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I Was Hair Model for the Kardashian Guru's $1,000+ Masterclass, and Here's What I Learned

Updated

She might not be a Kardashian, West or Jenner, but by this point, hairstylist Jen Atkin is essentially a part of the famous family. (So much so, she even has her own avatar in Kim’s iPhone game!) So, being one of the many resident Kardashian fans here at PEOPLE, when I heard Atkin’s beauty site Mane Addicts was hosting a hair seminar — and that Atkin, along with Karlie Kloss’s mane man, Harry Josh, were teaching it — I wasted no time volunteering my hair as tribute.

Also, I won’t lie, I had a lot of questions. Every day, it seems as if there’s a new celebrity, stylist or makeup artist talking about a “masterclass” fans can attend. I needed to know: Who exactly is going to these classes? Are they really worth the $450 to $1,100 to attend? And can normal people actually achieve magazine-cover-status waves at home? Here are the answers to all that, and so much more.

Jen Atkin hair pro
jenatkinhair/instagram; Courtesy Heather Chapman

The class felt exactly like walking into a Kardashian party. (Or so I’d imagine.)

When I arrived at Dream Dry, Rachel Zoe’s swanky blowdry salon in N.Y.C., at 8:15 a.m. on a Sunday, Rihanna was already blasting over the speakers and a crowd of well-coiffed “students” was trickling in — 45 minutes before class even began. Everyone sat around noshing on mini donuts and chatting about where they traveled from so they could attend the seminar (Florida, New Mexico, California — not exactly quick road trips). I soon learned every person in the crowd was either a salon owner or a stylist hoping to climb the ranks in their industry. Me? I was the lone Kardashian superfan.

 

Decor at Mane Addicts Mane University
The waiting area at Dream Dry / Giacomo Fortunato Photography

Decór-wise, metallic balloons filled the room, immediately reminding me of Kylie’s grad party. There was a red carpet backdrop for ample selfie-taking and a few tables filled with Instagram-bait (Think: colorful candy bowls, personalized notepads and bright Fujifilm cameras). The vibe was very first-day-of-school, if your school were a Pinterest board — everyone was dressed up and eager to start talking about hair.

“Effortless” hair takes an alarming amount of work.

Josh kicked off the class with a tutorial on how to get sexy, bombshell Victoria’s Secret waves. Lesson #1: Don’t be afraid of hair products. To give Angels that “I just woke up like this” look, he goes through their hair, section by section, adding mousse from root to tip. “Most people are scared to use this much mousse,” he told the room, explaining that’s what creates the crazy-big volume you see in photos. (He’s also a fan of using a sea salt spray as a roof lifter — John Freida makes a good one.)

He went on to show how he puts in extensions (Hint: even models with “monster hair” get a little boost for photo shoots) and the correct way to wrap your hair around a curling iron if you want loose, messy waves. Note how he doesn’t use the clamp? That’s important — it gives you more control.

You can make your hair look fuller in photos by clipping it forward. 

“If you’ve ever seen a cover of a magazine I’ve done, a lot of the times it’s all clipped and the wind is blowing from the front to the back,” Josh told me. “Obviously on a red carpet this would never fly, so do not attempt if you’re leaving your house. But for a shot: Amazing.

How to fake fuller hair in selfies
Greatest. selfie hack. ever. / Giacomo Fortunato Photography

The trick, he says, is to separate your hair in four sections, then clip each upward at an angle so it pushes all the hair from the back of your head up and to the sides. Genius!

“Coloring” your part will also make your hair look thicker.

How to make your hair look fuller
Jen Atkin colors in a model’s part / Giacomo Fortunato Photography

Another simple but brilliant hack: For clients who have noticeably light scalps, Atkin traces root cover-up over their parts. Her two favorites? Color Wow’s Root Cover Up powder (pictured here) and Rita Hazan Root Concealer — which she also sprays over the tops of extensions to make them blend better.

Atkin is launching her own product line next year! And she’s developing face shields, so you’ll never get hairspray in your eyes again.

Jen Atkin's Face Shields
Hey, that’s me! / Giacomo Fortunato Photography

“I can’t get into specifics yet; I can only just tell you it’s coming out soon,” she told me. But you can definitely bet it’ll have the Kardashians’ seal of approval. “I’m going to enlist everybody that’s ever met me in my life [to test the products],” she said. As of now, they’re set to launch in February 2016.

Thin hair actually works better for airy braids.

My hair is incredibly fine, and it falls flat in a matter of minutes when I try to curl it myself. (An example, here.) Now check out that hair below. That is what my hair looked like after Atkin pulled stylist Heather Chapman — who’s grown a huge following on Instagram for her signature Dutch braids — out of the crowd and up onto the stage to demonstrate her technique to the rest of the class.

Ombre Hair Dutch Braid
My hair, post-Jen Atkin and Heather Chapman’s magic / Courtesy Heather Chapman

“There is a huge misconception that you cannot achieve a big, pulled-apart braid with fine hair,” Chapman says. “People think you need to backcomb or even add extensions.” Nope! It turns out fine hair is the most ideal, because you can pull the braid loose while you style it, creating that light, “ethereal” look. (Thick hair, on the other hand, is too dense to get that wispy texture, she says.)

I still can’t get over it. Can someone please make me famous, so stylists can do my hair for me all the time?

Jen Atkin is a vault when it comes to the Kardashians’ secrets — and yes, she knows them all.

The discussion during the class was pretty free-form. Participants would shout out various questions like “What spray is that?” and “How did you meet the Kardashians?” (For the record: It was on a shoot for Cosmopolitan.) Then the talk turned to the unsung bonds between people and their hairstylists. “Part of being a hairstylist’s job is being a therapist,” Atkin said, noting she’s always honest with the people she works with (she will tell a celeb if they shouldn’t do a certain look!) and loves to gossip with them.

Kim Kardashian West with her glam squad
Kim with Jen Atkin and makeup artist Mario Dedivanovic / Courtesy Kim Kardashian West

But with that comes a high level of trust. “I always say it’s not a celebrity stylist thing, it’s a human being thing. I have girlfriends who will tell me secrets or things that they really don’t want people to know, and I would never betray them,” she told me. “I’m always teaching in these classes that loose lips sink ships, and it’s true.”

She did, however, reveal who everyone in the Kar-Jenner clan turns to for style and beauty inspiration: Kylie.

“She’s just so daring and so fun,” says Atkin. “I’m always telling clients, ‘You have to check out Kylie’s Tumblr.’ She has the coolest images, and it’s just so young and fun and free.” Another fun fact: Kim doesn’t mind taking a while to get her hair and makeup done.

At the end of the class, you get to walk away with some pretty sweet beauty swag.

Gift bags from Mane Addicts Mane University
A peek inside the Mane University gift bags / Giacomo Fortunato Photography

Aside from leaving with a head full of secrets — maybe that’s why my hair got so big??? — participants also got to return home with an impressive haul. My bag, which was handed out to those who paid top dollar for the full-day class, included goodies such as Harry Josh’s Pro Tools round brushes (each retails around $55 to $60 and gives you an incredibly smooth-looking blowout), a pro-beloved T3 Paddle Brush, a golden Lelet NY hair comb, Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray and a whole slew of Leonor Greyl treatments and conditioners. Bonus: Everyone also got a “Mane Masters Degree” signed by Josh and Atkin.

Mane Addicts degrees
Mane University Certificates of Completion / Giacomo Fortunato Photography

If you’re a stylist — or are willing to do whatever it takes to have supermodel hair all day, every day — more Mane University seminars are coming down the pipeline. “We have a lot of really cool master colorists and hairstylists who we’re going to be doing classes with over the next six months,” says Atkin. You can follow Mane Addicts’s Instagram for updates or keep tabs on the schedule here.

Were you surprised by any of the lessons above? (That selfie hack, I mean!) And would you ever attend a celebrity pro masterclass? Sound off with your thoughts in the comments.

–Lindsay Schallon, with photography by Giacomo Fortunato Photography

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