Real Talk – Harriet Stokes on flexibility

by | 17 Dec 2021

Earlier this year we caught up with Harriet Stokes following her decision to leap into freelancing mid-pandemic. As we look to 2022, we wanted to see how Creative HEAD’s The It List It Girl of 2021 has fared in her first full year of going solo…


What a year 2021 has been so far – but why does it feel like it’s gone so fast?! This year really went in a different direction than I expected in my previous interview… which actually turned out really positively. I’ve worked much less, taken time out of the salon and away from education – taking one week off each month, which has meant only working in the salon nine days a month since May – and it has probably been the best thing I’ve done for myself this year.

It was the hardest decision ever to say to myself, ‘okay, you have to stop working for a bit’. It wasn’t because I was burnt out; I’ve just had a lot going on outside of work which has required my time and been more of a priority. But, in turn, the time out has made me reassess how I could create a better balance between work and life moving forward. 

I made Wednesdays my ‘wellbeing day’, allowing myself a proper day off to focus on myself and to do lovely things. I have been learning to cook, exercising and so on… there’s just all these positives that have come from stepping back a little bit and giving myself the time I’ve needed. I’ve never been able to do that before, and being freelance allowed me to make that possible. I think I’ve finally, actually got this balance of ‘Harriet time’ and work time right.

When deciding to hit pause I did have to let other people who I work closely with know that I’d be stepping back for a couple of months, like the brands that I work with: L’Oréal Professionnel Paris, Pulp Riot, BaByliss Pro and the Hairdotcom Art Team. I’m so grateful for their flexibility because it’s exactly what I needed. To have the support of brands like that has been amazing.

I did work on some super exciting projects over summer, despite taking more time for myself – like being able to teach Humankind Hair’s first online course with L’Oréal USA, Lift Without Fear. It was incredible to have that opportunity. We’d been planning it for months, and it was a huge success. Now the hope is to start building that relationship, so that we can head out to the US to teach in-person once the world allows. It was just mad that it came about at all; at the time, Humankind was only about five months old. But myself and my business partner, Anneliese Hesse, both have a L’Oréal background so, as an opportunity, it made complete sense. The Americans’ energy was just fantastic of course, and we had viewers from Sweden and the UK join in as well.

Harriet Stokes takes a photo of freshly-coloured hair for a client

Due to Covid my first in-person colour courses for L’Oréal Professionnel were cancelled, which has meant I didn’t actually teach my first live course for the brand until September. I’d been waiting since January, so to finally get into L’Oréal’s Academy in Hammersmith and officially teach my first course was so exciting. I also had the best students who made my first course super memorable.

My last date for the year in Manchester sold out as well, really quickly, so L’Oréal decided put a second date on. I couldn’t believe it! October and November ended up being super busy; education-wise, it’s gone wild! I’m just throwing myself back in and embracing all of these live events that are happening again too. 

Harriet Stokes

Over the last four years I’ve been working for BaByliss PRO as an artist, and now I’m excited to share I’m officially signing as an ambassador! I’ve always been loyal to singular brands when I like something, and that’s also given me the chance to create regular content for them. Especially over lockdown, BaByliss kept its artists super busy. It is nice because, as a freelancer, it gives you security. When you’re tying yourself into a brand it guarantees work, and gives me that kind of freedom to step out of the salon a little bit more when I want to, but I’ll always continue doing my clients’ hair. They keep me relatable as a colour educator, and being in the salon helps you to understand the wants and needs of the consumer, the trends that are happening… That will always be there, but in the industry now you don’t have to be in the salon six, seven days a week to be successful. As hairdressers, and as creatives, I think we need to have lots of different things going on; we get bored doing the same thing on repeat.

Being named The It List It Girl for 2021… I was absolutely over the moon. It was my fourth year trying. Last year I didn’t even finalise; I’d just gone freelance, I was in lockdown and I threw an entry together but obviously I had nothing to write about. I had all these hopes and dreams that I was writing about… which is why I’m so proud that I won this year, after my first year on my own, and those dreams that I’d written about had come true – or better! 

Looking ahead to 2022, my current plan is to take January off to then make a really good plan for next year and hit the ground running – we are currently planning our first international trip to South Africa with Humankind Hair! I have a feeling 2022 is going to be pretty exciting for everyone, and can’t wait to see what’s in store for Humankind Hair, my education journey as well as the industry as a whole. 

Harriet Stokes' name is called as winner of The It Girl at the Most Wanted and The It List Awards 2021The moment Harriet Stokes’ name was called as winner of The It Girl at the Most Wanted and The It List Awards 2021


You can find more information on L’Oréal Professionnel’s huge variety of education at L’Oréal Access, with the opportunity to learn when it suits you. Look out for upcoming courses with Harriet Stokes for 2022, and keep up-to-date with everything on Instagram at @lorealpro.

Read more first-hand Real Talk stories here >>

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