As part of our ongoing series to celebrate Canadian talent in the industry, we chatted with hair artist, educator and Contessa winner, Michelle Pargee – the mind behind the Art of Hairdressing Podcast. We discussed why she launched a podcast over the summer, her yearn for creative projects, how her Contessa wins have fuelled her and so much more! With episodes dropping on some Wednesdays, Saturdays and/or Sundays, and a website packed with all the past recordings, her podcast is your ultimate resource to listen to candid conversations with some of the industry’s most elite.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself and your journey in the hair industry?
I’ve been doing hair for 37 years and ran a salon for 20 years which I sold four years ago. Most people know me in the industry and are aware of my cancer journey. I am an educator, an artist for Goldwell and a proud mom and grandma!
You recently launched a podcast. Can you please tell me a bit about it?
The podcast started when COVID first hit. I usually fly about 60 times a year for education but of course, there was this sudden stop of everything. I don’t do well without projects to work on. I have a photographer and I said to him, “we need to do something to fill this time.”
I’m really into the psychology behind being a hairdresser. I like to show people what’s possible for them. I wanted it to be more about showing hairdressers all the options available to them and what they can do despite adversity. My goal was to bring people on who have been idolized throughout their career and had journeys that haven’t always been perfect.
What inspired this project and its name? Has this been in the works for a long time?
We talked about the idea of a podcast – we had the idea for a couple years but never had the time. It’s a collaboration between photographer Kale Friesen (@kalejfstudio) and myself.
The name “the art of hairdressing” came to be because all the programs that I teach are custom made. Most of my programs start with “the art of” – the art of business, the art of photography, the art of creative design. So that was where it came from and it was Kale who suggested the name.
I wanted to share stories behind the people my audience looks up to and share the stuff they go through. The purpose behind it was to really have hairdressers understand that we’re all collectively going through something really difficult and traumatic right now that’s going to change our industry. A lot of people don’t know how to get through it. But everything is temporary, and everything has an end and sometimes you have to start again and that’s OK.
Hearing these famous hairdressers talk about these terrible hardships they faced and overcame and rebuilt their career can help people understand they can get through this too.
What made you decide to create to share these stories via a podcast rather than any other platform or medium?
What I like about a podcast is it’s a conversation and is more organic. When I prepare, I send a list of suggested questions and topics and they can respond. It’s about them, not me. We start talking and they can take the conversation anywhere they want it to go. I get to have these wonderful, profound, inspirational almost “sitting at a restaurant dinner table” type of chats with people and others can listen in. We’re not trying to teach people skills but just want them to hear and feel.
How do you choose your guests?
I’m a very emotional person so I choose people who feel real to me – where I actually see a real person and not just their brand. I like people who are willing to be real and personal and expose themselves.
Have you had any particularly notable moments with any of your guests?
It’s been the best experience and I’ve had all these one-on-one, very great and inspirational coaching lessons. But to have Sharon Blain, my idol, on was amazing. She is an Australian hairstylist who has been in the industry for 57 years and is still working and still gets inspired at her age. She is constantly learning, and she is so kind and giving – she’s incredibly inspirational.
I also had on a hairdresser from Ireland who spoke about his journey with addiction and how he overcame it and rebuilt his life and is now doing extremely well.
There have been so many great moments like these.
What sets your podcast apart from other ones out there? Why is it important that hairstylists listen to your podcast?
My target listeners are people in the industry – all creatives who work in fashion or beauty. Beauty is very specific and unique, so my podcast speaks to people within that industry including makeup artists, photographers, influencers and more. So many different people – I want them to see all the avenues that are available to them. As a hairdresser, there’s so much more than being behind the chair.
I think the difference between my podcast and others is that mine is not a gift of educating or a gift of learning something about the industry but mine is more where people can find their “why.” Why they do what they do. I always teach that being happy in what you do and being successful is being authentic. You can’t be authentic if you don’t know why you do what you do. Success flows in authenticity.
I talk about “the elevator” in everything I teach – pushing the elevator and sending it down for the next person. This is my elevator for everybody.
Will you continue with your podcast even once COVID is over?
Absolutely. I hope to grow it and start to offer more online educational groups where people can sign up for different educational events like skill-building. I hope it grows to that.
Did COVID help you with using your platform for education or have you always been very active on social media?
I’ve always been big on social media, but it was disorienting to learn how to be as effective from a distance as I am in person, but it’s been good for me. I’ve learned you don’t always have to be there physically to connect to others. COVID will have a traumatic and life changing effect for a lot of people but we should also embrace how good change can be and how much stronger we’ll be from this.
Why is it important for you to be creative outside the salon?
I’m a miserable, awful person when I’m not being creative. Creating is the center of everything for me. It’s all about authenticity and the “why.” Like most hairdressers, when I’m not creating, I’m not functional. Creativity is at the core of everything I do and it’s what motivates me. I don’t think I’d have any success if I wasn’t in a creative profession.
You’ve been entering in the Contessa Awards for a long time now! Have your Contessa wins helped boost your confidence?
Yes. My first Contessa win changed my entire life. It’s more about believing that anybody can do anything and it’s OK to want to be happy – there’s nothing wrong with that.