Jess Rona is a grooming force. She caters to the “who’s who” of Los Angeles, grooming the pets of superstars like Katy Perry—and her Instagram account has a whopping 196k followers!
She’s the creator and star of the hit grooming competition show on HBOMAX, Haute Dog, a fun and quirky grooming show reminiscent of a 70’s–style game show. And, she’s also the owner of a fabulous new grooming salon. I got to catch up with Jess and ask her some questions about her success.
Jonathan: Hey Jess, thanks for taking time from your busy schedule to chat with me, let’s get right to it! Your Instagram following is huge and your viral videos of fabulous canines with their hair blowing in the wind are a huge part of that, what inspired you to make those slo–mo videos? And did you ever think they would become such a huge sensation?
Jess: No! I never could have imagined that they would catch on the way they did. I was actually in a low moment in my career. I was grooming dogs alone in my garage and I really was craving a creative outlet. When the iPhone 6 came out, it was the first time there was ever a slo–mo video feature on a phone. One day I was blow–drying a dog when I was listening to music, and as the song crescendoed, the ears flew up in the air and it was this epic moment. So, I grabbed my phone and took a video. My friend told me about this app that puts songs to videos, so I started making little Beyoncé–style music videos just to bring myself some joy. It made me so happy. I didn’t really think much about them. I would send them to the dogs’ owners as a fun little extra thing, and once I saw their reactions, I realized maybe this is something special.
Jonathan: You groom Katy Perry’s dog among other high–profile peeps, what’s it like having celebrity clients? Are they higher maintenance or are they just like anyone else when it comes to their precious pets?
Jess: They definitely have high standards, but so do I, so it works out perfectly. I grew up in L.A., so I learned a long time ago that celebrities are really just normal people. Super famous people roll into my salon with no makeup on, or their hair is in a bun, and they’re just totally normal. I do make sure service is impeccable with VIP clients. If Katy ever needs Nugget groomed, I accommodate her no matter what. Any time of day or night, I’m always there for her. I love her so much and I love her dog.
Jonathan: Congrats on the success of your hit grooming competition show Haute Dog on HBOMax! How did you come up with the idea and how did you make it a reality?
Jess: Thank you! We had been working on Haute Dog for three years before it sold to HBOMax. I actually didn’t think it was going to happen for a long time. But that’s what developing a show can be like. It’s crickets for a year, and then boom, you’re casting and shooting a show in a matter of months. (Although I don’t actually cast the show, I do send recommendations to the casting directors, but they have the final say.)
I have a genius client who came over one day and she was like, “We’re making a show.” And I hear that a lot living in L.A., but she was someone I trusted and knew. So we started brainstorming on what the show would be and slowly it was developed. We knew we definitely wanted to create something that was lighthearted and fun; nothing cut–throat or too competitive. And we obviously wanted something with wood paneling and a kooky, funny retro style. We wanted one of those long, skinny microphones, but we ended up not doing it. But that was the vibe. I put together set design ideas into a Pinterest board, and the set designer magicians brought it all to life. Old 60s– and 70s–style game shows were my biggest inspiration.
Once the idea and the style were developed, my client took it out and pitched it and called me one day and said “Hey, HBOMax bought our pilot.” And I started crying. Then, about a month later, before we even shot the pilot, I got another call and she said, “ummm HBOMax just ordered 12 episodes. The show is going straight to series. Congratulations, you have a TV show.” I lost it.
Not sure if you know this, but I have always wanted to be an actress (way before dog grooming), so this is a huge dream come true. It’s been magical. My two worlds are colliding.
Jonathan: You were featured for your viral videos on the Drew Barrymore Show and she had you on as a guest, how was that experience and how was it chatting with Drew?
Jess: I love her sooooo much. She’s so sweet and cool. It was just like talking to a friend. She’s so warm and welcoming. We set up my computer in my salon and they wanted me to groom a dog throughout the episode which was super fun. I didn’t realize this at the time, but my phone was connected to my computer and my husband called in the middle of the interview and the screen totally went away and I had a moment of freak out. I figured out how to get it back, but it was one of those insane moments that you look back and laugh at.
Jonathan: You recently opened a brand new salon in Los Angeles, what’s one piece of advice you’d give to any groomer about to start a new business?
Jess: Oh, this is a really good question….It’s going to be really hard, it’s also going to be really rewarding. Plan as much as you can to spend more money than you think you will. Go for it, do it the right way, have a vision, know your numbers, learn about business, never stop learning in general, be patient with building clientele (it takes a while) and ride the wave.
Jonathan: What’s next for Jess Rona?
Jess: I’m so glad you asked. I have a new passion. There’s a big hole in the grooming industry. Something no one is teaching but it is so unbelievably important. So much of grooming is energy. No one teaches about how dogs are energy readers! It’s only tuck–ups and top knots! Energy comes from within, and no one in our industry teaches mindset work. I also notice that groomers get frustrated easily or think grooming is hard. So, throughout my 20+ years as a groomer, I’ve developed easy techniques that can help any groomer be consistent and super happy with their work. I’ve also developed energy practices that keep me and my dogs calm. So the next adventure for me is online courses!
I just launched my first digital course called “The Many Faces of JRG,” which was a huge success. I have so much more I want to teach. Next up: a puppy course, a business course and a full–on grooming blueprint course. All will have elements of self–care and energy work as well. And maybe you can come do a course with me next time you’re in L.A.?! I’m fired up!
Jonathan: Fantastic, I’ll take you up on that! Thanks again for chatting, and good luck on your continued success! ✂️