With a star-studded client list entailing names like Shakira, Alicia Keys, Dascha Polanco, Adrienne Bailon, Becky G, Anika Noni Rose, and so many more, it would understandably be anyone’s assumption that Latina hairstylist Cynthia Alvarez had always intended to pursue the business of extremely good hair. On the contrary, however, it was a total accident. While Alvarez’s handiwork can be spotted in sold-out stadiums across the globe (pre-pandemic, at least) and stamped onto the glossy pages of prestigious publications like Harper’s Bazaar, her original plan was joining the military, not the celebrity hairstyling industry.
Born and raised in the Bronx, Alvarez did hair throughout her childhood and well into her teens. Then, after graduating high school and on the cusp of joining the military, she had a chance meeting with an industry stylist who admired how adeptly Alvarez styled her own hair, and, as cliché as it may sound, the rest was history. After accompanying her newfound mentor on set and making connections with the industry’s best makeup and hair artists, Alvarez put her plans to join the Air Force on the back burner and decided to pursue professional hairstyling instead. She attended beauty school while assisting hairstylists for shoots and music videos, and after two years, she received a call from one of her mentors, Tippi Shorter. There was an opportunity, and it was Alicia Keys.
“I was asked to style Alicia Keys’s hair for her 2008 world tour,” says Alvarez. “That’s when the universe lined up, and my wildest dreams came true. I was 21.”