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Last updated: April 12, 2024

11 Questions With Celebrity Colorist Tracey Cunningham

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The Best Personal & Professional Life Advice, According To Tracey Cunningham

Tracey Cunningham’s (@traceycunningham1) influence is undeniable. Over the past decade, her viral color transformations on celebrities like Khloe Kardashian, Kris Jenner, Emma Roberts and Jennifer Lopez all represent major moments in pop culture history. But more than her virality, she’s an ambassador for Redken and OLAPLEX, co-owner of MèCHE Salon in Beverly Hills and author of the book Tracey Cunningham’s True Color: The Essential Hair Color Handbook.”


It’s not easy to be trusted by such a long list of A-listers, but Tracey has managed to be the go-to colorist for many for over a decade. Ahead, she shares the advice that has helped sustain her career and keep her VIP clientele coming back.


Tracey Cunningham, Kevin Starr, Lindsay Lohan & Priscilla Valles | Photo Credit: Instagram via @traceycunningham1


Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?: There was a time in my life when my son was very young, I was working long hours and my career was beginning to take off, I had a long-time “older” client who is fabulous (she’s still my client). One day, I was doing her color and she said “Tracey, put some makeup on and style your hair. You are not looking your best.” She was not being mean or trying to hurt my feelings—she knew that I needed a little wakeup call and a pick-me-up to start looking and feeling my best—especially when I make ladies and men everyday look amazing.


She stressed the importance that I too, every day, should take time out of my day and walk through my salon door (no matter how tired I was) owning it! Ever since that day, I always have my lashes on and my (Monika Blunder) concealer and always a little cat eye! Dress up…show up! 


3 Redken Shades EQ Glosses you couldn’t live without?: I love them all so it’s hard to choose! 09NB, 08GG and 010NA.


Hair tool you couldn’t live without?: My curling iron. I have chargers for every country on me at all times, just in case.


What is your take on viral hairstyling trends and “aesthetics”? Should stylists lean in?: I’m not a trend girl. I appreciate it and get such a kick out of what I see on TikTok but I say to each their own. If you’re killing it doing beachy blondes, fiery reds or rich brunettes—don’t feel like you have to experiment too much. Stick to what you excel at and keep on learning and improving in your particular strength. Color is very personal for the client and very intricate for the colorist.


You work with such an impressive list of A-listers, how do you decide on looks? Is it a collaboration? Do they give you full creative control?: Sometimes I get direction for a particular movie they are working on, or we meet up and decide, “Let’s kick up this color with a bunch of highlights or lowlights.” Other times, we do major transformations. But I like to think it’s always a conversation and getting the “green light” from both parties. Sometimes I just say “HELL NO.”


A look at some of Tracey’s client’s memorable hair colors:

Jennifer Lopez | Photo Credit: Instagram via @traceycunningham1


Can you recall a specific client or moment that you identify as a “breakthrough” in your career?: I truly can’t say one client. I love them all. Khloe Kardashian is FUN she likes to take chances and no matter what we do, she looks out of this world gorgeous.


What’s one thing you’ll always find in your hair kit?: Receipts and photos of my cats. 


A time you were told “no” that motivated you even more?: If I had a dollar for all of the times that I was told “no” from when I was a teenager in Seattle to now, I’d be a trillionaire! All “no’s” to me are a gateway for growth and proving to myself that I can do it even if it takes a few times and a lot of effort. One always receives growth when a “NO” is in the equation. Give me a no, I’ll give it a go! 


Most-worn piece of black clothing?: My DÔEN dresses—I live in them and they are mostly black. Possibly a very close second is the black apron I work in! Maybe that’s my most-worn black piece come to think of it!


Dream clients? Past, present, future?: Mariah Carey, Mariah Carey and Mariah Carey—HA! And Princess Kate [Middleton], I’d love to work with her. 


Something you do or don’t do to your hair that goes against what you learned in cosmetology school? I get little grays as one does, but instead of always coloring them—I LIKE THEM!


Next Up: Learn how Tracey transitions her clients to gray.

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