We spoke with Michelle Finlayson from Edmonton, who took home the Alberta Hairstylist of the Year award at the 32nd annual Contessa Awards.
Congratulations again! What did it feel like to hear your name called Sunday night?
I’m always shocked every single time. I got a body rush [when I heard my name]; it was so exciting and I really felt so much love and pride. For all the energy I put into the collection, it’s just such a honour.
How was it watching the virtual Contessas?
I felt like there was a real community, not just for people that follow the Contessas or have a complete love for it and attend every year. There was so much true and genuine excitement for the night. I’ve been to the gala in Toronto every year for over 10 years and it’s always an exciting night. [This year] I was FaceTiming other contestants throughout, so the energy was still there. It was such a beautiful night—the best it could ever be.
You entered this collection last year. How does it feel to have won with the second chance rule change? Why do you think this rule change was especially necessary and important this year?
I feel like for me when I found out I could re-enter my work, it felt like you guys just get it. This year has been tough for everybody and to shoot a collection this year made everybody nervous. We didn’t have the same time or confidence to prepare. This option was the number one option. I honestly felt like I had won the lottery a little bit with that second chance rule. You spend thousands of dollars on shooting these collections. When people are struggling, it’s just like wow, I can take that investment and extend that into another year, it’s amazing! You just gave me another year of longevity with this collection. Sometimes it feels like it’s all over, but you gave a whole other year of life to that collection – and the fact that I get to take home an award with this, is just incredible.
Why did you decide to re-enter this particular collection?
I re-entered two collections because they were the ones I was allowed to re-enter as they were shot in the last two years. I entered into the categories I did because I really wanted to maximize my entry. I loved the fact that when you enter there’s a handful of categories you could use the same collection over and over — like Canadian colourist, etc. When you enter into Master Colourist you can’t put it anywhere else.
Does this collection have a name?
Yeah – I called it “office party.” It’s my office party collection. Classic haircuts with rainbow colours is office party for me.
Where did you draw inspiration from for this collection?
I wanted to show the colours of the rainbow in a non-traditional way. I love the way that light looks through a crystal and reflects back to you, depending on the way you hold it in the sunlight. The collection is meant to be conservative yet feminine with vibrant energy. In terms of hair colour, I wanted to show as much as possible—variation is key. I think it’s cool when you mix rainbow colours with really simple cuts like long bobs—haircuts that anybody can wear but you add those colours and it completely changes the way you see that person or look.
What are some of the techniques you used? How did you create these looks?
They were all massive colour corrections. All of it was real hair – I never once did a collection with wigs. Most of the hair is pre-lightened in advance and then I’ll use a graphic placement or colour melt. I have two or three different processes. But mostly, the hair is pre-lightened, and I had to do a colour melt first and then graphic design is placed afterwards. For the model with the blue hair, I only pre-lightened what was in the front. The back of her hair is a solid colour—a beautiful blue. I had to put my energy where it counts—so I focused on just the area that would be photographed. She had enough hair for 10 people, and I knew we weren’t shooting the back of her head.
Where do you usually draw inspiration from? What are some ways to keep your collections fresh and relevant?
I’m always looking. I really like window displays—especially in Vegas. There was this amazing window display with all of these different mirrors that I loved. I take photos as I go and have a folder in my phone. I take pictures of anything that is interesting or really cool. Things like colours of food at a party, window displays or in the airport, those European fashion magazines—the “weird” ones like W or even British Vogue. Movies also really inspire me. Shows like Game of Thrones are a huge inspiration. I just really tried to think outside the box with colour. I love the juxtaposition of a conservative wardrobe with crazy hair colour.
This is not your first time entering (or winning) Contessas – why do you continue to enter each year?
I think it’s a part of my life now. I’ve been shooting every year and I absolutely love it. It’s the only time that I do something that I don’t feel pressure to deliver for anyone else but myself. When you have a client or you’re teaching, you’re dedicated to the results for the person watching or listening but with Contessas, there is creative freedom to take risks and make mistakes. If a collection didn’t turn out like I originally thought, usually it turned out even better and it’s OK because it’s my vision. It’s not a problem. I like playing, applying colour differently and doing photo shoots, trying things I’ve never done. I don’t feel as free in any other creative process.
Contessas really has helped my career – it’s been huge. Even just becoming a finalist. That title behind you really helps. People take you a bit more seriously when it comes to opportunities and responsibilities.
What does it mean to you to end off the year with a win like this?
I could honestly tear up—this year has been really different. I’m used to travelling and seeing people and doing events, shows and teaching. I’m stuck teaching everything virtually now. When I wasn’t in the place to do a collection, I still have that carry over and that excitement and honour, it lights up the year. I still had a great year but this just finishes it off perfectly and makes me feel really good. It’s all meant to be.
Name/Nom: Michelle Finlayson
Category/Catégorie: Alberta Hairstylist | Styliste Alberta
Salon: Freelance, Edmonton
Makeup/Maquillage: Renee Rampersad
Photos: Donna Lewis