It seems like only yesterday I graduated from beauty school, yet it has been over 20 years! YIKES! That makes me feel older than RuPaul, Cher, and Joan Rivers combined.
The nice part is that I can provide a little guidance to budding "beautistas" on how to navigate toward success in the beauty industry.
Here's the answers to the two questions I am asked most frequently and why I urge other stylists, those just starting out and those that have been practicing for 20 years, to get involved with the industry, attend trade shows, and enter competitions.
Question: Why should I go to hair shows?
My involvement with hair shows began when I attended and participated in every way I could at all the major shows upon obtaining my Colorado cosmetology license in 1988.
Now, many years later and after many sleepless nights, I am at the same shows but as a headlining platform artist. To date, I have appeared on stages at the International Salon & Spa Expo (ISSE) Long Beach (and hopefully the new ISSE Midwest show soon), the International Beauty Show in NYC, the Premiere Beauty Show in Orlando, America's Beauty Show in Chicago, as well as international shows all over the globe.
I loved all the shows then, and I love them now, because they reveal the soul of our industry and provide all the education, inspiration and perspective one could ask for. Career skills, ranging from learning the latest techniques to how to market yourself, are gained at the shows. It is ripe for the picking, all under one roof, lined up in row after row of booths -- the good, the bad, and the frizzy (and in some cases the loud, crazy and barely clothed). Who could ask for anything better?
Trade shows are the window into the world of the professional beauty industry, or as I prefer to look at it, they are an intoxicating rabbit hole, swirled with fashion, music, and lights. I never tire of jumping, head first, into the action. It is an opportunity to break out of your salon environment and see what others are doing and to draw from the experience.
Question: Why should I enter the North American Hairstyling Awards (NAHA)?
I started entering NAHA competitions when my friend and mentor, Van Council, won the North American Hairstylist of the Year in 1993. I entered every year, in multiple categories, until I won the title myself in 2002. It was the first year I was fortunate enough to receive a nomination and it helped to bring all the effort I had put into my career full-circle.
Since then, I won the title again in 2008 and garnered 14 other nominations. For me, the best part is being embraced by my peers, and being recognized for the skill I have developed in my craft. In my opinion, nothing is more gratifying. Each year, when putting together my entries, I am forced to stretch my creativity and to redevelop my eye for clothing, makeup and overall fashion trends. Then, I get to watch my vision come to life. No other honor or accomplishment in our industry holds the same cache as a NAHA nomination or award. Literally, it can change one's career overnight. It also helps that the ceremony is fun to attend, each time completely living up to its un-official title of "The Academy Awards of Hair."
The aspect of our industry that I am most attracted to is the variety. I do not have one career — I have many — and I am never bored. Engage in these opportunities and, as it has for me, twenty years can go by in the loveliest blink of an eye. I have loved every minute of it.