For Master Colourist of the Year winner Michelle Finlayson, it’s safe to say colour is her forte. But as a Schwarzkopf Professional Essential Looks Artist, Finlayson has also been on the road teaching a new braiding and styling class. We chatted with Finlayson about the inspiration for her Contessa collection, what she enjoys doing in her downtime and why competing continues to be important to her (even after her multiple award wins).
Salon Magazine: What was it like to win the Contessa award for Master Colourist of the Year?
Michelle Finlayson: It felt almost like a dream—truly, that’s the only way to describe it. It is so incredibly rewarding to have your work recognized at this level. The anticipation that builds in the Contessa Awards with so many artists with such great talent and energy. When you hear your name called and the room erupts with support and cheering and the music starts, it’s very surreal.
SM: Where did you find the inspiration for your winning collection?
MF: I am often inspired by fashion. I plan the wardrobe before the hair when I am first working on a shoot because it will set the tone, and the textures and shapes of the clothing often play a role in how I will style the hair. I ordered almost all the clothing for my last shoot using Etsy. It was mostly handmade, and the pieces came from all over the place—Asia to Australia. It was fun shopping.
SM: You’ve won Contessa awards before, so why is it important to continue entering?
MF: For me, I truly enjoy the process of planning and creating a collection of work. Entering the Contessas year after year is about pushing yourself to improve and learn every time you put yourself out there. If you are goal-oriented it can become very addicting.
SM: Any photo shoot tips or secrets you could share?
MF: To me, your first shoot is probably the biggest learning curve possible. So, ask for advice, reach out to stylists who’ve done it before—most artists are happy to share what they’ve learned over the years. Then take all that advice with a grain of salt and just have fun! The only way to really learn is to do. And finally, don’t give up if you don’t make finalist the first time. The greatest achievers are not always the most talented, but the ones who work the hardest.
SM: How has social media impacted your success as a hairstylist?
MF: Honestly, I had a slow start to social media. I remember being the only one who raised their hand at NYFW when asked ‘Who here does not have an Instagram account?’ Game changer! I immediately created a handle and got with the program. I know there is a lot more room to connect with my followers, so that’s what I try to focus on. I also like to see a beautiful layout. It makes me happy when my page (@michellefinlaysonhair) looks like a magazine.
“Entering the Contessas year after year is about pushing yourself to improve and learn every time you put yourself out there. If you are goal-oriented it can become very addicting.” ~ Michelle Finlayson, Contessa 2017 Master Colourist of the Year
SM: Do you have a mentor or someone you look up to when it comes to styling hair?
MF: There are three important people that have made a major impact on my career: Grace Kamel-Fortier, the manager at my first salon, who pushed me to push myself. When you are young and first starting out, this is invaluable. Rossa Jurenas, who inspired me to compete in the first place—and who is still competing today I might add! But Rossa has helped me see my collections from another prospective and see the potential for an image that maybe I didn’t see. Kathy Simon who’s trained me from the day I did not even know how to use a Denman brush. She was able to bring my cutting and finishing skills to the next level and helped me develop my eye for balance and detail. And right now, it’s my teammates on the [Schwarzkopf Professional] Essential Looks platform team who are my biggest inspiration. They are so crazy talented, and supportive and kind. I truly admire each and every one of them and it warms my heart to know I have a team like that in my corner.
SM: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not styling hair or entering competitions?
MF: I have recently found a love for hiking after travelling to South America last year with my husband. I don’t know that I have ever really done a real hike before. I would not be opposed to a five-day hike or trek. I just heard of one from Alberta into British Columbia that is supposed to be amazing!
SM: If you weren’t a hairstylist, what do you think you would be doing?
MF: It’s hard to imagine but if I wasn’t a hairstylist I would likely be a teacher. There are four other teachers in my family and it seems like a path I would take. Although I also thought of being an accountant! Not a good fit, I don’t think.
SM: Finish this sentence: More hairstylists need to___________
MF: Not wear yoga pants to work.
SM: If you could have dinner with three people, dead or alive (one being someone from the industry), who would they be and why?
MF: Vidal Sassoon, Maya Angelou and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, because if I had dinner with these three I would become wiser, more appreciative and more motivated in less than 30 seconds, respectively.
SM: What’s next for you?
MF: I am focusing on education. This past year I’ve had the privilege to travel, design and teach creative colour seminars tailored to salon teams. And I just created and launched a braiding and long hair styling class at the ASK Academy in Toronto, which I am super excited about as well.
Contessa entries are open! Fill out an entry form or access the rules and regulations here. Hurry! Entries close August 2, 2017.