what it's like to take part in a hairdressing competition hair bones hair blog denman stage star

What it’s like to take part in a hairdressing competition.

I know most of this blog has been aimed at giving people advice about navigating hairdressers and achieving your hair goals.  Today, I’d like to share a personal experience with you.  It’s actually quite hard to explain to my clients what I mean when I say I’ve been doing shows.  So, if your hairdresser does shows or competitions, this post will give you an insight to what that actually means.  And help you understand how emotionally and physically exhausting they can be.  This is what it’s like to take part in and win a hairdressing competition.


While I’m caught in the throes of a nervous breakdown, people ask me why.  Why have I taken on this challenge that is clearly causing me an insurmountable amount of stress, taking up a huge chunk of time and is not of financial gain? (If anything, taking part in these competitions is actually quite costly).  It is in part because I am a glutton for punishment, but mostly it’s about the challenge.  Most hairdressers absolutely love their job.  Those that push themselves and take part in hairdressing competitions, education and events see it as a hobby, not an occupation. 

Ultimately, I do it for the love of doing it, the experience, and the further opportunities it brings.  It also means we can keep on top of the latest trends and techniques.  So, if your hairdresser does take part in any of these things, you know you will always have someone who strives to be at the top of their game doing your hair.  You may hear the words ‘I want to try something new on your today’ a few times.  Never fear, they wouldn’t do it if they didn’t think it would work.  Remember, you are their walking advert.

There's a lot going on outside of the salon.

The hairdressing industry is a lot bigger than most people realise.  As hairdressers who get involved in it outside of the salon, we should be telling our clients more about it, what it is, and why we do it.  I often struggle sharing a lot of this with new clients as I am not one to toot my own horn.  But I’m realising the more I open up about the things I have done, people are genuinely curious.  The world outside of the salon is very different.  It’s very competitive, and there is so much more going on than even I can keep up with.

The build up.

The preparation that goes into taking part in a hairdressing competition is a lot more involved than the event itself.  For most competitions, people will prep for weeks, even months, for a few minutes on stage.  It always feels like it’s over in a matter of seconds.  As a busy stylist it’s hard to fit this prep work in around a full column, and I’ve spent many weekends with a mannequin in the kitchen.  None of it would be possible without the support of my ever-suffering husband, and I’m sure it’s the same for many people who take part in these things.

What is a show?

When I say to my clients that I’m prepping for a show they often look very perplexed.  People don’t realise there’s a whole world outside of the salon for some hairdressers.  And why would they?  It’s the same in a lot of industries.  That is why I write this blog though, to cover the subjects only those within the industry would know about.  When I say I’m doing a show, it will usually mean we are going to put on some demonstrations for other hairdressers who want to learn some new techniques.  This involves prepping several models (who have already been pre-selected) at the crack of dawn.  A make-up artist and stylist will also be there to do make up and dress them.

What does a show involve?

Once ready we do the show itself.  Often this is done in a look and learn scenario.  We will have a certain amount of time on stage doing either a cut, colour or style.  During which, we are explaining everything as we go and engaging with the audience.  I may be the only person on stage, usually there are others and we will bounce off each other doing different things.  Once we have finished our models, they will do a choreographed walk or dance and then we will allow the audience to photograph them.

As you can imagine this does all take quite a lot of setting up.  And there are a lot of people involved.  Behind the scenes there will also be people looking after the sound, lighting and people who will have set the stage up itself.  The reason I’m telling you this is that most competitions take place as either part of a show, or we refer to the event itself as a show.

What I had to do.

I realise this blog post may be perceived as slightly big headed.  This isn’t intended to be a post highlighting my achievement.  Although I am incredibly proud, it’s a drop in the ocean compared to what the many others who inspire me have achieved.  In October 2018 I took part in and won the Denman Stage Star competition, working alongside 4 talented hairdressers on stage at Salon International (a yearly 3-day trade show at the ExCel in London).  I had 30 minutes to do a blow-dry and style in a look and learn scenario.  The prep for this took weeks, having to come up with a look that fit the brief.  I’m incredibly organised as a person and wanted to make sure that even if I ran out of time or if any part of the style went wrong, I could correct it. 

What it's like to win.

As soon as we came off stage, I hugged my model so hard I nearly pulled out everything I’d just done.  At this point I wasn’t even thinking about whether I would win or not, I was elated that those weeks of preparation had paid off.   I did the look in time and it came out exactly as I hoped it would.  For this I was so happy and had I not won I still would have come away incredibly proud.  This is something I hope everyone who ever competes in these things takes away with them.  As cliché as it may sound, taking part is what really counts.  You still had to get to that point, and to get there you will have worked incredibly hard and pushed yourself.

Winning left me a bit dumbfounded in all honesty.  I was in no way prepared for the experience I was about to have, but I remain so grateful to this day.

My personal experience.

Here’s the part of my post that I really wanted to share.  I don’t feel like I ever really thanked the Denman guys for everything they did for me.  So, this in part, is a huge nod to everyone that was involved.  The Denman Stage Star was the first competition I had ever entered, so I had no idea what to expect.  The ‘prize’ was to go to New York with the team and work on stage at the IBS alongside Paul Stafford.  I still find it weird saying that out loud. 

Paul was an incredible mentor.  I spent a while just watching him work, it’s mesmerising watching him cut hair.  Then I was given creative freedom on stage to cut or style.  What should have felt like a huge amount of pressure, was turned into a really enjoyable experience.  At no point was I left on my own, and after a few heads of hair, and continuing encouragement and words of advice, I found my voice.  I came away from the IBS with a new found confidence and no longer completely doubting my own abilities.  I can’t thank Paul enough for being such a wonderful mentor.  He is one of the humblest people you will meet in the industry, and he has an absolutely fantastic collection of shoes.

Thank you.

My rambling point here, is that the experience has been second to non, on both a personal and professional level.  I was welcomed into this wonderful tight knit family with open arms and filthy jokes, I was gently pushed out of my comfort zone, but never put in harms way.  It’s been beyond humbling.

Also, huge congratulations to this years winner Josh Woodman.   You can see his winning look and those of all the finalists from this year here.

The Hair Bones.

For all other posts – here.

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