POSTED ON APRIL 24, 2013:
Local hairstylist steps up to the big leagues
A local hairstylist is eagerly awaiting her fate in the North American Hairstyling Awards.
Kate Burke, who works as a stylist at Ihloff Salon and Day Spa in south Tulsa, threw her hat in the ring for consideration as one of the best in her industry when she submitted her work in February. And the competition, run by the Professional Beauty Association, is a pretty big deal.
"It's the Oscars of hair, so that's where all of the greats get recognized," Burke said. And to do so, it takes a village.
"It's a photographic hair competition, so you have to have a team of people -- makeup, wardrobe, models, and you all have to collaborate to get a high fashion look," she said.
The idea of submitting for NAHA sprang from an urge to have a professional portfolio.
Ever seen someone go to get their hair done, but go in without a clear idea of what they were after? Often, clients will pick up a magazine and flip through it, looking for something they might like. Sometimes it's a catalog-style magazine, a yearbook of hairstyles, and sometimes it's People Magazine.
"When I first started, I wanted to have a professional look book so people wouldn't look at magazines," Burke said. As it happens, in order to make such a book, one needs to have lots of photographs of different hairstyles, and in order to make that look as professional, one needs a make-up artist, a model, a photographer -- familiar items from the List of Things You Need to Enter NAHA.
"After I had put that together," Burke said, "I started entering."
That was two years ago, and while she hasn't won, she's not discouraged in the least.
"I talked to a stylist who's been nominated five times and never won," she said. "But I feel like I've got as good a chance as anyone."
The way the competitions works is on a series of deadlines.
"NAHA is in June, but the deadlines are in February, and they announce nominees in May," she said. "They announce winners in Las Vegas in June."
For the three photos she entered for this year's competition, she called on herself and her industry friends.
"This year, I didn't have a stylist," Burke said. "I just did the clothes myself. Mikala Ewald did the makeup, Brent Niles did the photos, and I had three models. I don't use professional models usually. Since I have to sign a release for the images, most agencies won't allow that."
Ever one to make it work, Burke drafted a client, an aspiring model, and a coworker.
Once she had her models, it was time to get in and do some hair.
But first, there was the matter of deciding on what category to enter. NAHA offers awards in 14 different categories, ranging from Haircolor to Salon Team of the Year to Student Hairstylist of the Year. There are also categories -- added this year, in fact -- for stylists of men's hair, as well. Irrespective, though, as Burke has entered the contest in the past, she didn't have to take long to think about it.
"I always do avant-garde or texture. That's what I like," Burke said. For those, like me, who don't know exactly what those things mean in terms of hair, Burke has explanations at the ready.
"Texture would be, like, coarser, curlier types of hair," Burke explained. "Mostly with an African-American ethnicity, but it's not strictly that, because any ethnicity can have curly and coarse hair."
She explained this to a white guy who has coarse, curly hair, so that totally made sense to me.
"Avant-garde is kind of like fantasy," she continued. "That gives you more of a creative outlet, so you're doing more art than just a hairstyle."
Certainly, the avant-garde entries -- past winners can be found on the PBA website at probeauty.org -- are nothing you'd wear to work. However, Burke said that's not really the point of the competition. It's about the artistic creations.
"A lot of the hairpieces we build take hour and hours to do," she said. "A lot of people ask about this and say, 'Oh, is it crazy hair?' I say that it's not crazy hair. It's for art and the love of art, and that's where my passion lies."
And really, no one could deny her that, as she's followed a specific path with the goal in mind of being the best at what she does.
"I've worked for Ihloff for about six years now," Burke said. "I came here because I wanted to do the apprenticeship and be a well-rounded, educated stylist. That's where I built everything I've learned past beauty school."
So she hasn't made it to Vegas yet, but even if she never does, Burke said the whole process has its benefits.
"It's a learning experience," Burke said. "Each time you do it, you see what looks good on camera and what doesn't. You have friends critique your work, and you get better every year."
While she waits to hear in just a few weeks as to whether she needs to book a flight to Vegas, Burke takes solace in the fact that she's pretty damn good at what she does. And she kind of knows it, but not in a snotty way.
"You know, it's a lot more than just cutting hair," she said. "Being able to manipulate hair and style it and work with it makes a good stylist."
If I were a betting man, I'd lay down a few bucks on her chances.
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