Some people were born to cook, others were born to write, and Justine Marjan was born to braid. The hairstylist, who is also the editorial director of Mane Addicts and a key member of Jen Atkin’s hair army, has kept herself quite busy this year zipping all over the world doing hair for just about every single A-list celebrity from Lily Aldridge to the Kardashians. She has also played an integral role in the increasing popularity of woven hairstyles.
Marjan is what we would call a braid prodigy. Braiding came to her naturally. When asked about how she masters such intricate plaits, Marjan laughs. “People [always ask me] how I learned to do braids,” she says. “No one taught me, I just figured it out. I can look [at a braid] and know it goes like this or that.”
It all started when she was about 12 years old, on the beaches of her hometown in Southern California. “I grew up in a beach town and I used to go to the beach and braid people’s hair for like $20,” she says.
Six years later, after graduating from an art academy in high school and missing her last chance to take the SATs, Marjan enrolled in beauty school and immediately fell in love with hairstyling. That’s when celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkin came into the picture. “Jen had the idea for Mane Addicts and was looking for hairstylists who could do basic graphic-design stuff,” says Marjan. From that point on, Marjan became Atkin’s right-hand woman, writing, editing, and pitching content for the hair-focused site while booking hairstyling gigs on the side.
But it wasn’t until this past year that things started really looking up for Marjan. She traveled all around the world assisting and reporting on Fashion Weeks and helped her mentor, Atkin, launch her highly anticipated hair-care line. Oh, and did we mention she was indoctrinated into the Kardashians’ glam squad? She just got back from a stint in Iceland with the family.
Now you can see Marjan’s work just about everywhere, from Instagram and YouTube to the heads of stars like Kelly Rowland and Karrueche Tran. We caught up with the L.A.-based hair guru and asked her to give us the lowdown on her favorite styles. Check ‘em out, ahead.
When it comes to creating the perfect sleek braid, Marjan has a secret weapon: Gorilla Snot Hair Gel. “It’s a really cheap gel you can get at the drugstore,” she says. “It’s what I use because it gets the hair sleek, has a shiny finish, and it holds really well so [the braid] won’t come undone or loose.”
To achieve a full-bodied braid like this one, Marjan recommends using clip-in extensions. After inserting a few wefts, she uses Ouai Texturizing Hairspray to give the hair texture and hold before beginning her plait. Once the braid is fastened with an elastic, she finishes with a little hair oil applied to the ends (she uses Oribe Gold Lust or Kardashian Black Seed Oil) to give it some shine.
Braids aren’t the only styles that Marjan has mastered. Case in point: This wavy, abstract topknot on Khloé Kardashian. After prepping the hair with some Ouai Wave Spray and blowdrying it with an Ibiza boar-bristle brush, Marjan takes big sections and wraps them around a 1.25-inch T3 curling iron making sure not to curl the ends. Then, she works a little hair oil into the ends before spraying the hair with a little texturizing hairspray.
“During Paris Fashion Week, Kelly Rowland let me have a lot of creative freedom with her hair,” says Marjan. “I feel like during Fashion Week, people are willing to take risks — on one of the days, we did a bunch of stacked bobby pins on her hair.”
Apart from hairstyling and writing for Mane Addicts, Marjan got to witness the creation of Atkin’s hair-care line: Ouai. “When I started with Jen, she was just starting to work on her product line,” says Marjan. “I got to try out everything in the different stages of development and give [her my] feedback.“
At one point during the creation of Ouai, Marjan and Mane Addicts art director Desirae Cherie ran around L.A. trying to hunt down samples of different fragrances to find the perfect scent for Atkin’s products. "So many different things go into a line,” says Marjan. “You have to think about so many different elements, [but] it was fun to get to see how all of it works.”
According to Marjan, it was an Instagram post of a hairdo on Kim K that put her on the map. Kim had asked Marjan to give her cornrows, a style Marjan has been doing since her beach days (partially due to a love for ‘90s-era Alicia Keys).
Cornrows of this nature have received a lot of heat in recent months due to media outlets rebranding the traditional African hairstyle as “boxer braids” — something Marjan would never do because she is aware of the style’s history. For Marjan, doing cornrows on a client is about appreciation of culture rather than theft. “I think everyone pulls inspiration from everything,” she says. “I think that’s the cool thing about America — it’s such a melting pot.”
By: Mi-Anne Chan; Photos via @justinemarjan.