Ken Pavés has long been Tinseltown’s darling, entrusted with the locks of some of the world’s most beautiful women. The stylist has worked with everyone from Lady Gaga to Jennifer Lopez, Eva Longoria, Victoria Beckham, and Celine Dion, traveling the world doing what he loves. And it is while on a short jaunt to the Philippines that he gets to chat withVogue Philippines on his hairstyling secrets, his deep pride in being a Filipino, and the charities that are close to his heart.
Growing up in the suburbs of Detroit, with a Filipina-Portuguese mother, and a Romanian Jewish father, Pavés never imagined he would end up on the red carpet circuit. His foray into beauty was actually inspired by his mom, Helen Marie, who was often busy working three jobs but would exude a different kind of magic whenever she had the chance to get dolled up. “My whole getting into beauty was actually a love story to my Mom,” he shares.
Pavés’ approach to hair is one that borders on esoteric, soul-searching territory. “I make the person who sits in my chair the priority,” he says, emphasizing how important it was to celebrate each person’s individuality. “I always want to get to know the woman, and what [is] going make her feel beautiful [at] that moment. Because a woman’s mind and the way she sees herself can change from day to day.”
And equally important to his quest for connection was the woman’s own journey towards honoring the self, and embracing her vulnerabilities. He says it’s a must to keep bringing attention, both mentally and physically, to one’s favorite features. “If the language to self is [about] love, you start off on a much better foot,” he shares.
And as the shaman of hair guides women the world over, his mantra boils down to discovering and working with our natural texture. To wit, he says it’s as easy as taking a towel to scrunch over slightly wet hair, looking at the flow, letting it air dry, and observing what emerges. From there, it’s just a matter of using the appropriate products to get the look you want based off of what you have, and swears by the wonders of Phyto.
The haute hairdresser is also a fan of skipping the blow-dryer whenever possible, and loves the bounce of next-day hair, which he says is de rigueur for photo shoots. “Your hair is going feel thicker, fuller, more voluminous, and have more memory. I’ve gotten every one of my clients to stop washing their hair quite so much, and to work off of natural air-dried hair,” he claims. As an added plus, he’s also seeing how trends are moving towards hair that’s a bit more liberated, and less polished, this coming season.
On color, he believes women can be any hue but advises them to work with a professional who understands their hair. “The key is to find the specific tone what works with your complexion,” he specifies.
Going for Glam
Being a hair guru with such an innate authenticity has made him an extremely sought-after member of celeb glam squads, like that of the Beckhams. “I worked with Victoria with very short hair, to very long hair, and then short again. We’ve gone in and out of all of these different looks, darker and lighter, to go with what she’s liking in fashion, to make it personal to her,” he says.
He’s had such a lovely relationship with the Beckhams that both their families are close, and Pavés is godfather to Harper. He likewise conveys how meaningful it was to have been at the nuptials of Brooklyn Beckham and Nicola Peltz, where he of course also did Victoria’s hair. “It felt like a family member was getting married. I love Brooklyn, I’ve known him since he was so young and I love Nicola. They’re such a great young couple so it was a really big wedding, but it really felt just incredible and intimate to be there.”
He’s of course styled Victoria Beckham on numerous Vogue covers, with the December 2019 one from Poland really resonating with him. “With her hair up and an androgynous suit on, it feels a little rockabilly,” he muses. “I just think there’s a side of her that’s very powerful and I think [that cover story] exudes that. It was a really different aesthetic that’s never been seen before.”
Pavés loves keeping his work looking modern and fresh, and considers it a pleasure working with creatives from all around the world. “It’s really nice to see the DNA of every location, the perspectives are slightly different, but of course all under the Vogue umbrella.” Other faves are Victoria’s Vogue covers from Korea, the Netherlands, and Greece, as well as Vogue Mexico with Eva Longoria.
When asked if he would like to do a cover for Vogue Philippines, he gushes, “It would probably be my favorite, and would [feel like it’s] coming completely full circle for me. I see the world through my Mom’s eyes because she was everything that was beautiful to me. To come from where I came from and do a PhilippineVogue cover, would literally be the coolest thing ever.”
He’s extremely excited to be back to his old rhythms, and also to be traveling again. He shares that he’s about to fly to LA soon after to work with Eva Longoria, and then Barbie Ferreira of Euphoria, before quickly jetting off to Miami to go see Victoria.
Despite spending most of his career in Los Angeles, Pavés has always had a strong affinity to his roots. Right before our interview, he had driven five hours just to go to his grandfather Simeon’s village in San Marcelino, Zambales, coming back just in time for the Vogue Philippines gala. He reminisces how it was like growing up in the house his grandfather bought when he first moved to Detroit, with his dapper pictures all around. “Filipino pride goes really deep, we have a really big Filipino family,” he shares of the community that helped raise him.
He recalls how they would often enjoy Filipino staple foods, how his grandfather would buy sugarcane from the market for his kids, and shares that in 2019 he had gotten a tattoo on his chest in alibata of the word that means mother, but also motherland. He tells us of the barongs he now has in his closet, and of how his friends in the United States want their own too. “I think the gift of culture is the gift of sharing. And when you share your culture with other people, they get to respect it,” he says.
Prior to this, the last time he was in the country was in 2019, on a trip with Bright Faces to Cabanatuan. The medical non-profit organization, where he sits on the board, aims to deliver life-saving surgery to children with cleft lips and palettes.
Philanthropy is something that comes natural to Pavés, and his charity work has flourished alongside his styling career. He’s helped raise $2.2 million for a charity that aims to discover a cure for a rare disease called Epidermolysis Bullosa, he’s an advocate of the ALS community, and for years had given away wigs from his wig collection to women with medical needs. He also continues to try and bring aid to causes in the Philippines.
He appreciates how his work and its privileges have allowed him to be of help to others, and bring even bigger voices to the table. He reckons that his first project with the Beckhams wasn’t even about hair, and was when he had asked them help raise money for a charity. “With all of my clients there’s always been something a little bit deeper that connected us,” musing that the key to his long-lasting relationships with a lot of his A-list friends was a bond that didn’t end when the cameras stopped clicking.
Naturally, having been in his presence, I was bound to get a makeover, which was another thing Pavés loves doing, and even did for 12 years on the Oprah Winfrey show. In my case it was how to finally get that quintessentially insouciant English girl hair I’ve been craving for years. He tells me to let him know how it goes, and I can’t wait to show him.