There’s one thing you should know about Pepper Pastor: She’s seen it all. The Texas-based Kérastase lead artist has traveled the world, worked backstage at fashion week, owned her own salon, and left her mark on some of the biggest hair brands in the world—all before hitting 40.
Her success is pretty ironic, considering the defining ethos of the first half of Pastor’s life was avoiding hair styling at all costs. Although fate with a sense of humor brought the stylist to her current level of hair world celebrity, it’s the wide range of experiences along the way that make her such a valuable asset.
As a teenager growing up in New York, Pastor was all about becoming a professional artist—just not the kind that does hair.
Even after moving away from her dancing career, Pastor couldn’t escape the salon world entirely. Once accepted to college in Baltimore, MD, she picked up a stylist gig to pay her way through college.
“Doing hair put me through college. And then I tried to quit again, and I ended up really starting my career,” Pastor says.
As luck would have it, international hair brand Sebastian Professional recruited Pastor straight out of college as a platform artist. The next decade saw her bouncing from fabulous gig to fabulous gig, working for MTV in Germany, assisting hair legend Odile Gilbert backstage at New York Fashion Week, and working as the director of education at the prestigious Paul Labrecque Salon on the Upper East Side. By age 29, Pastor had opened her own salon in New York's South Street Seaport, which she's since closed. For all those years of resistance against the hair industry, Pastor flourished once she fully committed. Consider that a lesson in trying to duck fate.
These days, Pastor is fresh off a several-year stint as a platform artist for L’Oréal Professionnel and about one year into her time with Kérastase. While education and communication are two of her passions, the stylist works at a higher level these days to uniquely leverage her experience in shaping the next generation of stylists.
“My role has taken more of a mentorship type of role,” she says. “It’s less about ‘how can you do a really great bun’ and more about ‘what does that mean for your brand, where is that bun going’ and honing artists in on what their intention is in their career. If they are going to juggle, how to do that and how to do that successfully.”
It’s not just good will that keeps Pastor going, either. In the past decade, social media has made its impact on the hair industry. There are exponentially more stylists than ever before—many of whom don’t even bother to pursue licensure. As an artist who’s licensed in five states, it’s crucial to her that technical training doesn’t fall victim to the millennial hair styling boom.
“A great position is to support clients in making the right decisions with what hairdresser go to,” Pastor says, citing a desire to give really talented, technically trained stylists the skills to rise above the overwhelming majority.
Asked about her continuing inspiration for hair styling, Pastor can’t help but laugh. The stylist, who moved to Austin several years ago, has put down roots in the Texas community by working in a local salon several times per month.
“It keeps me grounded, and I’m in a new city, so it’s a great way to meet friends and just be out of my house when I’m not in an airplane,” she says, citing the six months per year she travels across the world representing Kérastase.
At this point in her career, it’s excitement about the next big project that keeps Pastor’s mental gears turning. Stylists are exceptionally susceptible to burnout, but it doesn’t seem to be any match for this pro’s energy levels.
“It’s a weird place to be in, but it’s also a really exciting place,” she says.
As much as the hair industry as shifted in the two decades Pastor’s been working, one truth stays the same: The best way to find a stylist who makes you look and feel good is to ask around.
“All of this social media is amazing, but traditional marketing means—word of mouth and that sort of thing is traditional—is always going to win over our new means of marketing,” she explains. “When you’re walking around and you see somebody that has hair like you that you love, go up and ask them. It’s simple but go up and ask them. Then you can pop on social media and do all your research on who that person it and so on and so forth.”
Instead of getting lost and frustrated, you’ll be able to research the stylist you learned about to ensure they do the kind of work you love.
“You get to know more about them, which you didn’t get to be able to do before, and make a more educated choice whether that person’s right for you. I really think simple things like that don’t go away,” Pastor adds.
Follow Pepper Pastor on Instagram @pepperpastor. Book an appointment with her at ROAR Salon in Austin, TX, by calling 512-474-7627