Celebrities in music videos, on tour, at premieres, and at award shows always seem to appear immaculate, with no sign of the slightest clothing wrinkle or misplaced hair strand even when captured by paparazzi. This is a testament to the talent, versatility, and hard work of their glam teams, who operate behind the scenes, often without receiving proper recognition for the impeccable looks they create. Their artistry is in a league of its own in an industry that can be a challenge to crack, and they and their work deserve to be celebrated.
If you’ve ever fawned over Maluma’s flawless grooming on a magazine cover, Dascha Polanco’s sleek wrapped and snatched ponytail at a show premiere or Shakira’s curls that manage to maintain their voluminous buoyancy throughout a two-hour tour set, you need to look up renowned hair stylist Cynthia Alvarez– the creator behind some of our favorite celebrity hair looks.
Alvarez honed her hair styling skills while growing up in The Bronx, where she charged 10 dollars to braid her neighbor’s hair. After graduating from Cardinal Spellman high school, she was on the verge of joining the airforce but had a chance encounter with wardrobe stylist Jai Hudson, who introduced her to the world of celebrity glam on the set of a music video for 50 Cent and G-Unit. This experience opened up a world of possibilities for Alvarez, who realized that she could turn her passion for hair styling into a lucrative and creative career. She assisted veteran hair stylists and makeup artists, built connections in the industry, and attended beauty school while working at a hair salon. A year after completing her study at Libs/Empire Beauty School, she landed her big break to go on tour with R&B/ Pop singer and pianist Alicia Keys. “I was 20 at the time when I got the call. I met with her, had an audition, and I got the job! So for the next two years, I was touring the world doing hair for Alicia,” Alvarez proudly recalls.
After completing her trip with Alicia Keys, the celebrity hairstylist added to her star-studded roster by joining Colombian singer-songwriter Shakira on two world tours. “Shakira knows what she wants, she knows how she likes to look, and she’s very hands-on. So it was my job to maintain the trademark curls that she had throughout the tour, which meant stocking up on some of her favorite hair products like Joico’s K-PAK Color Therapy Luster Lock Glossing Oil,” says Alvarez. She continues to describe Shakira’s styling process in more detail: “Because we were doing coils and curls I would use my Bed Head Curlipops ½” Tourmaline Ceramic Curling Wand; it was the one tool that didn’t damage Shakira’s hair and created the perfect curl size for her!”
Alvarez discloses more of Shakira’s essential on-tour hair care items such as the Redken Blondage Color Depositing Purple Shampoo which maintained the vibrancy in Shakira’s blonde tresses, and their shared fondness for using a diffuser. DryBar’s The Bouncer Diffuser, found at Ulta Beauty, is one we at Remezcla particularly recommend. Alvarez gained invaluable experience on those tours which culminated in one of her career highlights, crafting Dascha Polanco’s striking and praise-worthy gray-lavender ombre hairstyle which was unveiled during Spring/Summer fashion week in 2014. ”When we did the gray on her it was like I was giving her a piece of me, because at the time I had been sporting gray hair for so long. It felt like this whole movement that I was starting and that look broke the internet, so it was a hugely proud moment for me and in how my creativity got to be celebrated,” she tells Remezcla.
The now, industry veteran hairstylist has mastered a wide-scope of techniques, but she’s a self-proclaimed “texture enthusiast,” which has garnered her trust and recognition for being especially adept at working with and creating curl and wave patterns. She says achieving those looks involves applying hair care tips which she likes to share with her clients to help bring out their texture in a healthy way. “If you’re going to use a towel to dry your hair make sure it’s a microfiber towel, wrap it up and let it sit,” Alvarez advises. DevaCurl’s Twist Anti-Frizz Microfiber Towel Wrap is an easy-made option to follow the celebrity stylist’s advice. Alvarez also suggests investing in a good satin pillowcase, such as the Kitsch Satin Pillowcase to keep frizz at bay. “Also, if your hair is really thick, I prefer using something a little heavier like Pattern Strong Hold Gel which is really good, because it saturates each of the curls to help elongate them and prevent shrinkage,” Alvarez adds. Her final tip is to not be afraid to touch your hair while its dry to help freshen up the curls, she suggests to coat some Pattern Jojoba Oil Blend, Biolage Smooth Proof Serum, or Biolage Ultra Hydra Source Leave-In Cream (whichever you prefer) on your fingertips and give your hair a good fluff throughout the day to maintain its volume.
As for her personal hair journey, Alvarez mentions that her passion for hair styling stemmed from her desire to experiment with different techniques to achieve various looks with her own hair. However, as she’s grown older and undergone a thyroid removal procedure, she emphasizes the importance of maintaining overall hair health. “I know a lot of women in the Latine community whose hair tends to thin over time, whether it’s natural or due to traction alopecia from the habit of pulling ponytails too tight, so I take and always recommend Viviscal Hair Growth Supplements, because I’ve found that they really work to lessen shedding.” It nourishes healthy hair growth from the inside out.
Alvarez still enjoys integrating pops of color into her hair routine, especially as spring approaches. She takes steps to preserve the dyes and cool undertones by using Redken Color Extend Blondage Purple Foam Mousse. “I also love It’s A 10 Silk Express Miracle Silk Leave-In. It’s one of my favorites to manage the frizz caused by my frequent color changes,” says the hair care specialist. Lastly, Alvarez uses Kristin Ess Hair Soft Shine Beach Wave Hair Spray to boost the look of effortless and tousled wavy hair for both herself and her clients.
As we wrap up our conversion, Alvarez imparts a last bit of sage advice for achieving celebrity-worthy hair, “follow your intuition if you want to be creative with your hair and don’t be afraid to experiment; let your ego go because nothing is ever really permanent so you don’t have anything to lose. Look to celebrities and people who resemble you who’ve experimented with their hair for inspiration on styles that may look good on you, then research and consult with a trusted stylist who can help you incorporate that onto yourself and just go for it!”