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There are salons and stylists that hair school students hear about from the very beginning of their journey into the hair industry. Lunatic Fringe is certainly one of those salons and Jake Thompson is one of those stylists. He has continuously gained recognition over the years as an industry-leading stylist. This year Jake earned his second well-deserved NAHA award in the Avante Garde category and we are very pleased to share some of his insights with you here:

LF: Jake, where are you from originally?
JT: Victorville, California

LF: Where did you attend hair school? 
JT: I attended hair school at the Hairitage Hair Academy in Salt Lake City, Utah.

LF: Who were your early mentors when you started? And who are your mentors now? 
JT: My early mentors were Sam Villa and Chris Baran.  And now, my mentors are X-pression and Angelo Seminara.

LF: How would you describe your personal style as a hair stylist? 
JT: My personal style is to make beauty, whether it be Avant Garde or classic I want to make things pretty. I believe hairdressers should keep things simple, that’s why I make my personal mantra very simple: Let’s bring out your natural beauty with the shape, color and style.

LF: What are your must-have products in the salon? 
JT: I believe in mixing and matching tons of different things in the salon to come up with my own formulations. I constantly look for what is hot in all of the product lines. When a guest comes in I have to be on top of my game so I can recommend something from our salon that is comparable or better.

LF: How would you describe your philosophy as a hair stylist? 
JT: My philosophy comes from one of my favorite quotes: You were born an original, don’t die a copy! I try to live by that every day.

LF: In the salon, what are your clients asking for the most these days? 
JT: Luckily at this juncture in my career my guests have complete faith in my recommendations concerning their look. And I recommend beauty. If it is trendy, great, but if it is not, then that’s great too. I don’t believe it is necessary for everyone to have the latest thing. I want all my guests to look their best based on their own hair, features and skin.

LF: As a stylist, what do you consider your specialty (cutting, color, educating, etc.)? 
JT: My specialty is all of it. I made it a point to become fully knowledgeable about coloring hair early in my career. I also had to become well-versed in shaping hair with scissors and brushes. I enjoy all aspects of hairdressing, it is all special to me.

LF: What do you do to keep yourself inspired and energized about your work and your career? 
JT: I shoot my work and that keeps me inspired and energized to do hair in the salon on a daily basis. If I did not have my creative studio to build hairpieces, photograph my collections and play with other creative people I would not be as passionate about my craft as I am.  Picking up a camera, playing with video footage, integrating music into my life, DJ’ing every now and then, all of these things keep me inspired and make me want to take a big bit out of life. Too many people out there aren’t taking full advantage to all of the great things being alive brings them—LIVE WITH THE INTENT OF TRULY LIVING YOUR LIFE!

LF: What advice would you give a new student in hair school, that is, how would you suggest they approach their pre-license education? 
JT: Take advantage of all of your opportunities, don’t just be a passenger to your life or your journey. If you don’t know your goals, then take some time every month to mind map where you want to be and who you want to hang out with. Remember, we are who we surround ourselves with, so if you want to be successful hang out and/or work with people more successful than you.

LF: What advice would you give to a new stylist fresh out of school, that is, how would you suggest they approach the first year or two of their career? 
JT: If you think building your career is an easy, think again. Being a successful hairdresser requires consistent work, meaning if you want to build a clientele you need to put a good five years into getting your name out there to have a nice base of guests coming to see you on a regular basis.

LF: You’ve just won your second NAHA award. Do you still have the goal of winning 5 (or more)? If so, let’s get into your head for a moment, what will be your approach to starting a new collection intended for the next NAHA entry? 
JT: Yes my goal is to have 5+ awards. When creating I try not force the process. Most stylists just shoot to shoot, I don’t really work like that. I shoot my own photography and I need to mentally prepare for everything involved with a photo shoot. So the photography, the hair, thinking through multiple angles to address anything that is not working on the day of the shoot, the makeup and the styling are all considerations I prepare for in advance. Even though I’m not doing it all, I like to thoroughly think it through.

LF: If it is even possible, can you describe how it felt to stand at the podium on stage in Las Vegas and accept your NAHA award this year? 
JT: It was a surreal feeling… filled with joy, excitement and an Oh Yeah! feeling. What it really comes down to is this: I chose my team well; Styling: Rachael Domingo, Makeup: Jillyn Neslen, Pre-Hair Assistant and Support: Kelsey Saylor & Jillian Brunty, Hair & Photography: Jake Thompson, Models: Katie Leishman, Kristi Thoreson, Ali Anderson. When I work I want people who will bring their A-game, I know I can call on these artists and I will get only the best!


LF: At the Beacon panel discussion this year in Las Vegas you were asked what were the most important elements of a photo shoot for you? Can you reiterate your list of priorities when you go into the studio to shoot? 
JT: Models, Models and Models. I cannot stress enough how important it is to choose a model that fits your end goals. Oh, and by the way, it is not free if you want good models. Also, you need to be in the right mindset when you create, try not to force the creative process.

LF: At this point in your career, outside of the next NAHA, what is your next big goal? 
JT: I have been working on something for a year now and I can’t really talk about it yet. Stay tuned.

LF: What do you like to do when you need a break from your busy life as a stylist and artist? 
JT: I love technology so I am constantly educating myself on photo post-production and video post-production. To some it still looks like work, but I love learning something I’ve never learned before. As an artist I enjoy creating or learning all the time, there really is no down time for me.

LF: What words of encouragement would you like to give to others in our industry who look to you as a mentor and who want to find their own path to success? 
JT: I would say find like-minded people to play with. We live in a world where your mentors or people you look up to are just a website or email away. Make connections at industry events, keep those relationships and keep in contact. You never know what might come of it. Play nice and leave your ego at the door. If an artist fluffs their feathers in front of me to show me how cool they are it’s an immediate turnoff. I will personally not bring them along or give them an opportunity to assist me at any of my events or shows. If you have had success early on in your career, I applaud you and wish you the best of luck with more. However, don’t keep bringing it up to prove you are worth the person’s time to interview or talk with you. Also have fun and enjoy the ride, don’t just wait to have the attitude. Yes it is great to have an end goal, but enjoy your voyage to the top.

To learn more about Jake and his creative world visit his website and his Instagram @jakethompsonhair.