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Traffic and an Apple Maps blunder were conspiring to keep me from arriving at Mane Addicts's Mane University, a series of master classes founded by Kim Kardashian's hairstylist Jen Atkin featuring a rotating cast of her talented stylist buddies. Today I was set to experience extensions excellence by Sarah Conner and Priscilla Valles, both master extensionists with an A-list celebrity clientele. Mane University classes are pricey and attract stylists from all over the world.
So, why am I invited? To write. To give an insider's point of view, to rationalize (or irrationalize) a five-hour $800 extensions class (that, full disclosure, I didn't have to pay for), comment on the professionals, summarize the techniques, and survey the students. How was I going to be able to do any of that with my stress levels going through the roof? My routing snafu meant 30 additional minutes added to my journey. I even parked at a 15 minute meter fully aware that I'd be ticketed because I just can't. be. late.
By the time I entered Spoke & Weal salon, the demonstration had begun. Notes were being taken, hands were raised. (Great, I thought. Now I get to maneuver through everyone and make a spectacle of myself. Just great.)
There was no mistaking this was a hair crowd. My second row seat meant I was forced to peer over top knots of various sizes and shapes. This wouldn't have happened if I was on time. Most of the women were obviously stylists. They were trendy, well-groomed, and their glossy strands beamed under the salon's warm lighting.
I hadn't missed too much of the first demo. Sarah had just begun applying tape wefts to her model and was explaining the pros and cons of taped extensions:
Tip #1: Taped extensions don't last as long as sewn-in wefts, but can be placed closer to your part. The process also seemed quicker in comparison to the other methods we saw, but the general consensus was it's all a matter of taste.
This is when I started to get antsy. I've had every sort of weave (ahem— extension) applied into my hair (ahem— installed) so I pretty much knew the scoop:
Tip #2: Don't wash your hair for the first 24-48 hours, separate each row by two finger widths, and remember that a little shedding is normal upon removal.
Yeah, yeah, uh huh, got it. I shifted focus. While Sarah was working on her model, Priscilla was in the corner installing a full head of Keratin bonds. It was clear that she would be spending the majority of the class slowly threading tiny portions of strands into silicone cushioned beads, squeezing the bead with a tool, making eye contact with her assistant, getting handed another tiny section, and doing it all again. It was relaxing to behold.
Even with two stylists making magic, the women couldn't help but chatter among themselves. They whispered and giggled while I watched Priscilla's model's hair grow longer and thicker. During an intense portion of the class, everyone started slowly getting up and standing near the altar of extensions for a closer view. That didn't last long, after a few minutes a woman in the rear complained and everyone was asked to take their seats. A few more minutes passed and slowly but surely, they started to re-crowd the model. Stand up, sit down, I didn't care. I was happy as can be watching my lava lamp.
By the time we broke for lunch I was in a pretty good mood. Sure, a few of the girls had asked the same question over and over, but trust me, there's no better cure for a hectic morning than watching row after row of tiny beads stranded into someone's hair or watching layers masterfully cut with a razor blade. I walked off to my car, grabbed my parking ticket (yeah), then skipped back to class. We continued with more extensions horror stories, which led to the day's next takeaway:
Tip #3: Keep oils away from your tape, they'll slide. Keep masks away from your tape, they'll slide. Keep everything away from the tape. Sew-in wefts need care, too. Brush through your wefts thoroughly, keep your stitches neat, and "tight but never painful" is the name of the game.
We had mimosas and told a few jokes at 2007 Britney Spears's expense—it was a pleasant afternoon. After a while I'd felt almost as if I'd been on time and hadn't received a $63 parking ticket.
Rare moments of silence were interrupted by the sound of heels on hardwood, shutter clicks, and soothing oohs and aaahs. The class was coming to a close when a special guest arrived. A vision in a midi skirt, the embodiment of all things #FriendGoals, the ever-enchanting, pregnant Chrissy Teigen. Priscilla went to work on Chrissy's tape extensions while she and the other stylists fielded one last round of questions, and offered two nuggets of wisdom:
Tips #4 and #5: Sarah doesn't like to reveal her hair source but offered tips on working with vendors (ask for samples and do your research), Priscilla suggests clarifying with Palmolive dish soap, and both agreed that extensions are a great way for young stylists to build their business.
As a longtime supporter of the craft, Chrissy remarked that there's no way for her natural hair to be this thick and full, so why not go for it? As it turned out, "going for it" seemed to be Chrissy's theme when it came to all inquires:
"Do you guys think men hate extensions?"
"John never cares. Go for it!"
"Do you have a favorite technique?"
"I let the experts do their thing. I tell 'em, 'Go for it!'"
The most inquisitive pupil was none other than Jen Atkin. She playfully asked her pals about how to deal with celebrity clients and encouraged them to regale the audience with even more horror stories. (These were an incredible crowd-pleaser.) Jen, Sarah, Priscilla, and Chrissy agreed that any stylist looking to work with celebrities should adhere to one main rule that was commanded almost in unison:
Tip #6: When working with celebrities, don't be weird. No name-dropping, no begging for Instagram love, and no gossiping.
The women chatted and giggled, often drifting into side conversations, "Yeah, this is exactly like that time in Greece" or "OMG remember Met Ball? That was crazy!" Sure, I wasn't in Greece with Chrissy, nor did I style for the Met Ball with Jen, but you know what? I was $63 more broke and not mad about it.
Update 11/10: An earlier version of this article noted that the class was $300. Tickets were $800. Also, Priscilla does Keratin bonds, not copper bead extensions.