Hairstylist Ramsell Martinez has California in his blood—he grew up in southern Orange County and he’s now based in L.A. Sure, he may harbor the occasional fantasy about skipping town— “Nashville sounds awesome, or I could move to some beach and open a tiki bar”—but that’d make it slightly tougher to do what he does so well: styling hair that’s artfully messy and gorgeously “real” looking for dozens of fashion campaigns and high-end editorials that appear in everything from i-D to Interview to W Magazine.
His family was slightly nervous when he announced he’d be studying hair—especially since he hadn’t finished high school yet. “I almost didn’t graduate high school because I was doing night classes at Paul Mitchell Academy during senior year,” he says. Martinez’s mom was supportive, but his dad wasn’t a super fan. “My father’s traditional,” he says, “and he didn’t understand what it meant to be a hairstylist. He was like, ‘But how will you pick up a real job?’” Still, Martinez adopted his dad’s work ethic and pushed through early days of hustling for gigs, taking on increasingly higher-profile projects. Now he’s happily ensconced in the fashion world, enjoying his ultimate creative outlet. “People say that when they’re jogging or working out, they go into the zone,” he says. “That’s how doing hair makes me feel. I totally forget about the real world.”
How’d you get started in hair?
When I was really young, a friend of mine’s mom was a hairstylist. She used to cut my hair, and she’d teach me little techniques. Eventually I started doing hair for my family and friends. I really wanted to be a professional skateboarder and I never thought about hairstyling as a career. But when my friend Gabe said he was going to Paul Mitchell Academy, he said I should try it. That’s where everything started.
What was the first time you ever got paid to do hair?
I can hardly remember that far back! Well, they always gave us tips at hair school—I think that was the first time I really understood what it meant to get paid. I was probably 18.
When did you realize you might actually make it as a stylist?
There was never any real security, honestly. I moved to New York right after hair school, and I was always worried about finding my next job. For a long time I mostly picked up coffee, mopped the floor, washed towels, greeted clients. The actual, physical doing hair wasn’t really there. I kept wondering, “What’s the meaning of all this?” But I knew I loved it, I knew how to work hard, and I always believed that it would pay off in the end.
What was your most embarrassing career moment?
When I first started, I was still learning about the products, and this particular hair spray I was using on a shoot was very gummy and gooey. I just went for it and really drenched the hair—I think I used half the bottle. Then I started using a curling iron, and a clump of hair stuck to the barrel and burned off. Luckily, it was just a small amount of hair in the back, and I apologized very humbly.
What’s your tip for stylists who are still at the beginning of their careers?
Come prepared, leave your personal baggage behind, and be attentive. Work isn’t always easy, but don’t take anything personally—try to find a solution, rather than losing yourself. You have to always think it’s your last job and always keep learning.
What are your favorite ways to de-stress?
Scary movies and pizza. I love the classics: Halloween, anything with Freddy Krueger or Jason. Then pizza. I’m not particular about the type—any delicious slice works.
How do you spend your time off?
I’ll go out to Joshua Tree or Palm Springs, or go see my parents in Dana Point. It’s nice to go into the desert where your phone doesn’t work and just have a good cocktail and play some pool.
What hair-related wisdom do you wish you could pass on?
Even with all these YouTube tutorials, I think some people struggle to understand their hair texture. Some hair’s hard to control and some wants to stay perfectly flat. Don’t fight it—just embrace it.
Do you have any hair pet peeves?
Bad extensions. I’ll see some that have probably been on someone’s head for eight months, barely hanging by a thread. But they’re still holding on.
What are your goals for 2017?
I’d love to continue learning more, working harder and surrounding myself with people who influence me.
What’s something that surprised you about the fashion industry?
It’s really small, and it’s full of a lot of intense characters. But that’s not a bad thing; I think that makes it awesome.
What’s your favorite hair trend right now?
I love messy, effortless, cool-girl fringe and natural texture.
What are some hair trends you think shouldn’t happen anymore?
Chunky highlights, spiked hair in back, and that long chunk in the front. Buns with half of your hair down. Dip -dye hair.