Oscar Sunday was a big day for Jennifer Lawrence, but it was also a big day for her hairstylist, Mark Townsend. The hair guru has been styling the actress’ locks for years — even before she worked the awards season red carpet for 2010’s Winter’s Bone — and just as Lawrence has evolved from a small screen supporting actress into an Oscar-winning leading lady, Townsend says her hair has come a long way in a short time.
At an event promoting Dove hair care products (Townsend works for the brand) in New York City last week, EW chatted up the celebrity stylist to get the inside scoop on how Lawrence has stayed true to her, ahem, roots, his own Hollywood big break, and how he manages the “hair politics” that come with having a bevy of star clients.
“The best thing with Jennifer is she’s kind of grown into herself,” Townsend said. “She’s got so much hair, it’s easy for me to go hyper-glam. But she [personally] favors a natural, softer look. She really shined through this whole awards season because she was comfortable and doing what she wants to do. She is such a dream collaborator.”
And, apparently, a messy eater.
The one rule for getting the laid back Lawrence Oscar ready? No food once she’d put on her Dior gown.
“I didn’t see her in the dress until Friday morning [before the Oscars], but I was at the fitting on Saturday, and there was another fitting Sunday morning, just in case something [wasn’t] right, [so] they could be working on it while we were doing hair and makeup. We have it down to such a science with Jennifer. We were all collaborating together [on one overall look],” Townsend said of the down-to-the-wire process. “We were there for three hours, but that three hours was talking and hanging out [too].” The day involved Lawrence’s entire family — whom Townsend and team also glammed up — and plenty of snacks prepared by the actress’ mom — though, in order to avoid a stain-related wardrobe disaster, no one risked indulging in a nosh once the Silver Linings Playbook star had put on “the dress.”
Townsend, who was once an assistant to the legendary Sally Hershberger, got his big Hollywood break when he stepped in for Hershberger to coif the cast of 2001’s Vanilla Sky. While he’s done a few movies since then — including New York Minute, starring longtime clients Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen — most of his recent work can be seen on the red carpet. After styling Lawrence through her journey to the Oscars, for example, Townsend headed to the U.K., where he styled Michelle Williams’ hair for her appearances to promote Oz The Great and Powerful.
In addition to regulars Lawrence, Williams, and the Olsens, Townsend has also worked with Rachel Weisz, Kate Bosworth, and Jessica Biel, and says Glee star Lea Michele is “the most adventurous person I work with.”
Since he can’t be everywhere at once, how does Townsend decide which A-listers get preferential treatment? “It’s Hollywood politics!” he admitted. “Because of my relationship with Jennifer, I’ve lost [a lot of other relationships]. Things have changed in a big way in Hollywood. [In the late ‘90s when I was an assistant,] we would do three, four women a day [before a big event]. And once [the actress] left, she was gone. [Now] there’s no sharing. Everyone wants to have the prime time, even if they’re just invited [and not a nominee or presenter]. Things have changed a lot, so you do have to make really difficult decisions. Sometimes it works out for everyone, and sometimes it doesn’t.”