We spoke with Rodrigo Araneda from Montreal, who took home the Elite Master Hairstylist of the Year award at the 32nd annual Contessa Awards.
Congratulations on your first Contessa win! How does it feel to be the 2021 winner of Elite Master Hairstylist?
It feels great because I’ve won a lot of prizes in the last several years, which I’m humbled by, but this was my first Contessa win! It was my eighth time entering, so I achieved a goal I had. You have to be perseverant. I’m very happy and I feel very honoured.
I know you also recently opened your salon Olab Par Rodrigo during the pandemic. What was it like opening a salon and running a business during that time?
I always try to see the positive side of things, but I’ve cried at home more than once during this process. I didn’t have a salon for the first time in my life, so I was very insecure. It was not the process I wanted or expected when opening my dream salon, but it is my dream salon. I can’t complain about everything—I’m still having a great year!
What has your Contessa journey been like and what’s it like to finally take home a win?
I’ve always been a competitor. I’ve won several competitions. My first photo competition in 1991 was for Contessas for the student category. I was a finalist, but I didn’t win. Then I stopped competing in photo competitions for 20/25 years and restarted about six years ago. I said “I will only stop when I get it. I will compete until I’d get one.” But now I got one and I won’t stop now.
I’m very happy. You have to be perseverant. People congratulate you and everybody is happy for you, but people don’t know how persistent and perseverant you have to be to achieve your goal—and it’s not always easy.
You won a NAHA this year and now a Contessa award. What do you enjoy most about entering hair competitions and competing among fellow hairstylists?
I want to surpass myself—to do better each time. I’ve always watched the stylists win in competitions and in magazines—I always say that one day it’s going to be my turn.
I’m just overwhelmed with it all. I won two consecutive NAHAs, so it just makes me do better each time. I think one of the most important things is that when you win, you don’t learn. It’s when you lose that you learn, and we call that experience.
I never want to be [one of those] competitors who are sore losers, but I think you have to take a step back and analyze everything you did and try to do best the next time—try to find what you can do and change. After three years [of] competing, I changed everything. From my models, to my photographer, to my style. I just restarted again because it was not working, and I was not winning.
Your style in terms of photography and creative direction is very unique. What inspires your style?
I just want to do everything differently. I watch everything that has been done and want to do something that’s completely opposite.
What was your inspiration for this collection?
I was inspired by last year’s Gucci fashion show. The models were walking down the runway holding heads. I loved that idea, so we tried to bring it to another level. This collection could be creepy if you don’t see the artistic side; even my photographer wasn’t very sure about this. But we decided to do it and see what happened. My style is very Avant Garde but also very vintage—1920s and 1930s looks. The haircuts in my collection are quite simple but I enhanced them with colour and shapes.
Your winning collection was so creative. Can you tell me a little bit about it and some of the haircutting and colour techniques you used?
I try in every collection that I do to incorporate some textured hair. I love to work with textured hair. But I also love geometric lines and precision haircutting.
Does your collection have a name?
Losing my Mind
I know you’re the artistic director for Matrix Canada. What’s that like and what’s something you’ve learned from that?
It’s a big challenge. Being a good leader is about not only creating collections and directing artists working for the company but it’s also about helping them achieve their goals. A leader has to be behind the team and push them where they want to go. I’ve learned a lot in this position—how to be a good leader and how to listen to my people and help them achieve their goals and to be better and better and hopefully even better than me.
What does your win mean to you considering the year we’ve been having?
It’s big. To win it this year means a lot. It’s something to bring to my staff as well. It’s not only for me—that good and positive energy is shared. This brings something sweet to the team and to the salon and it will end off the year in a very, very good way—it’s all positive.
I want to give one piece of advice to the hairstylists who read the magazine and want to compete: one day you’ll decide to start on your future and decide and go for it—don’t lose your expectation. Be perseverant. If you don’t win this year it doesn’t matter. Keep going and do better and better, it’s the most important thing. If you don’t win for the first time, keep going. I’m the best example of that because it’s my eighth time and I finally won!
Name/Nom: Rodrigo Araneda
Category/Catégorie: Elite Master Hairstylist | Maître styliste élite
Salon: Olab Coiffeurs, Montreal
Wardrobe/Stylisme: Sarah Bruneau
Photos: Leda et St-Jacques