Emma Willis talks confidence, Louis Byrne and the essential role hair stylists play in society

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  • The value of hairdressing in society has never been more evident than over these past few years – something L’Oréal Professional Products is celebrating with its new #HairTheLove2022 ‘In The Hands of a Pro’ campaign.

    Back for its fourth year, the campaign sees nine celebrities recognise the ‘other half of their power couple’ – their hair stylist, highlighting the essential role hairdressers play to our mental wellbeing, whilst continuing L’Oréal Professional Products’ charitable commitment to The Hair & Beauty Charity.

    ‘When I sit down in the chair, I can either sit there and be quiet and not have to talk or I can let it all out and it’s like therapy,’ TV presenter Emma Willis explained of her hair stylist and friend of eight years, Louis Byrne in the campaign video. ‘He lifts me… I just knew he was different – not just a brilliant hairdresser, but a brilliant soul.’

    MC Features Editor Jenny Proudfoot sat down with the incredible Emma Willis to find out more about her and Louis’ beautiful bond, what gives her confidence and the power of positivity…

    L’OREAL Hair The Love 2022

    What drew you to L’Oréal Professional Products’ Hair The Love 2022 campaign?

    I love the essence of what the campaign is which is celebrating all those beauty professionals that always make you feel your best. But also, it was Louis, my hairdresser that drew me to it. He was involved in the campaign and was like “Come on babes – me and you”.

    How long have you and Louis known each other?

    Louis and I have known each other for eight years – we were actually trying to figure this out on the shoot for the campaign. It was really weird because I was at a wedding and he was doing someone’s hair, and I was watching him and I just knew that he was a fantastic hairdresser. Over the years I’ve worked with many hairdressers and you can just tell someone that is brilliant and the way they handle hair. And at the time, it was the first time I was ever allowed to have my own hairdresser on a job. I used to do my own hair and you know you’re really going up in the world a little bit when you’re allowed to have a hairdresser – you know you’ve graduated! And I was like, I might ask that guy that I saw at the wedding, and at the same time, his agent contacted mine and said “Louis would love to work with Emma if she needs anyone”. So, there was this instant connection that neither of us knew. All we did that day was say hello and that was it – we didn’t even have a conversation – but there was just a kind of unspoken attraction I suppose. If it were a love story, it would be ‘Our eyes met across a room and we knew’. And it started from then to be honest and it’s still going to this day.

    How do you lift each other up?

    I mean, by just being there for each other I think. It’s one thing to have a professional relationship with your hairdresser and something else when it goes beyond that and is a friendship. In the film, Paul Percival was saying about Will [Young], you’re so in each other’s space, you’re so intimate’. And he’s right – you are on top of each other, so if you haven’t got that bond and that vibe, it could be quite hard. We work together but outside of that we have a friendship. We hang out together, we go to Pilates together, we go for dinner together, we go for nights out together, he comes over and we hang out, we have sleepovers, he looks after my kids – it’s a proper friendship and working relationship. And with that comes all the things that go on in your day to day lives. Whatever it is, you’re there for each other and that is how you lift each other – by having a true friendship and being supportive. Plus, on a superficial level, when I’m feeling shit about the way I look, he lifts me by making me look great.

    L’OREAL Hair The Love 2022

    Does having good hair give you the most confidence?

    Do you know what, hair is a massive one for me. I’ve always wanted this kind of smooth, easy hair that you can just kind of get up, wash, leave and it’s done, but my hair is really curly. I have really wavy, fluffy hair – we often refer to it as though I’m a dandelion. So, it needs a lot of love and because it isn’t easy, you really have to bother with it. But when you’re busy, the last thing you want to do every morning is blow dry your hair, so when Louis makes it look great, I’m like, that’s it. I don’t need a face full of make up – I’m happy with a little splash of mascara, but if my hair is looking good, then I feel 100% better about myself. It is such a game changer because it frames your whole head. If your eyebrows and your hair are on point, you feel much better about yourself and you can kind of get past all the other shit that you might not be that happy with. It’s the hair on your head that you need to keep in check, whether that’s your eyebrows, your hair or your little moustache.

    What is the best hair or life advice you’ve ever received from Louis over the years?

    I think it’s probably advice that transcends hair and life advice, and that is to embrace what you’ve got. Louis is very much about empowerment, and we all wish certain things about ourselves might be different but we’ve got what we’ve got. So, with my curly hair that I’ve tried to hide for so long, Louis is like “No babes it’s time to embrace it – come on!” And I always want to have it long, but when I’m like “Louis, it’s so thin”, he’s like, “Well then chop it off – why are you trying to do something that is never going to be what you envisage in your head?” So, if your hair looks great short, if your hair looks great as a little bob, if it looks great wavy – keep it as that. Don’t stress – just embrace what you have and use what you’ve got rather than trying to change yourself, and I think that goes for your hair and life really.

    L’OREAL Hair The Love 2022

    Let’s talk positivity…

    We’re big fans of reframing words and the power of positive thought because it’s very easy to get negative. So, we actually learnt it when we went to a fitness retreat together – we literally felt broken after two days but we absolutely loved it. And one of the things they teach you there is about reframing your negative thoughts. So when you wake up sore in the morning, you get to your next class and they go, ‘you’re not sore you’re sexy’, and they go ‘how are you feeling right now?’ and everyone shouts ‘SEXY’. We loved it so much that now we go every year. So yeah, the power of the mind in reframing negative thoughts into positive actions is something that he’s really good at.

    How important is it that we boost each other up and are cheerleaders for the people around us?

    It’s massively important. It’s so easy to get into that downward spiral of negativity, especially with the last two years because our whole lives and the way we live has totally changed, and that has had a massive knock-on effect to our health and our mental health. I think you have to be supportive of each other – of everybody around you with positive thinking and energy. I mean it has to be that otherwise you just can get lost in that negativity. That is a place that I go to sometimes, and thankfully I’ve got Louis and my husband who is another great one for “Well if you feel like that, let’s do something about it”, and I’m like “yeah I know but right now I just want to eat a bit more cake…”

    How important is it that we value beauty professionals and careers like hairdressing at a time like now?

    Hugely important – that time that you have with your person can have a massive impact on you. I think I said it in the film but sometimes it’s like therapy because you sit down in that chair and you just talk. And sometimes you don’t even know you’re going to – you maybe don’t expect whatever is going on to come out in that environment. They do so much and I think should be appreciated so much more than they are. Because it can I suppose on the surface seem a bit “Oh you know they’re just a hairdresser or just a masseuse etc.,” but they’re doing something to help you lift yourself or make your body or mind feel better or give you a confidence boost. The energy that they give to you, and they do that relentlessly all day, every single day. I think it takes a certain type of person to do that – some people might just switch off and be like, “Oh god I can’t listen to that again”, but they’re still there. They’re listening and engaging, they’re offering advice and probably taking something from it as well like learning from experiences – and in a profession as well that always needs fresh blood. It’s an amazing thing to do – I wish I was creative enough to have the vision that some hairdressers have.

    Have you ever given it a go?

    I actually tried it in lockdown – I tried to give my husband a hair cut. His barber was on FaceTime and talked me through the whole thing – I think we might have even put it on Instagram. They were like, she’s going to fuck this up royally and they were both extremely impressed that I had done so well. So then when it had grown out, I was like I’ll do it again and I really fucked it up. It’s such a skill. And the colouring as well – knowing what will work. One of the women on the film does rainbow hair and it’s so clever. It blows my mind a little bit – it’s brilliant. I even just tried to do my roots in lockdown and that was challenging enough.

    L’OREAL Hair The Love 2022

    What is your best beauty hack?

    Do you know, I’m so basic when it comes to beauty – I get a bit lost in all the lotions and potions. But the best hack I ever discovered was microblading – I know it’s a treatment not a hack, but still. My eyebrows are microbladed and they look fucking brilliant. I have very little actual hair and it’s quite fair so I only have half an eyebrow normally. Pencilling them in doesn’t take that long but it annoys me when one’s not exactly the same as the other, so I’ve just never bothered. But like we said earlier, your hair and your eyebrows really frame your face. And then I discovered microblading a few years ago. I was absolutely petrified because I didn’t want those perfectly shaped eyebrows that are measured. Anyway, I was completely blown away and I’ve never looked back. I mean it’s ok isn’t it if things aren’t perfectly symmetrical, but it’s so nice that I don’t even have to think about it. It would be the one thing that would always make me late if I was going out – doing my eyebrows, but now all I need to do is put a bit of mascara on and leave the house.

    What a quick beauty regime…

    Yeah, get your brows done and put on a little bit of tinted moisturiser or I really like Tan Luxe. You mix it with moisturiser, it gives you a little glow and it lasts about a week. And then you really do just have to whack a little bit of mascara on because you’ve got a little bit of colour on your cheeks and your eyebrows are sorted for two or three years.

    What is the most sentimental piece of clothing in your wardrobe?

    My wedding dress. I have worn it twice – on my wedding day which was amazing and then I wore it on my re-wedding day. My kids were there as well so they’ve seen it too. I had to put a panel in the back to make it bigger so that I could re-wear it. And then Matt bought me an old fashioned trunk with my initials on it and it lives in there – it’s got its own little trunk.

    What career advice would you give to someone starting out?

    Stay focused, keep going and stay true to you – don’t try and change yourself for others. I mean, I can only go on my own experience. Sometimes you feel like you’re not getting anywhere, that you’re wasting your time and that you should really just find something else to do. But if you are really passionate and work hard, then you can achieve anything.

    ‘Thank you to all hairdressers across the world – you play an essential role in supporting physical and mental wellbeing and transform people’s live, every day.’

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