Hairdresser Yusef Williams talks working with RihannaAugust 3, 2018
Working with a globally-famous celebrity is a coup for any hairstylist, but when said celebrity is Rihanna? You’ve hit the jackpot. Yusef Williams has worked with the star for over a decade, on everything from her standout Met Gala looks (this year’s challenge, a heavily-embellished Maison Margiela pope hat) to her Fenty Beauty campaigns, her many Vogue covers and those hazy days of bleached pixie crops circa 2009. But for Edward Enninful’s first British Vogue September issue, starring Rihanna with a full garden of flowers on her head, the challenge was taken up a notch.
“It’s always challenging using other materials than hair but I love those kind of challenges. That’s what I want, you know? I love when you find those hacks to make something work like that,” Williams, who worked alongside floral artist Makoto Azuma on the dramatic headpieces, told us this week over the phone. “I’ve worked with Edward before and done some crazy stuff, so I was like, ‘alright!’.”
“Easy to get me to do it but hard to actually make it happen,” he laughs.
Starting out with a fashion background, having assisted Odile Gilbert for several seasons at Paris Fashion Week, Williams is now in-demand for red carpets and editorial work alike. He’s worked with SZA, Viola Davis, Jourdan Dunn and – wait for it – Michelle Obama. But, his relationship with Rihanna is the one that has truly defined his career so far.
“I think I came in right in the beginning of the fashion portion of her life, and that was a lot of pressure. On top of her being looked at as this huge inspiration it was more pressure on me to pull up, you know? And be a part of the evolution of her,” he told us. “We grew and evolved together. I’d been working on fashion shows in Paris, so when I met her it was like: alright girl, let’s do it! I felt I had the experience and the fashion street smarts to know how to elevate her hair. It was good timing for me, to evolve as she did. Working with her is a wonderful thing.”
As clients go, Rihanna is about as experimental as they come when it comes to hair – just take a look at her hair style file – and is keen to present her own ideas and inspirations for her editorial looks alongside Williams’s own.
“It’s actually a non-stop line of communication when it comes to inspiration. We never stop sending each other pictures and ideas throughout the week. I mean, I’m out right now and I’ve probably taken, like, six pictures of women’s hairstyles and hair colours and I’ll send them to her. It’s an ongoing conversation,” he explains. “I think we kinda have a little rhythm going on with each other where we don’t take too long to decide on stuff because we know each other so well.”
During our conversation, Rihanna posts the September British Vogue cover to her Instagram feed, racking up over two million likes and sparking a global debate about skinny brows. Williams’s regram comes just moments after we get off the phone, complete with heart-eye emojis and his favourite hashtag. #Yuslay indeed.
Source: British Vogue