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Behind the Look: How Mastering Color Made Jess Gonzalez a Rising Star

The celebrity colorist isn’t afraid to use the entire rainbow in her work

Jess Gonzalez always knew she wanted to be in the beauty industry, and scrolling through her Instagram account, it’s easy to see why. Gonzalez has a masterful eye for hair color, whether it’s flawless sun-kissed blonde, fire-engine red, salmon pink, or lime green. It’s clear that she doesn’t shy away from a hair color challenge, and her skills have made her highly sought-after among the Hollywood crowd.

So how did Gonzalez go from salon assistant to celebrity colorist with a roster of clients that includes Billie Eilish, Barbie Ferreira, and Olivia Rodrigo? It all started with a dream, a change of plans, and another hair legend.

Learning from a legend

Gonzalez started out not as a colorist, but a stylist. “I knew I wanted to do something in the beauty industry,” Gonzalez said in an interview with Iles Formula. “I didn’t know what exactly, but I was always offering to do my friends’ hair in school.”

Following that dream led her to Sally Hershberger, who’s been a fixture in the Los Angeles beauty scene for decades. Gonzalez got her start as an assistant at Sally Hershberger Salon and promptly realized it wasn’t where she wanted to be. “After a year or so of assisting at Sally Hershberger I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t for me,” Gonzalez said. So she made the switch to coloring, and everything clicked into place.

“This is it! I was born to do this!” she said of the move from assistant stylist to colorist. She continued to work at Sally Hershberger Salon as a colorist, quickly building a reputation for being able to handle almost any request.

“I think my greatest strength is I have become pretty versatile,” Gonzalez explained. “I love doing natural pretty color but I can also do colorful, not-so-natural color. I pride myself on being able to do anything color-wise and my clientele is also very diverse.”

Pretty in (salmon) pink

Gonzalez’s efforts were recognized by the industry at large in 2016 when media empire Modern Luxury awarded her the title of Rising Star Stylist. Modern Luxury praised her “exceptional balayage skills at Sally Hershberger Salon,” noting that Gonzalez “hand-paints an ombre look” and works on starlets like Pia Mia and Lindsey Shaw.

The following year was another big one for Gonzalez, as she made the jump from Sally Hershberger to Benjamin Salon, an upscale hair salon with locations in Hollywood and New York. Also in 2017, she pioneered the Instagram-famous “salmon sushi” hair color, a variation of the then-trending rose gold hue.

“My client wanted a peachy color and she was really tan so I wanted to make it peachy but with pink undertones,” she told Hello Giggles. To get the perfect shade, which came to be known as salmon sushi during the application, she added orange, yellow, and pink to rose-gold Pravana hair color. That ability to creatively improvise in order to fulfill her clients’ wishes is part of what makes Gonzalez such an exceptional colorist.

In her roots era

These days, Gonzalez continues to work as a colorist at Benjamin Salon while expanding her list of celebrity clients. She recently gained even more notoriety for bringing Billie Eilish back to her “roots era,” punctuating Eilish’s stark black locks with bright-red roots. The color combo is a throwback to the slime-green roots Eilish sported for several years, which is often considered the singer/songwriter’s signature look.

After nearly 15 years in the business, Gonzalez has plenty of advice for aspiring hairdressers. “I'd highly recommend assisting a stylist or colorist you admire and want to work similar to. I learned so much through my assisting years that has shaped me to be the colorist I am today,” she said. “Don’t get discouraged, hard work pays off!”

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