How did you get your start in the beauty industry?
All through high school, I was always the one that people would ask to do their hair. I did hair for prom and practiced on my friends. I was playing around with people’s hair and decided it was the direction I wanted to go in. I did a co-op in high school to get a feel of what the industry looked like, and I think that’s beneficial. Now, I take on high school co-ops in my salon and I think it’s a good way for them to see what it’s like. They can’t have as much hands-on work with clients—due to the fact that they’re not trained—but they do get a little inside peek to see what it’s like.
You last won three years ago for Ontario Hairstylist and now you’ve won Canadian Hairstylist of the Year. How does this win compare?
It’s super exciting for me to even be a semi-finalist or a finalist; that in itself is a win. The actual win is just a cherry on top. Even being a finalist in my first year of entering was pretty exciting. Now, about seven years later, I win the big one!
[Winning] has definitely given me a bunch of education opportunities. It also helps to fuel and market you to different salons. Wins are obviously good; people are excited to have someone to learn from like that. My clients are super excited about it. Unfortunately my client list is pretty full, so I can’t take on any new clients, but right after my Ontario win, CBC News in London, Ontario, contacted me and then there was an on slot of new people calling [the salon]. It definitely can push your career, especially if you’re looking to build your clientele.
With this win, I’m hoping it will bring more opportunities to work with a magazine on a shoot. It’s something different from what we do behind the chair. I like to try new things and step out of my box, and that’s what I find I do a lot with education. My confidence on stage and in talking in front of people has come a long way with educating and stepping out of my box. There’s been times when I might be asked to do a stage show, and inside it still scares me but I’m not going to pass that up.
Being from a small town (Aylmer, Ont.) what advice do you have for people from small towns on the importance of not being intimidated to enter competitions?
Generally, people think that these [winners] only come from the big cities. That’s not true. I worked in a big city for a while, but I wanted to open something new and bring something to salons that other salons in small towns don’t have, to show people you don’t have to work in a big city to have a career like this and win awards and do things like that.
Why did you decide to enter the Canadian Hairstylist category this year?
I also entered [Canadian Hairstylist] last year, but it wasn’t with a new shoot because of the abundance of restrictions last year. Thankfully, I was able to find a window to do a shoot this year.
For me, I did it in a step-by-step basis. In my first year of entering, I did Texture and Ontario. Then I was nominated to enter for Master Colourist and then I won Ontario. I felt I wanted to move up to [Canadian Hairstylist], so I decided to go for it. You never know!
Was it intimidating to be competing against some long-time winners of the category?
Yes (laughs). It’s not that I’m not confident in my work, but there were some heavy hitters, and all those collections were strong. That’s why I think I was so shocked when I won because I know that all those people are so talented and have won multiple awards over the years. To be honest, it was a win just to be among them.
You’ve been entering the Contessas for more than seven years. What have been some of your key takeaways from competing?
It’s always good to not put an expectation or too much pressure on yourself. Shoot for yourself and shoot what you think will look good or what interests you. You don’t want to put too much pressure on trying to figure out what the judges are going to look for. The judges change from year to year, so what one person finds interesting and eye-catching may not be the same for another person. Trying to figure out what they’re looking for is only going to frustrate you. If you shoot for yourself and you love what you see, that in itself is exciting. Then, you put your work out there and if someone else likes it, that’s great. If not, photo shoots in themselves—outside of competitions—are fun. I would do them all the time if I could! Your number one goal should be to do it for yourself and then to put it into the competitions.
It’s not just about the win, and I know that may sound silly coming from someone who just won the top award, but I haven’t won awards every year or made it into the finals every year. I think you just need to be happy in that and know that putting your work out there for other people to judge is already a win. I’ve always tried to stay in that mindset. If you were to look at my first collection compared to this one, I’ve learned different things over the years that work and learned a lot by trial and error.
I understand you created this collection during the pandemic; it was shot in your house and you worked on the wardrobe with your mother. Tell us about that.
To be honest, I was quite excited to try it in my house. Being in your own area and not having to travel with all these things meant I was able to have extra things with me. It’s hard to know what to bring with you to a shoot. I have quite a big room with high ceilings, so we decided to try it out and that was really cool. My daughter was here to be able to witness it and she was so excited. My mom was here, too. We had to keep the numbers low, so it was a very small group of people, and we had the models in and out at different times.
I do have a fair bit of a wardrobe from over the years. All of the stores were closed so I couldn’t go in to look at stuff and things like that. Thankfully I was able to do a little bit of ordering online, but it’s hard when you don’t really see it, so you’re taking a risk by ordering something and then realizing it’s not going to work.
It was a risk with the wardrobe. We thought it was either going to work or not, because it had the tie-dye in there. I made the jacket; it was a black leather jacket that we spray-painted. I had seen this jacket that was by a designer, and it wasn’t cheap. I really liked it, but I couldn’t justify spending that kind of money on it for a shoot. Plus, I wasn’t even sure if we would be able to get it [in time]. I had an older jacket that I hadn’t worn in a while, so I thought we would try spray-painting it. I love working on my own wardrobe. I know some people hire a wardrobe stylist, but I love doing it myself. I ordered a few things online and used things I had, like one of the dresses I had worn to the Contessas, layered with a top I bought a few years back.
How would you describe your style when it comes to your creative work?
I found in the beginning when shooting, I had things very structured and smooth. I had to step outside of that box a little bit and be more open to not having everything in place and everything so perfect.
For the shorter-haired model, the hair is kind of pushed to the side when originally it was planned to be smooth. So I had to step out of that. I find that I would be gravitating towards those more tailored looks, but I had to be more open to stepping out of that.
I like bright colours and bold lines with very eccentric or off-the-wall wardrobe—big, bold shoulders and layering. I think that’s very interesting. It took me a while to get to that because I used to think everything needed to match, but it doesn’t. It just needs to flow or be interesting. I like to have a little bit of difference in every look yet make it look like it all flows together.
What was the inspiration for your collection?
I usually start by trying to find colour palettes. I use a lot of those paint colour palettes that you can find online. I’ll Google something I want to see and see what colours come up.
I was trying to take a little bit of inspiration from the tie-dye trend, which was very much on the runway and being worn by everyone. I feel like it’s the pandemic colour—everyone was wearing it, even for jogging suits. I know it can sometimes appear tacky, so we tried to subtly put the tie-dye influence in it. I wanted to find ways to add the effect while still making it look runway.
The blonde wig was all sprayed with hairsprays. I made a stencil and just moved it around as I sprayed. My first wig was much bolder, but I decided it needed to be softer, so I redid the entire thing two days before the shoot.
You’ve also been up for other awards this past year. Why is competing important to you?
One of the main things is that I feel like it allows me to be even more creative than I can be behind the chair. It’s not that I don’t enjoy doing the bread-and-butter colours—grey root touches, highlights and balayage. I would never not want to be working somewhat behind the chair but competing allows me to be creative without boundaries. I just enjoy doing shoots and working with people and showcasing my work. It gives you a sense of excitement, even when people comment on your work or just getting out there. I also enjoy getting to interact with other stylists, whom I may not get to see as often—being from a small town—from all over the country and possibly other countries. So for me it’s really about meeting new people and being creative.
You’re the third woman in eight years to win this award. What advice do you have for other women in the industry?
It’s not about saying yes to everything, but yes to opportunities where you can put yourself out there and offer yourself for shows and things like that. The way I started with Schwarzkopf was when I started to volunteer for shows and help out backstage. I also modeled on stage for them. It’s not always about the monetary value that you can get for something; it’s the experience, lessons and education that can come from that later.
If someone really wants to get into this, I’m totally open to mentoring someone or helping if they have questions. Sometimes people are worried that we’re not going to tell them because we might think of them as our competition, but I don’t look at it that way. I look at it as trying to help everyone and anyone that wants to get into this. I had that when I first started with Rossa [Jurenas] and Michelle [Oliver]. Michelle called me right after [I won] and she was a finalist, too. We all have a little disappointment when we don’t win; that’s part of the competition world. But for her, she was just as excited for me as she would have been for herself. I have so many women around me who are all about empowering other women. Surround yourself with those types of people and reach out to people like myself, who’ve won some of these awards, and I think that’s the best way to put yourself out there.
What’s next for you? Anything you’re working on or goals you have that you could share with us?
I’ll be taking a little break from thinking about any shoots before starting again in the new year. Obviously, I want to [do shoots and compete] again. Hopefully this win will give me some opportunities to work with magazines or doing things like that. Hopefully soon, we’ll be able to do some more shows and travel around. We’re starting to do that a little bit, but I’d love to be able to go and travel around Canada and not just within the driving area, to share what I know and meet new people. I’ll continue to compete and see where that will take me.