My hairdresser is magical. She finds ways for my slightly straight, slightly wavy, very frizzy hair to look cool and, most importantly, to be easy to style.
She's often told me how much she enjoys doing my hair and that it's perfect, and I've always thought she was just being nice. She wasn't just fishing for big tips, it turns out, because when she put out a call for hair models for a fancy-schmancy show, she asked me to be part of it.
"Probably a short cut," she said. "Maybe colour."
So of course I said yes, because haircuts are expensive and I will be allowed to take home some product, which is also expensive (delicious-smelling Kevin Murphy, if it makes a difference).
This would be the second time I've offered my head as sacrifice. The last time, she put a call out for a model on her Facebook profile and was inundated with volunteers until she mentioned that it would be short and edgy. I was the only one willing to do that, and it was awesome. But that was for a training-day demonstration, and this was going to be a full-on beauty convention event held at the First Nations Casino, where Bob Saget once bought me three desserts and an insanely expensive glass of cognac. Another story for another day.
I didn't really know what to expect. She asked me if I'm comfortable walking on stage, which, no — but it's just walking, right?
It was a two-day commitment. Saturday was at the salon with a roomful of other models waiting to get done. Cutters and colorists pointed to us one at a time and discussed the plans they had for each of us.
"What do you think? Brown or red?"
It wasn't clear to me if they were talking to me or over my head to another hair professional in the room.
"Me? Do what you need to do," I tell the colorist and stylist. Exactly what they want to hear based on their obvious delight; I can also tell they're relieved that they don't have to strong-arm me into something.
Generally speaking, I'm a low-maintenance wash-and-wear type of gal, so it was a bit of a surprise that it took a half a day to get me only halfway to a finished look. I've seen the little foil packets on top of other ladies' heads and admired other people's gorgeous me-but-better looks, but on a freelancer's income, I never had the pleasure. Having the color applied was like getting slow kisses from a huge slobbery dog. In a good way. Soothing. And someday, when I'm really rich, I'm going to pay someone to wash my hair every day.
The guy who cut my hair ("cutting master"), Tim, is a smart Australian expat now living in Canada. One of the best experiences of this whole weekend was that all of the hair people were not "in character," you know? The thing where you and they have to pretend to be interested socially in each other? Not today. They said what they needed to say to each other without worrying about how I was doing. They were totally candid about what they thought about our hair and what they wanted to do with it. Salon chit-chat is excruciating, and I was happy to be an object for for a change.
I mentioned this to Tim, and he agreed: hair is the priority here. They had to do probably a dozen heads of hair, and it was all machine-like efficiency. That being said, everyone was really calm and respectful and made sure we all were comfortable. They even asked me what I wanted at one point, which was sweet. It was also probably insurance for them, too — fair warning that something drastic was going to happen.
My hair was dyed a warm coppery-brown with subtle highlights in the front. The last time I coloured my hair was in the 1990s, a DIY blonde stripe (I know, I know). Seeing my usually-black hair this color was surprising. The cut didn't faze me as much, though, cause I've been chopping on whim since I was a toddler when my sister and I played with scissors. I never understood the using hair as a security blanket or crying about a haircut thing. Something in me is broken, I guess.
Tim clipped my hair up in sections, grabbed a handful, and cut a good seven inches off. People gasped. Whee! Goodbye, shoulder-length boring hair!
We got to the point where I had a bit of a bowl cut, but we ran out of time and I had to wait till the next morning to see what it'll turn into.
"I hope you didn't have plans to go out tonight," Tim said. I didn't, mostly because Sunday was going to be a loooong day.
Call was at 7:30 a.m., which is earlier that I like to get up, never mind be showered and dressed and at a place. This wasn't any ordinary 7:30 in the morning, though. I went to bed, set my alarm, and had an excited sleep like it was Christmas. I cleaned myself up and hit the road to be there on time.
The hair show, even at that time of day, was bonkers. Models wandering around with clips in their hair, kiosks of product representatives, and lots of coffee, tea, and muffins. And chips and chocolate. And sandwiches. They took good care of us.
We were camped out in a small conference room where a makeshift salon was set up. When it was my turn, Tim snipped my half-haircut into a '90s-era Linda Evangelista pixie. "Just cut it till it looks good" was the motto here, and it seemed to be working: everyone looked gorgeous.
Some of the other models were young. Like, in-high-school young. And it was obvious that they were professional models — tall and thin. A few of those girls were scared, and some were bored. The non-models (moms, a bank teller, university students, one former hairdresser, and me) could not maintain any chill. We were getting dolled up! I was easily the shortest model, too. Oh well.
My makeup was done by an old newspaper acquaintance of mine who didn't recognize me because back in the day I was a punk-ass print journalist who dressed like a human eye-roll. Once he was done with me (full-on contouring and false eyelashes!) all was forgiven. Like, I'm pretty, but I am not used to being terrifyingly glamourous, especially in my usual dirtbag uniform of jeans and hoodie. I got to wear a super-cute mod outfit, and I was unrecognizable when I was dressed.
After a quick run-through, we waited back stage until it was time for our segment. I went on stage, sat in the chair, and got draped for a cut demo (no one could see my cute outfit, sadface). I got to do a runway walk down and back, being gawked at. I wasn't nervous, though, because obviously no one cares about the bag of meat transporting this glorious hair. It was over in about 15 minutes.
Afterwards, there was much lavish praise for our performances; the mom-models discreetly slipped the chocolate into their purses, and the young girls were shepherded away by their chaperone.
I left with hundreds of dollars worth of services and a goodie bag of yummy products. I really love my new short look, and apparently, so did other people. People oohed and ahhed over the transformation, although they usually followed up with "uh... how do you feel about it?"
Were they being honest or just trying to comfort me? Don't care. It's beautiful.