The gracious judge poses with some of Empire Beauty School's future pros.
Recently, I had the privilege of judging Empire Beauty School’s latest batch of beauty makers at its Future Professionals Expo in Hershey, Pennsylvania (more details to come!), and I was lucky to be in the great company of the latest Shear Genius winner, Brig Van Osten, who was at the event to judge the Long Hair Evening Design category. Being that she had herself been at the mercy of a panel of judges, I thought it would be great to get this big personality’s take on competing and judging all things hair.
LP: You were just judged on Shear Genius and now the tables have turned. Did you take anything that happened on the show and apply it to how you judged Empire’s students?
I didn’t really. What was challenging for me was that, as I was walking around, I was watching the students work for an hour. I could see their nerves and I could relate to them. Even beyond Shear Genius, I used to compete as a student, and I know the preparation that goes into it and the pressure—everyone is there watching you and you’re representing your school. So when I saw how super-nervous they were, I just wanted to say, “Relax, you’re doing really well!” I wanted to go around and mentor rather than judge. It was really hard to focus and look at the work instead of cheering them on. It took me three hours to get through all 94 heads because I had to just keep going over every style thoroughly, because I wanted to judge each one fairly.
LP: What were you looking for when you were judging?
I was judging off of the rule guidelines, mostly, which were looking for hairstyling that wasn’t completely lower-line commercial; the student should be creating a style that you would see in a trade magazine—a style that could be photographed and worn. Personally, I was looking for “wow” hair, and maybe a style that I could do on a client in the salon. The work had to be clean and finished, as well as have a cohesive cut and color that worked together and didn’t compete against each other.
Brig and I dig bright haircolor—hers is via Pravana!
LP: What advice would you give to students who are competing or thinking about competing?
Compete, and then keep competing. Failure isn’t actually losing; failure is not trying—not even attempting! Just go for it and don’t be afraid of something you can’t hold on to. Just celebrate it, because somebody is going to win. There’s always a winner. I’ve been second place or not placed at all, many, many times. I just keep going.
LP: What is your most memorable competition?
Wella’s Trend Vision. I traveled all the way to New York, and there was a trip to Paris on the line. It was wardrobe, cut, color, and makeup—and I did it all. I put my model in a clear vinyl jacket with painted handprints on it, I cut the tank top out from underneath the jacket, and had her wear pasties—yeah, that pretty much cemented me out of the first place spot. [Laughs.] In America, it was too provocative, but I thought she was a beautiful woman and it was an avant-garde challenge. I placed second, and I felt so honored that I got second place out of everyone that competed.
LP: Do you see yourself doing more competitions in the future?
No, I see myself doing more motivational opportunities—using my big mouth. [Laughs.] I think there are plenty of talented hairstylists out there competing and also doing wonderful work. I just feel like I’ve got a big mouth and, for some reason, people like to listen to me…sometimes. So I’m going to use that to try to continue to inspire, from people wanting to get into the industry to people who have been in the industry for 50 years. —Karie L. Frost