You grew up in the hair industry. What was that like?
Both of my parents are hairstylists, so I grew up in the backrooms of salons, sweeping hair at the salons on the weekends. I grew up in the culture. I used to browse and peruse through Salon Magazine all the time to look at everybody’s work and was fascinated by it. That’s where my drive to compete started.
How did you get your start in the hair industry?
I didn’t grow up necessarily dreaming about being a hairdresser. When I was about 19 or 20, I kind of thought to myself, I’ve already been working in this industry, but my true aspiration was to be an actor and/or a director or a filmmaker, but I didn’t necessarily feel like falling into that cliche of being a waiter my whole life, or a bartender. So, I figured it would be good to get a trade to fall back on and then within a year of graduating hair school and working in salons, I decided that there was a lot of opportunity, creativity and a lot of what I was drawn to in the creative arts within hairdressing. I figured I would just go in full force and make it my world.
I’m also an educator for Goldwell. So, with that I spend a lot of my time public speaking, coaching and working with creative people, so it ended up being everything I wanted but in a much more stable environment.
What’s it like being an educator?
I think as artists, when we reach a certain level of success or a level of skill, it’s really important to give back to the community. I think being an educator and spending time coaching and inspiring individuals is part of the process of paying the industry back for everything that it has given you. I think that it’s just something that’s a lot of fun, it breaks up the monotony of in-salon work, and just keeps you excited and humble. It also keeps you inspired.
How do you feel about your win?
Obviously it’s great to win. Looking at all of the amazing winners and all of the amazing work that was put out this year, I think that we need to always continue to grow and continue to evolve. So, to be honest with you, the second that I won, I was thinking about what’s next and really thinking about how far we can push the envelope next time, and how can we continue to grow and continue to push everything.
What was the inspiration for your winning collection?
My inspiration generally comes from moods—from an emotion and a feeling. Generally, I approach it in an organic way of what would I like to see in a photo. What kind of colours would I like to see and how can I create something interesting with the mood that I’m trying to evoke? In this one there was a bit of a pop culture influence. The name of the collection is actually Pop Couture, so I guess there was sort of an iconic pop culture feeling to it, but as with everything I tend to do, I like to have a little bit of a moody, darker undercurrent through my work.
I think it was just that dynamic nature of having bright colours with something that felt a little bit darker; a darker background and darker lighting, but really having that high contrast of a bright pop of colour to offset it, creates something very different. I think a lot of times what ends up happening is when the colours are bright, the backgrounds and the lighting are bright as well, so it doesn’t create much of a dynamic visual image. It’s nice to see those opposing ideas coexist in one beautiful image.
How long have you been entering the Contessas? What do you like most about entering?
I’ve been entering since 2018. I took a couple of years off and re-entered this year. What I love about them is that they give recognition to people who want to be creative. I think it’s a springboard for people to further their career. I think it’s really great to see everybody else’s amazing work every year and to stay inspired by seeing how amazing everybody else’s work is, and how to continue to push your own work. Of course, just the event itself, when it’s in person, is one of the most exciting and fun events that the industry has to offer—the most exciting event, to be honest.
Why do you think competing is important?
I think competitions breed success. I think photographing your work holds you accountable, keeps you honest, and pushes you further. I think working with other creative individuals to craft a professional photo shoot and to create a collection, shows the cohesive nature to one’s work. I think it allows you to reach a much broader sense of appeal. At the end of the day it’s what drives greatness.
You’ve won a Contessa before. What does this win mean for you?
The last time I won, it was for Texture, and Texture was a category that I never ever considered entering early in my career. I entered it on a whim, and it was something that I just decided to give a shot and it turned out well. Winning for B.C. is a little bit different in that B.C. was one of the categories that I would look at every year as a young stylist. The people who won it every year when I was coming up were some of the people I looked up to. Those were people like Edwin Johnston and Chad Taylor from Moods Hair Salon. They were people that were really influential in B.C., so I always gravitated towards that category. So, for me, it’s kind of cool to be on the same level as the people that I was always looking up to at the beginning stages of my career.
Do you think winning has helped your career?
Definitely, 100 per cent. My clients love it; companies and manufacturers are always very happy to have their educators win awards. I think it just pushes you a little bit further. Whenever you do something very creative it makes your in-salon work better. I think when you’re pushing the boundaries of creativity, it makes the day-to-day operation of your business that much more exciting and keeps you on point.
Do you have any advice for someone entering for the first time?
I think the first thing is to find a great photographer because you need to ensure that the images are going to look stunning. I think the next thing you need to do is find great models because models are just as important as the hair. I think when you’re starting out, sometimes it’s good to not necessarily focus on getting a win, but create smaller goals for yourself. That can be getting to the semi-finals, and once you made it to the semi-finals, making it to the finals. I know that for myself, winning is great but I’m more concerned with showing consistency by continuing to make it to the table at the Contessas. Although I would love to win, I think it’s very important that you show consistency in your work by continuing to get recognized—whether that be in the semi-finals or the finals, it shows a broader appeal to your work. You’re dealing with different judges every year, so as a young hairstylist competing, remember that it’s subjective. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, enjoy the process and just be honest with your work and love what you do.
Any tips for planning your collections and photo shoots?
The first thing you need to do is find your models. I think that you can have an idea of something that you want to do, or you can have the feelings mapped out, but until you find your models, meet them and photograph them with your smartphone, you can’t fully plan your colours and styles. You’re going to be inspired by the models. The next thing that you need to do is ensure that you have an amazing photographer and an amazing support team. That includes potentially a wardrobe stylist, a great makeup artist and you need to have a great assistant on set. The number one thing is that you have to have people that you’re willing to listen to on the day of [the shoot]. If someone has an opinion, you have to listen to what others have to say. If you trust them, it’s great to get that different approach and to hear the devil’s advocate side from someone else, to ensure that you’re staying on track. It can help you make informed decisions to ensure that you have something that really lives up to everything you want it to be. Openness and a great team are number one.
How do you stay creative? Where do you get inspiration?
I think if you’re passionate and you love what you do, and you’re constantly pushing yourself in different areas of your life—whether that be in the education aspect of the industry, or whether that be just trying new things with your clients, and just working with people that you love—you’re going to stay inspired to do something creative. Any time you do something creative and you get that feeling or excitement and that sort of buzz, so to speak, that’s going to push you to do even more creative things. The more you do, the creativity kind of spurns itself.
I know you’ve said that Michelle Pargee has been a mentor to you. Tell us about this.
Michelle was actually on set the day that I shot this collection. I’ve known Michelle through Goldwell for years and I’ve had the opportunity to work under her many times, and work with her and we were able to build a friendship as well. What is great is that she’s always been very open with her process, so I’ve spent a lot of time assisting on her photo shoots and she’s always been there for me when I’ve needed to bounce ideas off of somebody. She’s been instrumental in my growth as an artist and I can’t say enough amazing things about what she’s done for the industry and what she’s done for young stylists every day.
Do you have any other mentors in the industry?
Oh, so many. Edwin Johnson is a big one, Jon Paul Holt was a big one. To be honest, pretty much everybody that I work with or have worked with before has influenced my career.
What are some of the goals that you’re working towards?
My biggest goal right now is to give back to the community of hairdressers within B.C. and nationally as well. I’m on the board of directors for the Beauty Council of Western Canada and I sit on the professional advisory council for the ABA, so I really want to do a lot of work for the community. My biggest goal right now is to go out there and inspire as many hairdressers as possible—whether that be through seminars or online work. There’s a lot that we can do to just get people excited and to help grow our industry as a whole, so I think that is one of my largest goals over the next couple of years. Then, as always, it’s just to stay inspired, create art, and to make something that hopefully evokes emotion in people who see it, and just keep everything exciting.
What has this past year been like for you?
This has been one of the best years of my life. This whole COVID world can make or break you. You have a choice of hunkering down, being sad or becoming mundane, or you can take it as an opportunity to spend some real honest time with yourself and grow. I think that you’re going to see a lot of people come out of COVID better than ever, more motivated than ever, healthier than ever and ready to rock to world.
Hair: Simon James, Style Lab Headquarters, Vancouver
Makeup: Kate Nicol & Vanessa Westerager
Photos: Kale Friesen