The princess of Barbados, the queen of Instagram controversy, Chris Brown's ex? Whatever you want to call her, Rihanna is a bastion of fabulousness in a sea of the mundane. And one of the people who make the "Unapologetic" superstar shine like a diamond is her hairstylist, Miami-native, Yusef Williams.
Just yesterday, we spoke with the hair artist about whether or not RiRi, someone he calls a "risk-taker," is a diva, his other famous clients, and how he'd makeover Chris Brown.
New Times: What was it like doing hair in Miami? Who were your clients? Anyone else famous?
Yusef Williams: Um, well, I don't really do hair styles in Miami. I mostly go back and forth from L.A. and Miami. Traveling is awesome and crazy. I wake up in Paris, and I'm like, in L.A. the night before. I've had a lot of clients, Kerry Washington, Tyra Banks, Naomi Cambell, Jordan Sparks, the Victoria Secret's Angels like Erin Heatherton, Lily Aldridge, Candice Swanepoel, that's my girl, I love her. We [the Angels and Yusef] come to Miami a lot for shoots.
Which of Rihanna's hair styles are your favorite?
I like her hair now and from the Talk That Talk album. Her style now is pretty easy going with shaved sides to give her edge. It's easy to achieve this look without coloring hair and cutting it off, accessible. Like right now, it's an ombre style that's shaved on the side. It can go from Hollywood to rockstar in two seconds. The color is a strawberry blonde, honey and I went crazy adding all these warm, soft colors.
Can you define Rihanna's current style in three words or less?
Edgy, Glamorous, Free.
How much influence does Rihanna have over her look? Like do you orchestrate it, or just make it happen?
We haven't gotten to the point where we're like [mock angry voice], "This is what you gotta do!" She trusts me to be creative, and I know her. You have to know your clients and their faces and see what looks good. It's easy to look at her and see how far you can go and when you need to pull back.
What's it like working with Rihanna? Is she a diva or down to earth?
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It's an amazing opportunity to work with someone creative, open, and a risk-taker. We collaborate for the most part. There is never a fight, she is always down for it [new hairstyle ideas]. We do that together, and it works. We look at magazines together and art. We see inspiration from a lot of different people and places. She's down to earth, no diva. We are like a family. She goes onstage and performs, and I make sure she looks good doing it. No divas backstage!
No divas allowed!
No divas allowed, for sure.
Can you reveal any secrets of the Diamonds tour?
We're still in it. There are things added. It's a surprise for sure. Her hair is the same but it may change when we go to New York, who knows. [Tour secrets] are on the hush now.
What's your favorite Rihanna song and why?
"Firebomb." It's a big song, you visualize a music video when you hear it. It showed her range as a singer.
We'd love some hair, makeup, or style tips. Could you share?
Yeah, sure! I use a curling iron, hair extensions to create the look for the Diamonds Tour. It makes her hair extra long. I like waves. I wrap curls around irons to give texture. Nothing too complicated, people can do it themselves at home.
I love Hot Tools for curling irons. It gets to a nice temperature, and really locks in curls. For product, I use Labrecque. It's a straight finished spray I put in before I put hair in heat; it protects it. It gives hair a nice, smooth, shiny finish without it looking greasy. I use Echelon Hair for extensions -- that's my biggest secret I use for hair.
How do you feel about Chris Brown?
I don't know... I don't feel anything about Chris Brown. I just do hair (laughs).
How would you makeover Chris Brown?
He's good the way he is. He's young. He's good to mix and match.
We heard Rihanna was sick and had to cancel some tour dates. How is she?
Oh, she's better now! She will be performing in Tampa tomorrow and Sunrise on Saturday. Her job got her in a better place with her health, so she will take the stage now.
What is the coolest thing about working with Rihanna?
Traveling. It's great because as an artist, you get to see the world and you don't look in magazines to see it. You can see it in person, being in the moment, making moments happen.
What country or place do you want to visit the most?
We've been to crazy places. We were talking about going to Thailand in August. I would love to go. I've been to Greece. It's gorgeous.
How did you get into the hair profession?
My mom did hair on weekends. I watched her, and was good at recreating things. I used to practice on my sister. I pushed myself to do better. At 17, I had a large clientele, and a lot of money, so I went in as a hairstylist.
Did you ever have any disaster hair experiments?
Of course! That's what having sisters and cousins are about. I've had my fair share of crazy, ugly hairstyles. In high school, girls wanted crazy hair styles. I was like, "Ok, I can do it" (laughs). But I got a good handle now on what I'm doing.
Any additional comments?
Shout out to my homies!
Rihanna. With A$AP Rocky. 7:30 p.m., April 20, at BB&T Center, One Panther Parkway, Sunrise. Visit thebbtcenter.com.
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