Vancouver Hairdressing Academy graduate Jaelyn Walker won the Contessa Award for Student/Apprentice Hairstylist of the Year in 2014. Since then, her career at Michael Levine’s Space Salon in Vancouver has thrived. We catch up with Walker, who shares her tips for aspiring student/apprentice hairstylists.
Why did you decide to enter the Contessa Awards?
My mentor, Devon Plamondon, who was my teacher at the Vancouver Hairdressing Academy, won a Contessa Award for New Hairstylist of the Year and he encouraged me. He knew what it did for his career and how important it is to get something like that under your belt. At the time I had never created a collection before, but I knew I was in love with the salon industry.
How has your career changed since your Contessa win?
About six months after I won, I got promoted from junior stylist to senior stylist. I entered my Contessa-winning collection into the North American Hair Awards (NAHA) for Newcomer of the Year and was selected in the top five. My career definitely took off, and it gave me more confidence in my work and myself. Now I’m a master stylist, specializing in creative colour and balayage. I teach in-house classes, as well as master classes.
What advice do you have for students and newcomers?
I would recommend networking (going to the schools and building a roster of people before even building a collection). Getting a mentor (somebody with your aesthetic to bounce ideas off of and have an extra set of eyes for your collection). Find someone who is seasoned that you look up to, not your best friend from class—they just don’t have the experience. I would recommend taking classes. When I was putting together my collection, I would be up until 3 a.m. watching tutorials. If you don’t know how to do something, it’s important to look it up and learn.
Competing opens your eyes to so many people that you can learn from. Not only does it give you confidence, but it also gives you experience that you can learn from so you’ll know what to do next time. It can also help you hone in on your specialty.