In The Chair With: Kendall Dorsey


@kendalldorsey1 / Instagram

“In The Chair With” spotlights the incredible hairstylists in our community who are giving us major inspiration. Each week, they discuss their personal hair and career journeys, what they’ve learned from their clients, and their top hair care tips.

“It started with Barbie dolls,” celebrity hairstylist Kendall Dorsey tells ESSENCE. From a young age, Dorsey has been interested in hair. This included pinning up his dolls’ synthetic wigs, and cutting and coloring his own softly-textured curls. He intrinsically knew his calling as a hairstylist, however, growing up in a small town, the stylist feared his skills wouldn’t be accepted. “At 16 [years old], I would do my best friend’s hair and it would be our secret,” Dorsey says.

Once in college, his career began as a kitchen beautician before transitioning into a salon as their shampooist. “I was so eager and passionate about the industry, I would put myself in environments that would expose me and teach me about hair,” he says. After being an apprentice in New York and working in a Philadelphia salon, his career took a turn once he moved to California to attend Sako Beauty Salon. 

Now, Dorsey is behind the most prominent looks for singers and actresses in Hollywood. Think: celebrity sightings and viral images of Rihanna (including the reveal of her second baby) or her pregnant MET Gala hairdo. He’s also done Solange’s hair for Harper’s Bazaar and L’Officiel covers. That said, it’s no surprise that other big names such as Kelly Rowland, Nicki Minaj and Golden Globe Award-winning Da’vine Joy Randolph book him for their big moments. 

But when he’s not at the chair, Dorsey is busy working as the Dark & Lovely Celebrity Brand Ambassador, building a community of stylists and clients that look like him. “Dark & Lovely is the blueprint and I get to work with so many people who are passionate about what they do,” he says. And this year, he has plans to go even bigger than before.

His favorite products:

“I love using Dark & Lovely Fade Resist color. I am Gray so it’s perfect for gray coverage. I also love the Dark & Lovely Uplift Bleach Kit that I recently used on DonYe Taylor. It’s easy to use, safe and effective!” 

His favorite hairstyles:

“I love confident, sexy, tousled hair! I love hair that moves. I love sleek, shiny hair. I love hair from all eras. My favorite hairstyles to do are classic elegant and timeless hairstyles. I’ve grown to really love ‘90s hair. I come from an era of hot combs and rollers, so I really love that type of hair. Timeless and effortless.”

His top healthy hair tips:

“My tip for healthy hair is that it all starts with a healthy scalp. A healthy scalp promotes healthy hair.” 

What he’s learned from his clients:

“I’ve learned that my clients are very dedicated hard-working women, they work long hours and sacrifice a lot to be where they are. That really moves me. It inspires me to move with grace and lots of strength.”

“My clients have taught me to not take no for an answer. If the answer is no, you’re asking the wrong person.” 

How he uplifts his clients:

“Being a hairstylist is like being a therapist. It’s an energy exchange, it’s intimate and raw. You begin to understand that it’s not just about doing beautiful hair but instead it’s about being of service spiritually, mentally emotionally and physically. It’s a combination of things.”


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