Living in Style
by Tim Froberg
The name Josif Wittnik carries a lot of oomph in the hair industry.
The Chilton native is a bit of a rock star in his field. He has built a national reputation as an expert and innovator in hair design, restoration, and extensions. He‘s been a stylist to the stars – including big names like Paris Hilton and the Backstreet Boys – and trains future professionals at his respected Appleton-based beauty academy franchise, the Salon Professional Academy.
Wittnik, who owns Salon CTI and Day Spa in Appleton, is a local celebrity, as well. He has appeared for years on Fox 11’s Monday Morning Makeover, on Good Day Wisconsin, and Living with Amy. In addition to coaching aspiring beauty technicians, Wittnik continues to style and design hair. He is classified as a 4AA stylist, reserved for the most experienced and sought-after service providers.
Not bad for a guy who dropped out of high school and didn’t attend college.
“I’m a very, lucky, lucky man to have received all of what I have received in the last 40 years of my career,” said Wittnik, known for his candid nature and colorful personality.
Wittnik appreciates the life he has experienced and makes sure he gives back. He is the founder of a national nonprofit, Trim Hunger, which raises money to help feed those in need along with creating awareness.
He graduated from IBA International Beauty Academy and began working locally before passing a life-changing audition and joining Redken’s first haircutting team. He began training in California and worked across the country as a respected stylist, coach, platform artist and company promotor.
“My sister Karin was a hairdresser and was a huge influence on me,” Wittnik said. “She told me that I was very artistic and should go into cutting hair. I was a rebel. Ran away from home to Milwaukee once before my sister brought me back. I almost got kicked out of beauty school for rolling a joint with perm papers.”
Wittnik always believed in himself and his confidence in his skills paid off when he began working with a steady stream of famous faces.
“Redken would call me in whenever they needed someone for what they called a big experience,” Wittnik said. “They needed someone who was not only good but wouldn’t be intimidated. I designed the Backstreet Boys’ hair and color, working with them while they were on their last tour. The girl that opened their show asked me to please do her hair. I didn’t know who she was. Later, I called my wife and said, ‘Do you know who Mandy Moore is? I did her hair’ My wife was like, ‘Joe, are you nuts? Our girls would go crazy if they knew you cut Mandy Moore’s hair.’”
Wittnik not only styled Paris Hilton’s hair for three years but advised her on makeup and fashion choices before television appearances.
“I became her best bud in sort of a weird way because I was a little older,” he said.
Wittnik also served as a hair consultant for Brendan Fraser in the movie “Tarzan” and has worked with several Miss America contestants. His work has been featured in and on the covers of 17 magazines internationally.
Wittnik opened CTI in 1991. His wife, Joy, is a partner in the business, along with two other colleagues. Josif met Joy, who grew up in the West Bend area, at beauty school and they have been married for 30 years.
“Joy always seemed to get me out of trouble – she was the only girl I ever dated who would do that,” said Wittnik with a laugh. “I would be nothing without her.”
Wittnik almost lost it all in 2019 when he was diagnosed with a blood clot on his brain, discovered while he was attending a family wedding in Jamaica. Surgery was done to remove a subdural hematoma, and he is in good health and spirits today.
“Life is good – it really is,” said Wittnik.