As POPSUGAR editors, we independently curate and write things we love and think you’ll love too. If you purchase a product that we have recommended, we may receive an affiliate commission, which in turn supports our work.
Welcome to Big Break, where some of the most influential people in the beauty industry reflect on the moments that shaped them – from good to bad and everything in between. Here, Clayton Hawkins shares her journey from working in an extensions store to hair stars like Olivia Rodrigo and Dove Cameron.
Clayton Hawkins’ love for hair runs deep. The youngest of four children, Hawkins grew up in Los Angeles and explained his passions to his family at an early age. “I used to get wigs from Santa every year,” Hawkins told POPSUGAR. “There are pictures of me at 5 with my little boy bangs, then a fall with a clip – and damn it was mixed up.”
Hawkins remembers watching and re-watching the 1990 film “Dick Tracy” just to catch a glimpse of Madonna’s hair (“I was just in awe”). Then, in high school, after years of playing with wigs and his own hair, he made it an unofficial side hustle. “I bought my first car doing all the senior girls [hair] for prom,” he says, adding that he often buys extensions and reaches out to classmates if he thinks he can help them with their hair.
While Hawkins was immersed in acting — after high school he was even accepted to NYU Tisch, Collaborative Arts Project 21 (CAP 21), a well-known musical theater program — hair was his first priority. “Even when I was doing all these plays and musicals, even though I had a big role, I was like, ‘But I have to do everybody’s hair too.’ So before the shows, I was doing everyone’s hair. It’s always been a huge thing for me.”
His professional training was a bit unconventional: Hawkins learned how to apply the extensions he would buy while watching the reality TV show “Newlyweds” with Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey. “Half the show, [Simpson] was with Ken Paves have extensions put in her hair, so I would record on VHS and rewind and watch. Hawkins tried to emulate the process of Paves taping Simpson’s extensions onto his classmates.