Meet the Hollywood Agent Who Turns Hairstylists Into Stars
Brooke Wall, whose agency The Wall Group reps top beauty players like Kate Young and Lori Goldstein, talks red-carpet trends, agent poaching and the future of the beauty business.
A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Few would have thought that a Hollywood mini empire could be launched based on stylists. Brooke Wall did, when she started her agency back in 1999, bringing them — along with other behind-the scenes beauty players — into the limelight.
Her Wall Group, which represents an impressive list of 56 stylists, including brand-names Kate Young (Natalie Portman, Sienna Miller) and Lori Goldstein (Rihanna, Katy Perry), along with makeup artists, hairdressers, production designers and manicurists — was acquired in July by WME-IMG for an undisclosed sum. (Stylist salaries vary, but fees for red-carpet looks range from $250 for $5,000, and top beauty experts can score lucrative ambassador deals.) The entertainment, sports and fashion behemoth already is providing synergistic opportunities for Wall's company, thanks to such clients as Emma Stone, Matt Damon, Rihanna and Justin Timberlake.
Born in Vancouver, Wall, 51, began her beauty career working with Oribe at his Fifth Avenue salon in New York and did a stint at the Ford model agency before founding her own company backed by hairdresser John Frieda. As red-carpet looks have become an increasingly lucrative business, she now has offices in the meatpacking district and West Hollywood with a total of 60 employees and about 150 clients. Wall Group also does branding and trend consulting for companies as diverse as Chanel, Estee Lauder and Target.
Wall, who is single and splits her time between her Chelsea apartment and a Santa Monica home, says she keeps herself in balance with meditation and a fitness routine, as well as camping and fly-fishing. THR caught up with her in New York just before a quick pre-awards season vacation.
A plaque of hands spelling out the word “bossy.” Says Wall: “We have a number of these pieces all around the office. They're by artist Derek Weisberg. They're fantastic.”
How has the WME-IMG deal impacted what you do?
Our client database pre the acquisition was vast, but think about how it has been amplified after the acquisition; we have grown our network for our talent exponentially overnight with access to nearly 5,000 employees in more than 25 countries at our fingertips, all of which have contacts in the beauty, fashion and entertainment businesses. It's nice to have a strong infrastructure, which actually opens up more possibilities. We perform the same function as any agents: find opportunities for our clients — and those opportunities are changing because of the speed of technology. It helps us for our talent to be part of the conversation.
IMG chief content officer Mark Shapiro has said bringing you on board “took a bit of wooing.” Please explain.
We've had dinners and celebrations. I spent my entire career building the Wall Group, and I was obviously very concerned about where we would be comfortable. It's like raising a child: You want to make sure that child is in the right place. It didn't come quickly. It was pretty buttoned up in the way it transpired. All business depends on whom you work with. We wanted to be aligned with a very progressive, successful company, and they seemed like the right fit. In today's world, you may be Spielberg or Matt Damon or Adam Selman, the young designer [and Wall Group client] — talent is talent.
How often do you meet with co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell?
We speak very regularly. I also work closely with Mark Shapiro and my colleagues across our entire fashion business, which includes IMG Models, Events, MADE, and Art + Commerce.
It would be natural to think that WME clients will become Wall Group clients, but is that the case?
We have worked with some of their clients over the years, and we are happy now to go full throttle, but we also work with other agencies.
Might CAA, for instance, now be resistant to referring clients to Wall Group?
There has been no resistance. They are very respectful and we are happy to support and work with everyone.
Poaching is standard practice in the traditional agency world. How do you feel about taking stylists from other agencies?
Our policy is not to go after other people's clients. The only time that's considered OK is when an artist is out shopping, so we try to keep our ears to the ground. If clients feel they want to go about changing their careers and the agents they are with are not working for them, we will meet with them.
Awards season is upon us. Any thoughts on red-carpet trends?
I was in Europe attending shows, and what's interesting is that there is so much self expression, so many looks — it's fun to see them and be a little surprised. Because there is a sea of choices out there. Every woman today, including actresses and models, can use the help of a stylist to enhance her and help her make the right choices.
Because red-carpet fashion is dissected and scrutinized to such a degree, is it too risky for actresses to leave these choices up to their natural sense of style?
For certain individuals, career and livelihood depends on being able to look great and understand the world of fashion. It can be very confusing and overwhelming and it's nice to have someone come in and say, "This is who you are. This is your signature style. Here are five different ways to express who you are."
What does a day in your life look like?
It's mostly emails. And I try and meditate at least once a day. I love exercise and I used to do yoga, but I ripped my rotator [cuff] and overextended a tendon, so I had to ease up on it. I run on the High Line or by the West Side Highway in New York, and on the beach in Santa Monica. I also take classes at Exhale and Body by Simone. The rest of the day is largely spent in meetings with clients, with other people at the company and various industry leaders who might have opportunities for our artists.
How involved have you remained in the scouting and signing process?
I definitely enjoy finding talent for other divisions as well as my own. I also like figuring out what the next wave is and who will need representation down the road. Always identifying people who have potential is like a muscle reflex; my brain just fires that way. I have been programmed to be able to identify opportunities for individuals and create opportunities for them. Even if I meet a chef or painter or DJ, I think, "Where should they be?" It's automatic, but not everybody wants it. Sometimes they are like, "Get away from me! I don't want you to ruin my peaceful life." Our lives have tons of opportunities. It's so fulfilling when you can find what's missing and make things happen.
Who was your first stylist client and who is your newest?
One of our first was Danilo, and he is still with us. One of our latest is Alice Lane.
How much money should a top hairstylist or makeup artist expect to make?
There are so many factors that determine the rates of any artist, including the length and location of each opportunity, as well as longer-term brand affiliations and partnerships. It all depends on the caliber of each artist's work, his or her roster of clients and the relationships our agents have cultivated with the various magazine editors, photographers, designers, design houses, advertising companies, brands, publicists and studios.
How have beauty bloggers influenced your business?
People want to know what works and what doesn't. They seek answers in many places; we're seeing our artists' social media channels becoming increasingly popular in identifying the latest trends. Our artists Mario Dedivanovic [1.7 million Instagram followers] and hairstylist Jen Atkin [880,000 Instagram followers] are great examples. Mario has become widely known and the Wall Group receives calls for his mastery on a global scale. So widely known in fact that he fills amphitheaters and auditoriums around the world with individuals, both makeup artists and real women, keen to learn his tips and tricks. As for Jen Atkin, the haircut she recently gave Khloe Kardashian debuted on Instagram and caused a veritable media frenzy.
What can you say about future business trends at the intersection of beauty and Hollywood?
The future is very bright for our talent. We're seeing hairstylists, makeup artists, manicurists and other beauty experts stepping from behind the scenes into the mainstream via social media. Consumers are clamoring for expert guidance. So the artists that will have success are those with the ability to respond deftly and become leaders of change within the fashion and beauty industry by providing compelling, informative content through social media platforms.