How One Direction Hairstylist Lou Teasdale Is Inspiring a New Generation of Beauty Pioneers

She uses her platform to encourage her millions of followers to do what she did: work really, really hard to make your creative dream a reality.
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Lou Teasdale. Photo: Courtesy of Lou Teasdale

Lou Teasdale. Photo: Courtesy of Lou Teasdale

In our long-running series, "How I'm Making It," we talk to people making a living in the fashion and beauty industries about how they broke in and found success.

Twenty minutes before my phone call with Lou Teasdale, I'm — of course! — stuck in ruthless bumper-to-bumper traffic somewhere between 30th and 14th Streets. By the time I arrive at my location (in a brilliant stroke of luck, on time) and remember how to dial the UK from the States, I'm frazzled. 

My nerves didn't last long. "Hiiiii!" Teasdale chirps into the phone, her cheery voice disarming me immediately. "This is Lou!" We chat a bit, and she tells me she's taking our call in a garden, an activity made possible by London's current spell of pleasant weather. From where I was sitting, in a dim hallway on a laptop, it was a nice visual. I knew then that I could relax.

The hairstylist and makeup artist came onto my radar the usual way: via One Direction. Around 2014, I had just been converted into a fan, and eventually followed the first five boys, and shortly thereafter, Teasdale. Her personal Instagram feed was an explosion of glitter and pastel hair dye, often courtesy of her twin sister's hip-to-death London salon Bleach, for which Teasdale now has a makeup line. Following her was, and is, a delight.

Seven years ago, Teasdale fell into the role of One Direction's lead hairstylist almost by accident. (She was assisting on "The X-Factor" at the same time the group was competing, and the rest is history.) In her adventures touring with the band, she became an ingrained component of the One Direction story. Fans not only know her, but they love her, and she's acquired quite a hefty social media following — to the tune of 4 million on Instagram, and nearly 2 million on Twitter — as a result.

It's a responsibility Teasdale doesn't take lightly. "We realized early on that we had this 'followers' thing going on, which at the time, everyone was like, 'What's this and how do we use it?' I really wanted to communicate with the fans that were following me," she says. "There were all these teenage girls who were all One Direction fans, [many of whom were] interested in hair and makeup. I tried to use social media as a way to communicate with them, and communicate [how to be] creative with your makeup and confident with your look."

Since One Direction's hiatus kicked off in late 2015, Teasdale has remained equally committed to her followers while expanding upon professional projects of her own, like developing her aforementioned makeup range — launching this October — and working with a now-solo Harry Styles. She admits that she has a lot on her plate, but as a famously hard-worker, says rarely does it feel like work. "I keep thinking that I need to grow up and get a proper job," she laughs. "I know I have a proper job, but I don't know, it just doesn't feel like it."

I chatted with Teasdale about it all, from how she climbed the ranks to stand out in a notoriously competitive industry to her sagest pieces of advice for young people aspiring to follow in her footsteps. My two cents: If you, too, can conduct all phone interviews in a garden, you're already one step ahead.

Were you always interested in fashion and beauty?

It was just something I was always naturally interested in. I think people who do hair and makeup do it from [when they're] little kids and then they do it on their friends. I used to do hair at school and on our holidays. Where I'm from up north, you could be a hairdresser, but a makeup artist seemed a little bit farfetched. But, it was something that I felt from [when I was] quite young that I really wanted to pursue.

How did you start your career?

For me, it was about getting down to London where the industry was and starting to try and meet people. I got into a course at London College of Fashion, so I went and did that and then did about three years of assisting as well. I started trying to meet people — people who would get in touch with the college who wanted people to go and do makeup. [I tried to] go off and do everything that I could. I started assisting — I got in touch with agencies, seeing if anyone wanted help with an assistant — doing internships, unpaid, and running around. I did all that for about five years.

And how did you land your gig at "The X-Factor?"

I started assisting somebody who worked on "The X-Factor." Over here, it's huge; it's kind of like "[American] Idol." I did hair and makeup. I started to do One Direction's, and they just got bigger and bigger and bigger, so I ended up staying with them and traveling with them. It just took off.

I started doing a lot of brand work while I was on the road. Now I focus more on that side, and I've launched my own makeup brand, as well — Bleach makeup.

What challenges did you face when you were first getting started?

The challenges of money, support and being flexible — that's the hardest part. Because of that, you need to have the drive to do more than what the next person would do because the majority of what you're going to do, you're not going to get paid for. And also, I went out and I tested and I assisted, but when I look back, there was one thing in all of that that actually led me to where I am today. But if I didn't go and do all of it, I don't know if I would be where I am today.

When I was at university, a lot of people wouldn't take these opportunities that came in because they would think, “Well, I don't really want to do that." But, you know, working for a little-known photographer back then might be a really big photographer now. It's really important to take all your opportunities while you're there. It's easy to make plans with your boyfriend, but I found it worked for me if I did everything and I made that my priority. If you just keep going with it, you do get somewhere. I found that not many other people who were in my course took those opportunities, and then they found it really hard to get into the industry because it is really hard anyway.

What advice would you give someone just starting out looking to do what you do?

That's what my advice would be. You've really got to put yourself out there. Even now, when we have interns come in, every now and then there's one [who makes it] so that you need them. I kind of see myself in them. It's great to have people with the right attitude. And then we make sure that they get a job out of it; we make sure they're supported and they get what they need from us. It works both ways. It doesn't go unnoticed to work your butt off.

With hair and makeup, to a certain extent, you can get so far by being very talented and then you can get so far by having a really good attitude. Sometimes you get someone [who has] a combination of the two, and that's really special. I don't know how far you can get with just one. I think that the people who are really talented think they can get by just off that and I actually think that you need both; that's when you get people who are going to make a real career out of it.

What skills did you learn while you were working on TV that apply to your job now?

Such a huge part of the job is being personable. When you're working in fashion, you learn to satisfy the photographer, the editor… It's a creative environment where you're trying to keep with the trends and all that. When you're working with celebrities, it's quite different. You want that person to feel transformed; you want them to feel great. It's about what they want to look like versus what you want them to look like.

It's important that you find what you really like and go down that route. I enjoy working with celebrities, or people trying to be celebrities, and trying to transform them and work with their image. I found that was something I really enjoyed, whereas some of my friends hate that environment and thrive in the fashion environment.

You realize that there's all different ways you can go [about it]. Finding your path is really important, rather than fighting against what you might be naturally enjoying because you think you should be doing something else. I would always say to find what you're good at and go with that.

How did you know you wanted to go into men's hairstyling in particular?

I ended up doing barber training because I was assisting a hairdresser. He wanted to do the girls and he always wanted me to do the boys because it was easier — they were less work — and now I specialize in guys. I find them so much easier. I really like to work with them. They just want to look sexy; they just want to look cool; they don't want to look done. That's an art. They do have their hair and their makeup done, but we make it look really undone. I ended up loving that and I thought, I'm going to specialize in that for a bit and see where that takes me. That's what I ended up working with every day.

You were, of course, with One Direction for five years. How did you keep things interesting styling one group for so long?

Well, they're really cool, young fellows anyway. You know teenage guys — they take inspiration from, maybe, some guy they think is cool and think of those little things on their own. I would always push that a little bit and try to emphasize it, like, "That's cool what you're doing there," and make them feel really confident — saying stuff to make them comfortable.

With One Direction, they looked great anyway, whereas the next guy you might work with might need a total rebrand. I was really lucky because they didn't need a rebrand; they just needed to be more "done" versions of what they did themselves because that was who they were. That was their band. They kept it cool and were themselves and, you know, they broke the mold a little bit in every way with that. They didn't want to look like someone had come in and transformed them. They wanted to look like how they wanted to look. I think what worked with me was that I embraced that with them and it just worked out.

That's such a huge part of [One Direction]. They did it their own way, and they did it the cool way. And they were cool. They were cool for a boy band, weren't they?

How did you decide on what your next move was going to be after One Direction's hiatus started?

My sister has a salon called Bleach in London and they have an existing hair range. I've always been really strongly associated with [Bleach] anyway. A lot of brands were coming to me about doing collaborations, but I thought it'd be cool if we could do Bleach makeup. We could make it ourselves rather than work with a bigger company and it'd be a bit cooler. So, we started when I was still on the road with One Direction. It's been a year now of working on the makeup, and we just had a launch over here and it's gone really well. We're going to come to the States in October and do a proper launch over there because Bleach has never been launched over there properly.

Your job has you on planes constantly — what products do you swear by when you travel?

Lip balm, always. I've got a Kiehl's exfoliator — it's a microdermabrasion one — I use that a lot. Sun cream, obviously. Leave-in conditioner for your hair. I don't wear any makeup when I travel. Eye masks, always.

Tell me about your book ["The Craft: DIY Hair and Beauty"]. How did you decide what you wanted it look like and read like?

It was fun putting it all together and being creative. We didn't overthink it. One of my friends, she has a design company, so they designed it all for me. We did like, 50 looks in four days and busted them out.

I think that makeup's gotten so much more exciting. Like, I remember when we did the looks [for the cover] and people were like, "What?!" Whereas now, you can go into a store anywhere and get that — it's become such a huge trend; people hadn't thought about being creative like that with their makeup. It was a nice chance to bring that out.

That's another thing about Bleach, as well. I think that Bleach is the anti-glam of style and beauty — for the alternative girl, like all our staff. It's totally different, totally original, and the images that come out of it are just so beautiful and really cool and really aspirational. Our staff, they're just like a little tribe. They're really cool. They've turned into really good friends.

You've been a mentor to many young stylists, like Lottie Tomlinson, who is now doing huge things in the beauty space. What has it been like to watch her come into her own professionally?

Lottie is such a little powerhouse. Her mom called me up and was like, "She wants to do what you do," which I think the majority of 15-year-old girls would say if you asked what they want to do, you know? [Laughs] I was like, "Well, okay," thinking it'd be like a babysitting job. But actually, I didn't need an assistant — I [only] did five guys! — but she was Louis' sister. 

But then she came out and she didn't act privileged. She didn't act entitled. She worked from the second she got there. She made it so that I really needed her. She just worked for it. And she probably wasn't going to get sent home if she didn't work for it, so she didn't need to. A lot of people wouldn't have worked as hard as she did, so I really respected her for that. She was only 15 years old — she missed her friends; she missed her family. I wanted to push her and get the potential out of her that I saw.

She also had more followers than I had, and she worked well with all of those fans. She used [Instagram] properly and was really influential, thinking about what she posted. She was doing work with brands, getting her career going and assisting other people, not just me, at fashion week. She took the bull by the horns and just did it. And now she makes more money than me! [Laughs] I'm really involved with what she's working on — just looking out for her — because I think that she'll have a really good career.

She's very business-minded; she's really thinking about her future. And it's upsetting when people are like, "Well, she's Louis Tomlinson's sister." It annoys me because, actually, there's loads of siblings of all of the boys. I think she's making a name for herself, and she's done that herself. I wish that she would get the credit for that.

What's the best part of your job?

I've been really lucky with social media. I've had the chance to communicate with 3 million people just by posting a picture. It's made my job so much easier. [Social media has] made it possible to make choices about what I want to do. It's quite nice to work for yourself and decide what you want to work on next.

I tell students [that before Instagram, we had to] go out there and shoot and do all of this work to get our work seen. Nowadays, people have Instagram. It's such a privilege and it's such a good thing. And it's convenient in such a positive way to get your career going; it's such a great tool to get noticed. When people apply to us, we have a look on their Instagram to see how they're presenting themselves. If someone's using it as a professional tool, it's so important — and to just use it properly and productively and positively. Before it existed, it was so hard. [Laughs] It feels like it was impossible.

What's your ultimate career goal?

Well, when I grow up, what I'd really like to do is work with people trying to get a break, very similar to what happened with Lottie — work with people who have the potential in them and [introduce them to] makeup brands or influencers or other makeup artists and get their careers going.

Another thing is what I'm doing with Bleach; I think I just want to focus on that because I really, really enjoy that side of it. That's what I want to do when I settle down, when I'm done doing all this.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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