Larry Sims Talks Trends, Working With Janet Jackson & Creating His Dream Product Line
BTC Interview: Celebrity Stylist Larry Sims Makes His Mark
Known for creating some of the most fashion-forward hairstyles in the industry, celebrity stylist Larry Sims has no intentions of slowing down. Working with celebrities like Gabrielle Union, Danai Gurira and Janet Jackson, Larry has created looks for red carpets, magazine covers and the Met Gala.
In this exclusive interview with BTC, Larry talks about his journey into the beauty industry, how he made the transition from dancer to stylist to the stars and why black culture is the inspiration behind his styles.
Creativity has always been a part of Larry’s journey
Starting as a professional dancer for some of the biggest names in music (Missy Elliot, Blaque and Jessica Simpson—to name a few.) Larry made the decision to “professionally transition” into the world of hairdressing at the age of 27.
“As a dancer, I made friends with a lot of the people on the glam teams. They really opened my eyes to the opportunities I could have as a hairstylist in the entertainment industry,” he shares. “I knew that I couldn’t dance forever,” he adds.
It was with these connections that he was given his first opportunity to style hair professionally. “Missy gave me my first cover, it was a Jamaican magazine called JAMROCK and from there I just started styling hair for [artists] I danced for,” Larry explained.
Bridging connections to a new career path
After graduating from cosmetology school in Chicago, Larry moved back to Los Angeles to continue dancing while he built a portfolio for potential beauty clients. “I was dancing for Jessica Simpson and her wardrobe stylist saw [some of my work] and was the one to introduce me to Ken Pavés, who is an icon,” Larry shares.
Ken then introduced Larry to Victoria Beckham—during her iconic bob era—and that connection became the turning point in Larry’s professional beauty career. “No one knew who I was and that bob literally put me on the map. That was the first time I saw my name in ANY publication, that was such an aha moment. Like WOW people know who I am,” he explains.
One of the most prominent connections that Larry made while dancing was with Gabrielle Union, who would not only become a close friend, but also a business partner. “She was one of the first people that said yes to me when I was transitioning careers and gave me my first Essence magazine cover,” he explains.
To Larry, the support he had during his career change gave him the confidence to believe he could pave a new path for himself. “Missy Elliot was the only person to know at the beginning and once I got her stamp of approval [and the approval of friend Christopher Maldonado] I knew I would be ok,” he explained.
After Christopher’s tragic death, he was one of the passengers in the plane crash that killed music star Aaliyah, Larry’s passion for changing his career took on a new meaning. “He had encouraged me to stop dancing [and attend] beauty school. So after that accident happened, I knew that not only did I have to do it for myself but I had to do it for him because he believed in me so much,” Larry adds.
Larry Shares the Defining Moments of His Career
With a career that continues to level up, choosing standout moments can be difficult. “The Lupita [Nyong’o] Oscar moment was huge—for both me and her—to see a dark-skinned black girl that was rocking her natural hair. The looks we were able to create for that Oscar run for ‘12 Years A Slave’ was really inspiring,” Larry shares.
The moments have continued to come, including a full circle moment working with Janet Jackson and recreating her iconic Control album cover look for the 37th annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. “Not only as a dancer, but as a hairstylist I am an enormous fan of Janet Jackson,” Larry muses. “To be able to recreate that look from that album cover was so iconic for me and it is still a pinch-myself moment for sure,” he explains.
For Larry, a lot of these big moments have to do with trust, not just the artists trusting him, but him trusting himself. “Janet just trusted me to be able to recreate this look, even when I didn’t trust myself. So after planning and knowing that she trusted me, we got it done and it was an iconic moment,” he shares.
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Navigating the Lows to Appreciate the Highs
When asked about how he works through the more difficult moments in his life, Larry takes a moment to respond. “I don’t mean to sound cliche but the number one thing is to never, ever, ever second-guess your talent and never ever give up on yourself. You have to bank on yourself, even when you lose clients and people say no, because one day you could also be in the position to say no to them so it goes both ways.”
His number one piece of advice: You always have to believe that your talent is bigger than the circumstances.
One of the major highs in Larry’s career is launching FLAWLESS, a haircare product line co-founded with Gabrielle Union. “It is this little engine that could project. We started during COVID and now we just celebrated our two-year anniversary. We’ve expanded to so many stores and other countries,” he explains. Larry is not only a consultant, spokesperson and co-founder for FLAWLESS but he also has equity in the company, helping him continue to make his mark on the beauty industry.
Larry attributes Gabrielle as being his “ultimate safety net.” When it comes to creating her looks for red carpets, the Met Gala and photoshoots, the trust and relationship they have built allows Larry creative freedom.
“There are some times where we talk and plan her look, but most of the time she just lets me create,” he explains. “We definitely walk to the same beat of our [creativity],” he adds. Larry attributes this trust to their personal friendship, like any stylist/client relationship, they have grown into more than professional acquaintances. “It’s been easy, magnificent and fun. It doesn’t even feel like work, it feels like I’m hanging out with one of my best friends,” he adds.
Trend Forecast: Natural Hair Reigns Supreme
In almost every style Larry creates, the importance of black culture is always at the forefront of his styles. Moving into 2023, he predicts embracing natural hairstyles will only grow. “I really believe that natural hair will be at the forefront of styles next year. Including silk presses and bouncy blowouts,” he explains.
“A lot of women are leaning towards rocking their natural hair and learning how to cut it and shape it without relying on a lot of manipulation,” he adds. Additional touches like metal accessories, graphic shapes and incorporating pops of color will also be huge this year to take styles to another level. “People are just really having fun with it and I love it.”
With natural hair being the forefront of Larry’s styles, his go-to products are essential to keeping his clients’ hair healthy while styling. “If I had to live with one product forever it would be the Flawless Restoring Exotic Oil Treatment [from the Flawless product line] because not only does it nourish your hair but also the scalp, which is so important,” he explains.
His Advice for Aspiring Stylists? Never Stop Collaborating & Creating
Connection has been a huge driving force in Larry’s career and ultimate success. So his advice for stylists looking to break into celebrity hairdressing is clear: Never stop collaborating. “Do free photoshoots, collaborate with photographers and models and makeup artists and just create as much as you can,” he shares. “Share what you’re creating on social media that exemplifies where you are trying to go.”
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