Andrew Fitzsimons On Go-To Products, Trends, And Judging TikTok’s First Reality Show

To list hair guru Andrew Fitzsimons’ clients is to flip through a veritable rolodex of the fashion and modeling industry’s top tier. Case in point: all Kardashians and Jenners, Joan Smalls, Adriana Lima, Hailey Bieber…need we go on? In fact, there’s little he hasn’t turned his hands to over the last two decades, but now he’s adding yet another string to his bow as a judge on Glamhives’ pioneering TikTok reality series, Step & Repeat. I hopped on Zoom with my fellow Dublin-native to talk about his career trajectory, his favorite texturizing spray, why activism is important to him—and to chat about how we miss our Irish mammies across the pond. 

Tell us your backstory and what your involvement in Step & Repeat as a judge will look like?
I’ve officially been in the business for 20 years, as of this month. I’ve worked all over the world, starting in Dublin, then living in Paris and New York. As someone who left school at 13-years-old and was always into the arts, I’m really going to look for someone with a great personality. Someone who’s outgoing—that’s a big part of selling your talent because you need to break through the ice with your personality. I’m looking for someone with a point of view. My pet peeve is when people don’t know references. So I’ll be looking out for that too. Because of how people present themselves though social media, you’ve got to have a full package. It’s about how you are on camera and how the viewers can identify with you.

How did you become involved in the project?
I did a panel with Glamhive in the fall of last year with a lot of people in the beauty industry. They really know how to pull together some great artists.

What kind of judge are you?
I won’t be nasty or unkind to anyone! Every one has an individual path—hopefully I can be able to see the good parts and be able to help highlight areas where someone can improve. I love to offer advice and be a little bossy. I’m a Leo, so even if people don’t always want the advice, I’ll still be giving it.

Who has been instrumental as a support or role model to you during your own career?
It hasn’t really been any one artist. It’s been more about a team. I’ve been so lucky, to really come for nothing. I’d no one to help me and I’ve been on my own journey figuring it out myself, but I’m lucky to have people who believed in me. Michelle,  my first agent in the U.S., was my agent from 2009 until I moved to L.A. last year. She’s basically family. When I met her, I’d just moved to New York, and I only had some test shoots and my work from Paris. I’d no money, and she’s an artist herself so I think she saw another starving artist. We built my U.S. career from the ground up together. It’s the same with my publicist Tyler, he saw something in me and we’ve been working together since day one too. As an artist, a lot of the time the journey can feel very lonely and it’s easy to feel like you could give up. The biggest motivator has always been other people’s belief in me and having that support system.

You’ve said your career is a series of small lucky breaks, what do you chalk them down to?
I don’t really ever do anything conventionally—and my career path was definitely not conventional, so that’s why it’s felt like a few little breaks and setting my sights higher each time. I said I would go and work in fashion in Paris first. I did that when I was 16-years-old. My next dream was to be in New York and work with celebrities and dream clients. Then I wanted to go more into exploring the branding side of the industry, and I created a line of products [with Primark]. I like to set goals that mightn’t seem achievable, but I believe in myself so they seem achievable to me. I try to move in a way where I’m satisfied each day. If you want to cast a really long net…maybe figure out the starting goal first. Those little steps can guide yourself to where you want to go. I could never have imagined that when I started out, but creating my own path and incrementally deciding where I was going to go next made it happen.

Looking back, what would you tell that teenage self?
My main goals, quite honestly, apart from my career goals, were pretty low back then. It was more so to be around people who allowed me to blossom as a human being and appreciated me. I don’t think I have much advice for the 13-year-old me. I had to go through what I did. I wouldn’t take back any hardship because that would take back a hard lesson that I still choose to remember and adapt into my present life. I guess I’d say, ‘Relax and enjoy it!’ But when you’re fighting, it’s hard to relax and enjoy it.

Your client list is mind-blowing. What do you think is one personality trait that draws people to working with you?
It’s probably not down to one trait, but the one that is most important is kindness. I’ve seen so many people come and go.
The people who are there because they genuinely want to be there, to be kind, and to receive kindness [are the ones who stay]. Sometimes your career is largely based on whether people want to work with you or not. If I’ve a shoot in the Maldives, I think who’d be great, who’d be adaptable, who can do the job….and who won’t be a pain in the ass! It’s really a mix of kindness and confidence.

You’re passionate about using your platform to drive awareness about social justice, have you always been comfortable speaking out and speaking up?
I was definitely very self-centered and really focused on my self and my goals for my teens and twenties. That’s the way it is for most people. Then I met two of my very best friends in New York, almost eight or nine years ago, who both happen to be trans. For me, moving to the States, I was immediately very aware of the racial inequity, but I wasn’t really sure how I could help other than educating myself. Those friends, they’re family now. I felt like it was my responsibility to learn about the community so I could support them. Trans people do not have equal rights and are discriminated against every single day, especially when they are of color. It would be very difficult to be friends with them and not support them and not be aware of their experience. Any type of activism I do, it’s because I’ve people in my life that I care about, and supporting their right to exist is one way I show them love. It’s more of a personal thing and it’s very important to my life because it has direct impact.

Let’s talk glam. What’s in your kit right now?
I have a line with Primark which I created because they’re products I need in my own kit every single day. Fundamental products that people really need based on problem solving. We have some amazing new accessories that are really handy for both stylists and people at home. My other go-tos are the Got2B Freeze Spray—that’s like Gorilla Glue, for real! It’s always in the back pockets of hairdressers and drag queens! They’ve a great gel too. I love Tigi Catwalk’s [Work It] Hold Hairspray and Texturizing Spray. We just used that when shooting on a windy beach. Their heat protection spray is one of my favorites too. I also like Nature Labs’ Volume and Texture Mist. One thing I can’t go anywhere without nowadays is Touch Labs hand sanitizers, they’ve got all different fragrances so it doesn’t smell like I’m rubbing alcohol all over my hands. I need to be taking health and safety seriously because my hands are always around people’s hair throughout the glam sessions.

Do you have any plans to come to New York anytime soon? Maybe for NYFW?
I really do want to go to New York for Pride! I’m not sure yet if I’ll be there for The Met this year.

What do you miss most about home?
My family. Going for walks along the cliffs. Teddy’s Ice Cream in Dun Laoghaire! My manager is there too. I miss being able to freely go back and forth.

Will you get back anytime soon?
Right now, I can’t because of work and having to quarantine. Ireland is being so slow with everything! My mum has to wait three more months for her vaccine, so hopefully I can fly her here to L.A. soon after that. I usually fly her out three or four times a year, so it’s been weird not to see her in a year and a half. I’ve also a new nephew—my sister gave birth two months ago—so I’m very excited to meet him.

What’s a hair trend we should be excited about?
Seventies hair is definitely a moment right now. Lots of layers. The thing that excites me most is frizz and fluffy hair! I’m glad people are starting to warm up to it! I think it’s really, really cool, but a lot of people try their hardest to stay away from it. We’re seeing even more natural textures: people identifying with their natural texture and learning to get the best out of their own particular hair type. This re-opening of the world, it’s going to feel a little disco. We need the hair to match!

What’s next? What’s left to achieve?
Something extremely, monumentally huge is in the works…I’ll be announcing it sometime this year. I’m going to be putting more energy into the business end of haircare. Hopefully what’s next is being in Europe more; being in Ireland and the U.K. more. I didn’t have the best experience in Ireland growing up, but I’ve started to love it more and more going back as an adult and I see it as a place for myself more and more. That’s another big part of this competition. Before, you used to have to live in L.A., New York, or London. What’s amazing now is that people can showcase their talent and personalities online. TikTok is a relatively new app, and yet that’s how someone could build towards their own brand. Them, their talent, and whatever they choose to do with it. I’ve worked in every part of the industry over 20 years—I’m really excited to see talented individuals and hopefully give then some great advice!

[Ed note: Glamhive’s Step & Repeat will be a five-week style challenge where stylists, make-up artists, and hair stylists, are invited to participate in weekly challenges that put their creativity and expertise to the test. The series will be hosted by celebrity stylist Joey Maalouf and looks are judged weekly on TikTok with live presentations. Winners each week get a cash prize plus a one hour ‘power-hour’ mentor session with the notable mentor of her/his choice. A few mentors to note…. Brian Underwood, Alexis Bennett, Kayla Graves, Tara Swennen, and more….]

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