The line between The Mirror Awards’ cutting edge and cutting room floor is razor thin.
Benefits of a victory can be significant, but so too is the commitment and risk. Competitors take between two and six months to develop a concept to reality, a cohesive effort flowing from creative director through designers from various disciplines, models and photographer. Up to 1,500 initial photos are culled to a crucial three or four, which flash on a large screen before a panel of round-one screening judges who have the power to say aye or nay to countless hours of work in mere seconds.
“You need something well done and catchy,” said Tillsonburg stylist Rossa Jurenas. “If not, it’s gone.”
The pressure of the process isn’t for everyone, but the mixed opportunity and challenge at Canadian hair-styling’s high end is one she both welcomes and embraces.
“Love it,” Jurenas summed up. “Pure-out passion.”
The road to her eighth major industry award, The Mirror Awards Colourist of the Year named Saturday, April 5 in Toronto’s Convention Centre, has been an ongoing exercise in both ‘pure-out passion’ and balance between professional and personal lives.
Graduating from Carlton University in Ottawa with a mixed Business/Communications degree, Jurenas shocked her father Peter with a decision to pursue a career in the industry. Influenced in part by her mother’s award-winning and internationally-travelled stylist, the fact she worked with Lancome makeup while in university, and the opportunities of the creative process, she began her apprenticeship under Chuck Clark of London in 1999, learning ‘empathy’ for the client as an early and enduring lesson.
“Think about what they want, their life.”
Eighty-seven per cent of hair stylists spend the majority of their careers ‘behind the chair’, but Jurenas also embraced the industry’s competitive outlets, winning Canadian Hairdresser of the Year in 2006.
“That’s when everything started booming.”
Jurenas services a client list (many of whom have been with her for up to 15 years) through Studio Rossa in her home, but has continued to balance that, marriage and active parenting of two children with developing her personal ‘brand’ on the industry’s cutting edge. Living outside its large urban-centric core does make the latter tricky on occasion, but apart from the fact Toronto’s international airport is only an hour-and-a-half away, Jurenas is not willing to compromise on the quality of personal and family life in Tillsonburg and family support including two sets of ‘amazing’ grandparents.
Jurenas’s career has included significant travel to Europe; work with Schwarzkopf; magazines Flare, Chatelaine and Elle; and as a creative director (organizing fashion, hair, choreography and music) for fashion shows.
“It’s a lot of work, but seeing it come to life is fun.”
This February’s show for Betsy Johnson, ‘huge during the 80s and 90s,’ during Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in New York (2014) was of particular note.
“She’s still kind of rocking it on the runway,” said Jurenas. “When I got asked to do her show and lead it, that was amazing.”
Jurenas was selected as one of 50 participants at last May’s Blue Sky conference in Germany, a brainstorming session on trends and how they are related to broader issues such as 911 or the economy; and also is pleased to accept engagements as a featured presenter at shows or workshops, mentoring young stylists from the position of one who balances a high-level career with family and personal life.
“If people are interested, why not pass it along?”
The 20th Annual Mirror Awards celebrated Canada’s top hair and beauty professionals, featuring live performances from Vidal Sassoon and Wella and musical contributions from Oscar Rangel.
This year’s competitive theme was ‘The Fifth Element’, setting the stage for a ‘truly sci-fi experience.’
Chances are one will never see someone walking down the street with the kind of hair and makeup featured at the competition.
“You take it right to the extreme,” said Jurenas.
But avant-garde competition collections are the rough equivalents of creations parading down a high-fashion runway, inspirational interpretations from which more commercial, consumer-friendly fashions or looks are derived.
Jurenas was creative director for a 12-member team featuring Paul Langill in charge of makeup, jewellery by Canadian designer Alan Anderson and photographer Ivan Otis.
“A brilliant photographer,” Jurenas credited. “You need someone who will catch what you see.”
The process of developing and designing a concept, model casting, acquiring clothing and jewellery is a lengthy one, says Jurenas, culminating in two frenetic 12-14-hour days of hair-styling and colouring, makeup, wardrobe and shooting.
“On the days, it’s really making sure the process is ready.”
The laborious process of picking the perfect photographs for submission follows, photos which can be re-touched for blemishes, for example, but not have their essential character altered. A RAW image must be submitted in conjunction with the competition photos, and if more than a gentle Photoshop caress is discovered, “you are disqualified,” says Jurenas.
Competitors’ photos are flashed on a big screen before a panel of initial judges, with their selections moving forward for longer, more-detailed final scrutiny before a second round of judges.
“You never know what the judges want,” said Jurenas, who maintains it’s most important to stay true to one’s own vision. “You have to be happy yourself – it’s about ‘How am I going to push myself?’”
Last year, she competed, did not win but was happy because she has pushed her own boundaries. Of course, this year’s victory (and the fact four stylists she mentored finished in the top five of their competitive categories) was also very satisfying.
Although without direct financial reward for significant investment, competitions are a form of professional and business development for those involved, tangible evidence helpful if not necessary should one enjoy the challenges of presenting before thousands onstage in Berlin, or finding oneself in Reader’s Digest as one of Canada’s top stylists.
“If you don’t keep yourself current, the next person is taking your spot,” said Jurenas.
And in that light, her eighth major award was ‘a bit special’ in the ongoing battle to maintain the kind of sustained leading-edge creativity also required for example, for musicians.
“If they don’t reinvent themselves and better themselves and find something that pushes their boundaries, they are gone.”
Jurenas says she can’t complain, having done some pretty amazing events and shows throughout her career.
“That is my passion, doing shows and educating and inspiring people - being the true stylist I can be.” Dedicating more of her time to a more-stable boutique-salon may be a future priority, but for the foreseeable future, maintaining an established balance between life in Tillsonburg and career opportunities on the road remains her focus.
“It doesn’t matter where you are,” she concluded. “As long as you’re true to yourself and push yourself, dreams can come from anywhere.”