A Styling Step-Up for Master Stylist Danielle DeGraaf

Like any artist, there comes a time when even the most experienced and successful Stylists have to step up and break their current limits.  Challenging ourselves is the only way to grow and this is exactly what Danielle is doing as she prepares to enter the renowned hairstyling competition, the Contessas.

I sat down with Danielle to find out a little more about her motivation for entering the Contessas at this point in her career. She began by explaining, “I have admired work from the contestants for years, but always felt it to be beyond my capabilities.” Now after accomplishing more and more goals behind the chair, she decided she was ready for the challenge.

In discussion with how styling for competitions differs from her day to day work with clients she notes that the two are very different.  “Competition hair is wild and fantasy like.  Everything from cut, colour, style, makeup, etc comes solely from my own imagination. There really are no limits.”  In comparison she explains that for her everyday clients her goal is to do her best to give them what they want, what suits them and what works for their lifestyle.  Although this still requires a lot of customization and imagination for each client, the range of styles are limited to what is suitable for every day wear.


Although the preparation for the Contessas has added a lot of work for her, she shows no sign of slowing down. I asked her how she took her first steps with the process and what she’s working on now in preparation.  “My first step was to get some education on the competition world.” she began. “Once I knew what I was in for I just began looking at past contestant’s work, artists I admired on social media and so on.  After putting together my theme and creating my storyboards to depict the look of each individual model, I started making some colour swatches to test the goal colours.”

In between now and the shoot, Danielle plans to work on the styling necessary to create each models look.  “There is lots to do here as its styling I have never done before,” she told me.  In amongst that practice work she will be spending more time perfecting colours, organizing wardrobe and accessories and prepping models.

When asked what she hopes to achieve in competing she explained, “I hope to grow as a Stylist, to have more confidence and also to be an inspiration to fellow Stylists.”  Contessa entries are due early summer with the awards ceremony in the fall.

Its clear that Danielle has already gained so much judging by how she sees the competition experience as a whole. “Entering competitions requires you to always be at the forefront of what’s new and hot in the industry. Challenging myself in this way forces me to learn new techniques in colour, cut and styling.”

No matter the style, its what you learn through achieving it that makes it beneficial for every client you work with behind the chair. In speaking with Danielle it was clear that it’s not just the pride of the prize but the passion in acquiring the experience that is truly inspiring to her.  In turn, she’s inspiring all of us at the Studio even more.

There will be more on Danielle’s journey towards the photoshoot here on the blog when I catch up with her next time so stay tuned!


Thanks for listening,





Your Hairstylist is entering a Competition – What does that mean for you?

As a client you depend on your hairstylist being there with great ideas the minute you sit down in the chair at your appointment.  You trust that they know what will look good, how they can change-up your look that little bit to keep your style fresh and your hair looking fantastic.  So what does it mean when in chatting with your Hairstylist at your last appointment she mentioned she’s entering a hair competition? Is it like the Styling Olympics? Fastest haircut? Highest performing colour formulation? If you’ve been left wondering you aren’t alone.  Many clients aren’t aware of the many opportunities for Hairstylists to challenge themselves in their craft, but as with any skill there is always a way to take your work to the next level.  Since we’ve got some pretty amazing competitive work on the horizon I wanted to take a minute to briefly explain what you will very soon be hearing lots more about!

Hair Competition

Ok – the basics!

Even though there are other ways for Hairstylists to compete what I’m referring to in this blog is a photo-based competition. Happening annually in Canada there are 2 large photo-based competitions, the Contessas (Canadian Hairstylist of the Year Awards) by Salon Magazine, and the Mirror Awards by Canadian Hairdresser Magazine.  These competitions bring the best of Canada’s talent together and measure their creativity through the photo-shoot collection(s) submitted by the entrants.  Collections are judged by a panel and finalists are then notified and invited to attend the Awards Night where the winners are announced!

What exactly is a collection?

For photo-based competitions like the ones mentioned above, a collection is a group of images based on a ‘look’ or theme the creating Hairstylist has envisioned.  Generally the looks are fashion forward, sometimes a little avant-garde and differ from the everyday work a Hairstylist regularly does with clients.  It requires a Hairstylist to push themselves creatively on a different level to bring not only the hair, but the models, makeup, nails, wardrobe and poses together to create a feeling to the collection of images that is strong enough to jump out at the judges and grab their attention.  With entries coming from all over the country, getting a collection to stand out is no small task.  Creation of a collection requires exceptional vision, patience, passion and of course practise.

Collections are entered for judging in one or more unique categories, each of which requires different elements to be included in the collection for it to be considered.  Some examples of categories include Canadian Colourist, Provincial Hairstylist, Hairextension Artist, Avant Garde Hairstylist, Newcomer of the Year, Editorial Hairstylist of the Year and many more.

The Bottom Line

So what does all this mean for you as a client? Will your appointments be any different if your Hairstylist is doing these competitions? It really depends on how you look at things.  The short answer; doing competitions demands a different level of creativity and that could very well transfer into new, more creative suggestions for your hair.  The long answer is that any Hairstylist willing to open themselves up to the process of being judged by their peers, on a country-wide scale, spending hours and hours on end creating, practising, testing and measuring their ideas simply for the love of hair, is someone extremely serious about their career.  Someone willing to go that extra mile, try new things and always be pushing themselves towards something bigger than what they are creating right now. Whether you see benefits to that for yourself is up to you but I think it warrants some consideration.

Hopefully this has shed some light on a different part of the Hair Industry for you and helps to make photo-based hair competitions a little more understandable.  I don’t think I even need to remind you to stayed tuned for some pretty exciting updates from the Studio on this subject, but seriously – stay tuned!!

Thanks for listening,



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