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Alton hairstylist wins national award

December 13, 2018   ·   0 Comments


Lucy Abate found her passion for hair styling when she was inspired by her late grandmother growing up.

“She set it all up and I know every time she did hair, she would smile and be so happy,” said Abate, a stylist at Felix and Ginger Salon in Alton. Every single client that I worked on and every single hair that I do, I just see her smile and see her being proud of me even though that she passed now. Every hair that I do is in memory of hair.”

When she was 13-years-old, Abate went over to visit her grandmother who told her to buy products she needed to become a hair stylist. Her grandmother was going to be her first client.

“My dad took me to the store and I bought scissors, combs, clamps, water bottles, everything to do hair, went back to her house and she set up a little station for me in her kitchen and I ended up cutting her hair,” said Abate. I was so fearful at that moment, that I was going to mess up her hair but she was just supportive of it.

Abate’s journey from cutting hair in the kitchen led her to win the student-apprentice hairstylist award at the 30th annual Contessa Awards Gala. All the entries were submitted through online and people could enter as many categories as they want with the accompanied entry fee.

“It’s an indescribable feeling for that, said Abate. Just shocked and happiness and joy. I wasn’t expecting that. I’ve come a really long way in my journey as an apprentice. It was long and I’m so happy to close that chapter and winning an award, how much better can it get?”

The Canadian Hairstylist of the Year Awards – the Contesssas – is a Canadian beauty competition held by Salon Communications Inc., a media company that publishes Salon Magazine (English and French editions), consumer magazine Elevate and their respective online platforms.

“Lucy was a student apprentice entrant and she’s from Felix and Ginger Salon,” said Veronica Boodhan, managing editor for Salon Magazine. Her entry is beautiful. It’s really great that she showcased a range and I think that’s what a lot of the judges look for as well, especially for a category like student apprentice, these are new hairstylists that are just learning.

“She’s learning from her peers and colleagues and really being able to express what she would like to enter for her Contessa work. She showcased colour and her work was minimalistic.

Simple but it was beautiful. You can see the techniques and the precession. Overall of course it was very cohesive.”

Since 1988, each year the Contessas bring the best of Canada’s talent together to measure their creativity in a photo-based competition, according to their website. It is opened to all licensed beauty professionals, from coast to coast.

“We actually do two rounds of judging. The first one is a live judging round. With the entrants, the judges are presented with the images but they’re not given the person’s name or they don’t know where they’re from or anything like that. It’s almost, like a blind judging in terms of they don’t know which entrants goes with each image.”

“The second round is an online judging process that’s a similar idea where they don’t know who the entrant is or where the person is from or anything like that.”

Boodhan said they are impressed with the amount of talent in Canada and how much is expressed in the Contessas.

“It’s great to see the industry growing and releasing talent from those just entering the industry to people that have been in the industry for 20 plus years, said Boodhan. It’s always great to see them challenging themselves and really thinking outside of the box and really pushing their creativity.

An awards gala is held every year in Toronto where the winters are announced to an audience of more than 1,000 guests. It begins with a cocktail party and an after party later on. 

Abate compiled a collection with three different hairstyles for her submission. Krysten Bryant provided makeup on the models, Doug McMillian snapped the photos and Paul Tambini, owner of Felix and Ginger Salon mentored Abate throughout the project.

“The ones that we did we used my bosses’ daughter, Valentina, and we used Jenai, which is her friend, said Abate.

“A couple of months later, we got the results that we were semi-finalists and then from there, I got a notification that I was a finalist and went to the gala and I was the winner.”

Tambini and the staff at Felix and Ginger Salon were happy that Abate won.

“It was a lot of hard work because we did the pictures in July, said Tambini. You don’t hear about semi-finalists until September then the awards, dinner and the gala are in November. It’s nice to see all that hard work come through.”

As a mentor he tries to guide with the image using their experience and expertise to help the project.

“I think the biggest thing that inspires me for pictures is the emotion it creates, said Tambini. When you see these images, we can really invoke emotion in people and seeing the model beforehand. Seeing the process, the before and after, because the models are not always professional models. The models that we use for these shoots are all clients.”

Both Tambini and Abate did admit that there were times when the team was frustrated. He said they had to take a break in between takes and then come back to the photographer.

For this collection, they closed the salon one day setting up the shoot and then spent hours editing photos. 

“The rest of it was accumulated hours, meetings with the photographer and post production over the phone, said Tambini. It wasn’t necessarily during working hours. Usually, in the evenings or early mornings.”

They spent the equivalent of four full days of work creating this one collection.

Tambini said they would work on other shoots for 12 to 15 hours going into the middle of the night trying to get the perfect shot.

He said they can look at previous year’s recipients and see what the trend is but they’re always trying to create something new.

“We travelled the world and (educate) and I also do New York Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week, said Tambini. We create most of the trends you see on the street currently.”

“We’re basically taking that and trying to adapt that into something that’s going to look really cool in an imagine that’s striking. You only have one shot. The picture has to stir some kind of emotion and have that creative edge to it.”

Abate had a lot of guidance from her colleagues at the salon. She said she never gave up and worked with a smile.

“I’ve never competed, said Abate. I don’t see myself as a person who competes but I had that push and motivation from my bosses and my co-worker to do this competition and if it wasn’t for them, I would have never done it.”

“It’s not ideal for me to do stuff like this but I’m glad I did it. It pushed me out of my comfort zone.”

Abate has a love for colour and aspires to be a master colourist. She was encouraged to style her grandmother’s hair and keep working even if she made a mistake.

“She always believed in me and always had faith in me and from that moment I wanted to rock it,” said Abate.



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