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Behind the Look: Jenna Perry’s Balayage Brilliance


By Boulevard

Learn how the New York City-based colorist perfected #hotgirlhair

You know you’ve succeeded as a colorist when your clients’ new looks make headlines. For Jenna Perry, founder of New York City-based salon Jenna Perry Hair, it’s a fairly regular occurrence. It’s easy to see why A-listers like Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski, Greta Gerwig, and Maude Apatow are lining up for her services: Perry makes hair color an art form.

So how did this Rhode Island native become the go-to colorist for #hotgirlhair, as her Instagram often tags it? It started with a love of all things glamourous and an appreciation for her local salons.

Mesmerized by glamour

As a child in Newport, Rhode Island, Perry grew up admiring her aunt and grandmother on her father’s side. “They were beauty girls, spent lots of time in the salon,” she said on the Who What Wear podcast. “I would always go to the hair salon with my aunt, who had such a great relationship with her stylist. I just fell in love with the community and just being a part of that world. It was so inspiring to me at such a young age.”

Perry soon decided that she wanted to work in that salon environment she so adored. According to her website, she’s “always been mesmerized by glamour.” She knew she wanted to be a hairdresser, and her parents supported her on her journey — which led her to Paul Mitchell cosmetology school soon after graduating high school.

“I grew up on an island in Rhode Island, so leaving and crossing the bridge to go to hair school was such a big deal for a small town girl,” she said of the move.

As Perry honed her craft at Paul Mitchell, she “met so many different people” from “every walk of life.” She loved every second of her time there, even though she had to “learn everything backwards” due to being left-handed.

After cosmetology school, she dabbled in editorial styling, but realized “it wasn’t fast-paced enough” for her. She felt most at home in the salon — and she “was always more excited about color” than cutting.

“Always ahead of the trends”

In 2014, Perry joined Ion Studio in New York City as a hair stylist and colorist. “I was working with some of the best colorists ever,” she said of her time there. “I learned a lot from taking the classes that they were giving the assistants and… from watching and coloring.”

The experience gave her the confidence boost she needed to find her specialty: the balayage. This color technique requires hand-painting highlights throughout the client’s hair (as opposed to using foils), resulting in a natural-looking glow. Her skill with hair color, which Vogue described as “cool nuance,” earned her the attention of the Gen Z celebrity crowd.

“Jenna is always ahead of the trends,” Euphoria star Maude Apatow told Vogue. Perry could relate to her younger clients and their ever-changing hair colors because she did the same thing as an “early 2000s scene kid.” Within a few years of joining Ion Studio, her color skills were making headlines — and she was ready to carve out her own place in the beauty industry. 

Building her own community

In 2019, Perry opened her first salon in New York City’s East Village. She wanted Jenna Perry Hair to “exude the spirit of modern glam” while also building the community aspect she was so fond of in her childhood. “There’s something inherently special about spaces where routine becomes ritual and transformations take place,” the salon’s website states.

“Transformation” is the right word — an Elle editor described the final reveal after seeking out Perry’s services as “a classic makeover scene in a ’90s teen movie.” Perry’s ability to create custom colors that match each client’s specific needs put her salon in high demand, and in 2022, she opened a second location. Now known as the flagship shop, the second — and bigger — salon is located in SoHo, a district of Manhattan known for its stylish, artsy vibe. Jenna Perry Hair, a Boulevard customer, is right at home among the neighborhood’s art galleries and upscale boutiques.

“I wasn’t expecting to go from four employees to 17 in two years,” she told Vogue. “I wanted to take the energy and the heartbeat of what we’re doing in the East Village and bring it to a bigger space but still keep it kind of like a girly barber shop.” Perry worked with designers to give the SoHo flagship a “‘70s Italian-lounge feel,” no doubt inspired by the glamorous family members she admired as a child.

For her celebrity clients, there’s even a VIP suite set up like a living room to provide a cozy vibe away from cameras and autograph-seekers. Whether she’s refreshing Chloe Sevigny’s signature blonde locks or helping Kendall Jenner turn heads, Perry remains a trendsetter. Her latest obsessions: ombre hair, “Tuscan leather” brunette, and “Cherry Cola” red. What will be the next big hair color movement? We don’t know, but it’s likely Jenna Perry will be the one leading the way.

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