Kelley Baker is Hollywood’s brow whisperer. Counting Khloé and her sisters as clients, Kelley is a true artist who understands how a solid set of arches can make or break your look. You can tell her handiwork based on a distinctive natural style with precise, clean lines—certainly a few starlets on your “Brow Goals” Pinterest board have been blessed with Kelley’s signature touch. Aside from her talent, she is decidedly real and relatable in an industry that can often perpetuate superficiality—something that makes her all the more lovable. In her interview with Good Times, she shares the inspiring story of how she started her business, how she navigates life as a single mother, and the most common brow mistakes people make.
Photo courtesy of @KELLEYBAKERBROWS
Photo courtesy of @KELLEYBAKERBROWS
How did you become the beauty and brow queen you are today?
I always knew the beauty industry was for me. I never really liked school. My parents offered to pay for my apartment if I at least tried going to college, which I did (just so I could move out!). Instead, I ended up in Culver City Beauty School. After graduation, I worked in a few salons but always had ideas about how I could make the environment and the products better. In 2011, after a hard day at the salon, I stumbled across my first location on Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice, CA. It was a tiny space but exactly what I needed to start my own business. My mom, who was a secretary, gave me her life savings of $20K to start my product line, which has grown into the KBB brand that I have today. I began to build my team and my own product line, starting with the highlighter stick, nicknamed “The Magic Stick.” I advertised on Instagram before Instagram was a phenomenon, posting before and after shots when no one else was. I already had word of mouth referrals, so I just began to build off those foundations. Soon, I found I was too busy to take new clients, which left me filtering them to my “Brow Divas,” employees trained by me to style each brow the ‘Kelley Baker’ way. We expanded the space in 2014 but then grew out of that one too! We recently relocated just down the street to accommodate our growing business, which now includes a full-service salon. We’re still in Venice though, where my heart is. I have a team of 19 fabulous women and 1 man, my CEO, that help me get through this the crazy ride.
How did you work to set yourself apart in the industry?
The thing my clients say most often about me is that I am “relatable”, and that is something I am most proud of. My goal is to have everyone understand my method and that’s why I focus on education. I want the teenager, stay-at-home mom, and the executive to be able to create a brow shape that makes them feel beautiful. I also want them all to know how to fill in their brows (with makeup) properly. I relate to each one of these women and understand their needs because I’ve been there. Social media is a great platform to share this—it’s where I’m free to post mom pics, business pics and how-to video tutorials all in one setting.
You began as a makeup artist and now own a business empire. What did this journey look like and what did you learn along the way?
It’s certainly been a journey and I’m not done; we’re just starting a new chapter, in fact. I have learned so much about business and people. Unfortunately, my kindness has been taken for granted at times through the years, but I’ve learned to set boundaries and say “no” more often. I also learned to face my fear of public speaking. I used to feel faint when speaking in front of a crowd but most recently have found myself “winging it” on stage in front of hundreds of women. I find that when I just talk to people in my classes like I talk to my friends, it’s way less pressure.
What does your day to day look like as an artist and entrepreneur?
Busy! My son Travis and doggie, Doug the Pug, come first. As a single mom, they are my priorities before anything. Then we move onto e-mails and early morning pre-set conference calls. A check into the salon prior to me coming in on Tuesdays and Wednesdays is always necessary -- there is always something to handle. My salon days are 9am-2pm, then I pick up my son at 2:30 from school. House-calls are squeezed in during this in-between time or late at night, along with meetings for future KB projects and products. Dinner with my son, who just turned 12, usually happens before his tutor shows up at 7pm.
How do you approach a brow transformation?
Every client that comes into the salon gets the star treatment. Every brow is completely different so it’s important to focus on the brows in front of you and really look to see what it is that you can do for them. We always start with a consultation. You must be realistic and follow their natural brow shape. You can’t just pick a brow shape from a book. We are all unique and everyone gets their own custom brow. There are no stencils used at Kelley Baker Brows, just true artists bringing out the best brow in you
What is the most common mistake you see women making when it comes to brow care and maintenance?
The most common brow mistakes I see women doing is over tweezing or using too much product when filling in their brows. I suggest going to see a pro for at least a few months to get your brows on the right track, and no plucking in between visits! As for filling in your brows, we want them to look like they belong to you and aren’t actually filled in. Brows are so important to your overall look. Use a soft hand and take your time when filling in.
What are your must-have brow products?
My must-have brow products are my Best of Brows Kit. It’s my first ever travel kit that has all my favorite pieces including the KBB brow defining pencil, KBB highlighter, KBB smudge and angle brushes, a tinted brow gel, plus the duo powders. My second choice is our KBB 3B Kit which includes our easiest grab and go products.
What’s the best way to fill in sparse brows
When filling in brows, the age-old adages ring true: less is more, and a little goes a long way. Start with either the pencil or powder, whichever you prefer, and do light hair strokes to make your brows look fuller and natural. You can always add more color if needed, and if you’ve applied too much just flip the brush and brush out the extra product to soften the look.
When would you recommend brow tinting, and what do we need to know about it?
Brow tinting is awesome for someone who has light colored brows. Tinting adds more definition and will give your brows a thicker look. It’s always been one of my favorite services because it makes your eyes pop, so you look awake and well rested. Unfortunately, the FDA has banned all tinting in the state of California for brows and lashes.
There is waxing, threading and tweezing – Which one do you recommend the most?
I wax my clients’ brows and follow up by tweezing all unwanted hairs – this has always been my preference. Waxing gets rid of all the baby hairs and it pulls the hair from the root leaving your skin nice and smooth. Tweezing is to fine tune and make sure every hair is perfectly in place, bringing out that arch.
See some of Kelley's most sought-after celebrity brows
What are common issues you find women have with their brows and what are your tips ?
The most common issues I find that women have with their brows is trying to grow them back after over tweezing or trimming your long brow hairs. Brow trimming is by far the hardest part for someone to do to themselves. If you want to do it on your own, my tip is brush up your brow hair and then trim the hairs sticking out of your hair line one by one. Do not hold your brow hairs tight with a brush while trimming! If you do, they will bounce back to their natural place creating holes if done incorrectly. As for growing back brows, the number one thing to do is put away your tweezers. I also recommend applying brow growth serum nightly for at least three months to help stimulate hair growth. Your brows won’t miraculously grow back completely, but it will help the process.
Tell us about brow exfoliation. What is it and why do you recommend it?
Brow exfoliation is best for those who have flaky or dry skin around the brow area. Make sure to be gentle while exfoliating because you don't want to accidentally tug on your hairs and cause them to fall out.
What is your most common request from your celebrity clients when it comes to their brows?
My celebrity clients always ask me to get their brows into shape and get them as full as they can be. The fuller the brow, the younger we look. Thin brows make facial features harsh, while fuller brows keep us looking fresh, well rested, and youthful.
Any general brow tips we need to know?
One of my favorite brow tips is to always use my KBB highlighter pencil under the brow hair. It’s my number one trick of the trade. It always make your eyes pop and can make your imperfect brows look perfect.
Whose brows are you obsessed with?
That is always the toughest question I get asked and to be honest, I’m obsessed with them all. It’s my job to give every person the very best brows they can have.
What products are in your makeup bag?
My holy grail products in my makeup bag are my brow products of course. The Koko Kollection face palette for bronzer and blush, NARS Creamy Radiant Under-Eye Concealer in Honey, and the pressed highlighter by BECCA Cosmetics. Lips either KBB Cali Girl or NYX Cosmetics Butter Gloss in Tiramisu.
What is next for the Kelley Baker empire?
The Kelley Baker empire is growing! I recently opened a new salon triple the size of my flagship salon. I now have hairstylists, lash artists, body waxing and makeup artists. The shop is run by females and as a single mom, my goal is to empower women and teach them to be successful. Private brow trainings, masterclasses, and brow tours are also in the works. And of course, there are more products are on the way! I strive to make products that all women can use, from soccer moms who don’t know how to use makeup, to makeup artists working the runway shows. We’re working to continue making eyebrows beautiful everywhere.