. I really try to draw inspiration from all facets of art and life.
How do you stay motivated?
My daughter & my husband. I want to be the best example for my daughter so I use her as my guiding light.
What does ultimate career satisfaction mean to you?
Being able to look back at my career knowing that I pushed myself to my absolute limits, to my absolute best, and I was known for exactly that.
How do you define success on your terms?
Hmm well I look at success in different ways. I would say for me; it’s a name people recognize. Not necessarily famous but for good work.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
Oh I want to get into period piece work; and I’m trying to get the cover of a MAJOR publication.
I’m always trying to collaborate with different photographers, and am trying to use my free time to grow and try something new.
Finally, what can we expect from you in 2018?
Hopefully more print work! And seeing my stuff out there on the red carpet. Also I’ll be launching some new collections in the near future that are near and dear to my heart so look out for those!
3 tips for making it as a hair stylist?
1. Be pliable,
2. Be adventurous
3. Stay calm