How did you get your start in the hair industry?
My mother owned a hair salon when I was six years old and I started hairdressing at 16. My mom eventually sold her salon, and I went on to work in the industry. When I was 31 I opened up my own salon that I’ve had for 20 years. It’s been a long time; 2022 will be my 40th year [in the industry], but I’m enjoying it more now than ever.
After being in the industry for nearly 40 years, what keeps you going? What do you continue to like most about it?
I do a little bit of everything because I teach a lot; I’m an artist for Goldwell and I do hair behind the chair. To be honest, I recently came back to doing hair more during the pandemic because normally I’m travelling almost full-time to teach. But since getting back with clients, I forgot how much I loved that andh just being with people again. Obviously, photo shoots are fun because that’s where we get to be creative and do things just for ourselves, however COVID has taught me that the connection with clients is really the core of what we do, and I enjoy it. We have such a huge impact on people’s lives, and I think sometimes we don’t even really understand how much we do. You can’t take your hair off—you have it with you at all times, and it’s one of the first things people notice. As a hairdresser you can make someone feel fantastic about themselves, simply by doing their hair.
This is your 10th Contessa award! What is it like to have another win under your belt?
It’s always an honour. I’ve been here awhile and because of that, this Contessa was much more about my friend, Joan [Novak].I’m just enjoying seeing all of the people, whose careers I’ve watched grow, win Contessas. Some of them who won this year, I’ve seen them develop over the years and it’s really fun to see other people reaching their dreams. That’s the part of it I enjoy the most—just cheering everyone else on now.
Does this win feel different than the others?
It’s always an honour, but I don’t feel the need or a huge desire to win anymore. I don’t need that to feel validated. For me, it’s just getting a chance to continuously be creative. As far as this Contessa went, I just appreciate the chance that even though it was virtual this year, at least we all got to feel somewhat normal in doing something that we’re excited about. I’m going to be honest, I can’t wait to be live next year and I can’t wait to see everyone again because I think we all need that now. Canadian hairdressers are really there for each other. We’re really willing to cheer others on and to honestly be happy for one another, so the Contessas are such a great event to be at.
What was it like competing with one of your closest friends, Joan Novak, who also was your photographer for this collection?
We’ve been having fun with it! We had a good laugh about the whole experience. She and I have been in the same category before and I want it for her and she wants it for me. We’re really best friends, so it’s funny. I think when we were holding up those “Pick her,” “Pick me” signs while we were waiting for them to announce who won, we both really do want that for each other more than we want it for ourselves.
What impressed me the most was how quickly she learned how to be a photographer and how well she did with it. We’re going to shoot again in February, and I can’t wait because hopefully this will become a thing for us. Being there with my friends made it super special. Of course, we were bawling our eyes out so that didn’t help.
What was the inspiration behind this collection?
I’m always trying to do something different. As a hair colourist, it’s really easy to go with all of these pure, bright colours all the time. They look really cool and when you put them together, they always look amazing. I wanted to try things that were more muted, dusty and filtered, and maybe not quite as intensely pigmented. I wanted to discover what that would look like and I wanted something a little bit more sophisticated. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the bright colours but I wanted to experiment with something a little bit different. I actually had a hard time holding myself back and muting the colours enough, and giving them a metallic finish to them, so that they didn’t look like they were too pure and too bright. I like the way it came out and I like the understated, muted tones of it.
How did you choose the colours in this collection?
I’m inspired by lots of things, but there’s actually an Instagram account that I love called Colour Palette Cinema in which cinematographers in the film industry post a still picture from a film, and underneath they have the entire palette of what colours are in that visual. I go to that Instagram and get a lot of great ideas for what I call “colour stories,” which are colour combinations that I might not normally want to choose to put together. I get a lot of good ideas from there, and when I teach my classes I tell people about this Instagram account as well. The blue is where I first got the idea of trying more muted tones and then I developed the other two colours from there.
Why did you want to enter this category this year?
I’m a colourist and a colour educator, so the colour categories are always the ones that means the most to me. It’s always the first category I think of entering and because this year I was only able to do the one shoot, it was the one that made the most sense to me. It’s the one that holds my heart, for sure.
Why do you think competitions are important for the industry?
I’ve always been uncomfortable with the word “competition” because I think it’s more about taking chances and putting our work out there. It takes a lot of courage to put your work out there to be judged by your peers. You feel vulnerable when you do that, and most people are afraid of failing publicly. I try not to think of it as a competition or win/lose, I try to think of it as, “Am I happy with something I did?” I think the industry needs more of that because when we work with clients, we are doing what the clients want us to do, which is great, but this is something we do for ourselves. It’s like someone who’s painting a picture, you’re doing something that means something to you as opposed to being commissioned by someone else.
It’s also really good marketing for businesses and for people who are trying to make a name for themselves. You can use collections as visuals on your website and clients love following along with their hairdresser and the journey of entering and doing shoots. I think a lot of hairdressers don’t realize what they can get out of it. It’s not just about winning; it’s much more than that. It’s the fact that you can create something, share it, have your clients cheer you on and have something to use on your social media. I wish all hairdressers can know how good it feels to do something like that.
You’re an inspiration and mentor for many in the industry. What does that mean to you?
That’s what we’re supposed to do. When you achieve something, you’re supposed to pass it on and push the elevator button for the next person to make their way up. That’s what it really is about for me now; passing it on to others and cheering for them. I want someone I’m mentoring to pass me, to go way beyond what I’ve accomplished—that would be the ultimate goal.
For example, one of my mentees, who I’ve been teaching for probably six or seven years now, just placed for the very first time in the NAHAs for colour. That’s what it means to me. This girl has worked for this for years and to see her achieve it is incredible. I was one of the first people she texted, and she was so excited and happy. I don’t need to win anything anymore. What I do need to see is other people learn how to believe in themselves. To see the excitement when they achieve something is the biggest high.
Who do you look up to in the industry?
I’ve always been a fan of Sharon Blain. She’s an Australian hairdresser who’s well known for styling hair and shoots. She’s a god in the industry and I actually had the opportunity to interview her for a podcast. She’s somebody I absolutely adore.
As for who I’m looking up to right in the industry, it’s the incredible Canadian talent: Nicole Pede, Julie Vriesinga, Silas Tsang, Dorothy Tsang and Rodrigo Araneda. Canadians are really getting good. When I first started entering, it was easier to win a Contessa if you were good at it and had great photos. It’s not so easy anymore. Now, you actually have to really work for it and it’s not a guarantee. There’s so much competition, but the Canadian level has gotten so high. Canadians are just killing it.
How do you stay creative?
I’m obsessed with it. The pandemic taught me this even more. Having to be home and not being allowed to travel and teach, I find that I don’t do well in anything else in life if I don’t allow myself some creative time. For instance, I’m not a painter, but I taught myself how to do a painting this past year just so that I could keep touch with my creative side. I also did some mannequin heads and coloured some wigs. I need to constantly do things because creativity is a muscle, and if you don’t use it, you actually deteriorate your creative abilities. You have to keep at it because for every 10 things I do, maybe one will work. I have to keep trying to see what’s going to come out in the end the way that I wanted it to.
Do you have any goals you can share with us?
I’ve already decided that since I’ve won Canadian Colourist and Master Colourist four times each, I’m not going to do colour categories next year. It’s going to be harder for me because then I have to step outside the box of what I know I’m best at. I think I’m going to focus on Hairstylist of the Year and try to really push myself. It will still have colour in it, because everything I do does, but I will be pushing myself more towards styling. I think I’m ready to start learning and growing a little bit more. Self-growth never stops. The moment you think you’re done and it stops, you’re going to be bored. You have to keep growing and you have to feel uncomfortable with what you’re doing in order to learn. That’s why I’m not going to enter colour categories, and I’m going to step into some other things because I have to push myself a little more now.
What has the past year been like for you?
Like everyone, a rollercoaster of emotion. In a way it was good, because I have family and elderly parents living with me, so it gave me more time for the people who are closest to me. I don’t like being isolated, so I didn’t enjoy that part of it very much. I also have wanderlust; I love to travel all the time. I like to be in places and I have friends who live all over, so I found that part really difficult. I did have my friend living with me who is going through her cancer journey, so it was nice to be able to be here and just be able to focus on her.
Salon: Independent, Sechelt, BC
Makeup/Maquillage: Sabrina Samy
Wardrobe/Stylisme: Michelle Pargee
Other/Autre: Kale Friesen
Photos: Joan Novak
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