Here’s What It Takes to Win NAHA–aka the Oscars of Hair

While celebs turn to the Oscars, Golden Globes and Grammy’s to determine who’s the best of biz, hair stylists look forward to NAHA, or the North American Hairstyling Awards, for the year’s most standout talent. In order to enter the prestigious competition (which is sponsored by the Professional Beauty Association) stylists submit a hair collection for review. NAHA has been dictating styles and elevating careers for 30 years now, so if you haven’t yet, now is definitely the time to take notice. We chatted with, Jake Thompson, one of this year’s finalists to get all the deets about his inspo, what it takes to win, and his top hair trend predictions.

80s Babies

There are no boundaries when it comes to creating a NAHA lewk, but Jake knew he wanted to ground his collection in one of the most colorful decades—the eighties! “I wanted to take that era and modernize it by creating a 80’s glamour collection—it is called 8ighties,” says Jake of his inspo and theme.

 

(Image courtesy of Siren PR)

Keeping it Real

Though there are limited restrictions in the collection and wigs are more than welcome, Jake decided to keep it real and forego hairpieces or extensions when working on his model—unquestionably an outlier decision.

“I work with real hair every day in the salon and I love it, so I wanted the freedom to mold and shape like I do in the salon. My past collections where I used wigs and/or hair pieces…you can be limited to a degree, but I do truly love working on both real and synthetic hair pieces/wigs,” he says of styling hair as-is.

To make sure the hair was able to withstand such heavy, NAHA levels of styling, Jake worked with smart hair tool line, Bioprogramming by Lumielina, which he notes were what he needed to preserve the hair’s cuticle. “My model Kayla (who has dyed blonde hair) was a level 3 to start with, and after lifting her hair out multiple times to a silver blonde level 11, I needed to make sure we were optimizing her color and ensuring it looked as healthy as it was to start with. Using the Bioprogramming devices to smooth, add curl and blow her dry with the Repronizer 3D Plus: $410 kept her hair healthy and made her silver blonde really shine.”

(Image courtesy of Siren PR)

What it Takes to Win

So what does it take to be a NAHA winner? According to Jake, “it takes a lot of hard work! You truly have to know that if you enter you’ll probably be in the 99% of the people that do not get nominated. I was one of those artists: it took me 5 years to get nominated. My persistence paid off and I’ve been nominated 8 times since 2006 to 2019—I won the Avant Garde category in 2011 and 2014. Every nomination and/or win is an achievement and I just make sure I keep pushing myself every year to outdo my previous year, nomination or win.”

Though it may seem like compromising is unavoidable to achieve this level of recognition, that’s not always the case, explains Jake. “I don’t feel like I had to sacrifice anything this time around,” he says. “In the past, I have gotten very selfish about my art, but now I bring in my close circle of friends and family and ask their input.  I truly ask their opinion; how they would make it better, what do they see that I don’t, do you like this idea, etc. My wife, Kelsey Thompson, had the idea for the collection, wardrobe and my friend Bryan Nash had the idea for the super colorful background,” he explains of the collaborative effort.

(Image courtesy of Siren PR)

Even though care and time went into Jake’s collection, it didn’t mean he turned his back on the salon—and he never lost any clients! “I share NAHA with all my salon family and clients: the shoot day, prep work, idea, etc., so they are as excited as I am about the prep involved. I also make sure to get ahead of my schedule so it doesn’t affect my clients. If I’m away shooting, I try and book myself out 3 to 4 months before so I don’t have to inconvenience anyone.” Planning and time management can’t be overstressed, seriously.

Although Jake did not win Hairstylist of the year for 2019, he has won in the past—and he assures us it’s life altering. “Winning in the past years… holy wow! It’s like industry people suddenly know who you are, product companies want to hire you to inspire their team, teach at shows, travel internationally for these things. So, winning is truly amazing but the real win is creating a collection to be proud of,” he says.

(Image courtesy of Siren PR)

On Trend

Though the most head turning hair trends emerge from NAHA annually, Jake’s focus for 2019 is not what you’d expect… “The #1 trend is healthy hair!” he exclaims. “Healthy hair is something I see making a comeback—not that it fully went away—but I see it becoming a focal part of the larger shift towards a healthier way of life,” he explains, noting this is indicative of a broader cultural shift. “Wellness is a huge trend right now, and people should realize that hair needs to be included in that trend–it’s part of your body!”

Our fave hair trend of 2019 involves thinking pink! HERE’s how Hailey rocks it.

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