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The Road To NAHA Part 1: Charlie Price

Sam Villa

Author Sam Villa | Founding Partner of Sam Villa

The North American Hairstyling Awards (NAHA) is the most prestigious photographic beauty competition in North America, celebrating the artistry and skill of the professional salon industry;– it’s basically our Academy Awards. Each year, individuals are recognized in 14 categories of excellence during a star-studded awards ceremony with a guest list of the who’s who of the industry. And like an Oscar, a NAHA title represents outstanding achievement, creativity, vision, skill, and is a catalyst for opportunity to come knocking. NAHA 2014 will be held on July 13th and entries must be in by February 5th, so creative minds are already churning. In preparation for NAHA 2014, over the coming months, we will highlight accomplished NAHA winners - Charlie Price, Jake Thompson, Sherri Jessee, Ruth Roche and Jeremy McDougle - to share their unique approaches to creative inspiration, artistry and what it takes to pull off a NAHA shoot.

We’re starting off with Charlie Price who started entering NAHA in 1992. He’s been a NAHA finalist 23 times and was the first American to win “Hairstylist of the Year” twice (2002 and 2008) and the first ever winner of the NAHA “People's Choice Award” (2011). For his complete NAHA history and credentials, visit www.charliepricehair.com. Platform artist, educator and lead runway stylist are among his titles, and many of you may know him from his memorable appearance in BRAVO’s “Shear Genius 2.” Here’s the scoop on how Charlie approaches NAHA, delivered in his humorous irreverent style.


What is the inspiration for your next NAHA shoot? There is a perverse swirl in my crazy head, but among the ideas that tickle my fancy at the moment are: the movie "The Never Ending Story," clouds, the sky, black lace with fur (a French femme fatale look), grey athletic wear and sweats (kind of 1980’s Norma Kamali-esque), short haircuts, chopped up wigs, chandeliers, apocalyptic warriors, the future, etc. etc. Most of these are recurring themes, but as Calvin Klein says, “Repetition is reputation.”

How do you go about putting your team together (makeup, wardrobe stylist, photographer)? I work with the same team over and over. I love makeup and feel it is a crucial element to any NAHA entry, so I use makeup artists who really love their craft. It helps to gather a team that recurs, so you can build a rapport and feed off each other’s creativity and sense of adventure. I also work with the same fashion stylists over and over, to develop a sense of trust and comfortable communication - that way we are familiar with each other’s taste and style. The photographer is really the MVP of any NAHA shoot; they must understand fashion and beauty, and love it. It’s also important for them to really understand the categories and be enrolled in the process every bit as much as the hairstylist. They should lead in terms of the composition of each shot, how well the images fit a given category, lighting, poses, etc. They really co-direct the shoot with the hairdresser.

How do you express your vision to the team? Storyboards, magazine tear sheets, sketches, rock videos, runway shows - the more visuals and illustrations of the concept the better. Plus, a detailed shot list is essential - if that doesn't work I spike their vitamin water!

What does the average shoot cost? Anywhere from nothing to 10K - it all depends on the photographer, models, studio costs, etc. I think an average quality NAHA shoot should run between $2-5,000 total.

What are three tips you can give a stylist that is entering NAHA for the first time?

  • Study your categories, past winners, etc. and make sure your work fits the category you are entering.
  • Storyboard your concepts down to nail polish poses and props etc., and PRACTICE those looks before the shoot. Sounds silly, but I have seen many people freeze on set and sort of give up because they have no plan B…and we have all seen many a shoot where the first two looks are homeruns and that poor little last image is a stinker.
  • Don't skimp on models, makeup artist and fashion stylist, and of course your best ally, your photographer. These essential people will make your best work even better and elevate the average shoot into award winning territory.


What’s the best advise you ever received relating to creating hair for a shoot? HIRE BABAK (LOL!!) Any tips and tricks for doing hair on set?

  • Don't have too many people around distracting you, chatting and hanging out – minimize the amount of people on set.
  • Create a timeline and do your best to stick too it. Time management is so important - a shoot can easily get derailed if too much time is spent on one look, it really sucks the energy out of the team, frustrates the photographer and upsets the models.
  • Set up a mini station against the set with products, pins, water bottles, etc., anything you might need, and then stay there with the photographer and the model paying attention to each and every frame. So many people don't do this - you need to be there to assess the shape, movement or lack thereof, the cleanliness if it’s a sleek shape, the airiness if it’s a big textured look…A valuable trick I learned from Robert Lobetta is, if you have a large shape, let some backlight come through at strategic places so the style doesn't look too dense, studied, overworked and heavy.
  • The model must always look beautiful in the finished shot, even if the photo is edgy or provocative. A sense of joy in beautiful hair and respect for the subject should always be present. In my opinion, if the model doesn't look pretty and there is not some sense of elegance, I have not done my job.

What are your MUST HAVE tools and products for a NAHA shoot? Cutting combs; tail combs; all manner of brushes (round, Mason, Denman, styling brushes); water bottles; dryers; curling, crimping and flat irons; clippers; capes; shampoo/conditioner; towels; loads of clips – small, medium and large; Velcro rollers; bobby pins in various colors; hair pins; rubber bands; styling creams; shine sprays; strong hairspray; wet sprays; dry shampoo and a ton of other styling products; extensions; wigs; synthetic hair pieces; all manner of hair nets and a bunch of fake flowers (in case I make a mistake I can pop a flower on top of it). The more supplies the better.

Can you provide 3 guidelines for retouching (what to look for to make an image better/pop/shine)? Don't over do it - extend necks; reduce arms, wrists, ankles and waists; pay attention to hands, elbows, ears and nostrils; eliminate bloodshot eyes; touch up wrinkled wardrobe; use filters to make the hair jump out of the photo into the viewer's eye.

Why do you enter NAHA? If you are a NAHA finalist or winner, your work is seen by the crème de la crème of the professional salon industry. It’s the ultimate way to establish yourself, maintain your visibility and even reinvent yourself if need be. Also, if you don’t make it to the finals, it’s one more shoot you have for your website, social media pages, or to send out to trade magazines. On occasion, I have had oodles more press coverage from shoots that didn't even place, more than even some of my winning looks.

What is your biggest pet peeve when doing a shoot and why? People on set who talk too much or require constant attention that distracts the team and wastes energy. The other bummer is the team member who has a limited time schedule, but signed on to do the shoot anyway. Everyone on the team needs to be in it for the duration – it’s the only way to get magical images.

What is your personal motto when doing a shoot? Make it sexy, make it as timeless as possible, make it dramatic, make it well crafted, make it thoughtful, make it smart, make it high fashion, and above all, make it BEAUTIFUL!

What is your biggest challenge when doing a shoot? Stretching myself in new directions while staying true to my established trademarks at the same time – it’s a delicate balance, one doesn't want to be either stagnant or schizophrenic.


Where do you get your inspiration? What tools do you turn to for inspiration? High fashion magazines; high art; rebels – Madonna, Tom Ford, Steven Meisel, Steven Klein, Peter Saville, Massive Attack, Thievery Corporation, Beth Ditto, Marilyn Manson; iconoclasts; big cities; movies; rock stars; serial killers; crime TV; sex workers; smut and classic paintings; political scandals; my hatred of Nancy Grace; TV dramas - from “Scandal” to “The Good Wife” to “The Walking Dead” and beyond; lightning; the solar system; interior design; chic hotels; restaurants – it goes on and on and on...

When you are creatively stuck, where do you turn? Italian or Japanese Vogue!!!!!

How do you rejuvenate yourself and find balance? What’s balance? I think I might have heard about that from Horst, once upon a time.

How do you come up with your ideas? It’s just a constant for me, a reason to live - shoots are an expression of my imagination, fun, fantasy and happiness. I wouldn't even know what to do without them, so the ideas are just an intrinsic part of me, they never stop flowing. That’s not to say that they are all good ideas - I have to attempt to shut my brain down to grocery shop or do laundry and accomplish any of real life's banal tasks - LOL!

Tell us about your new online magazine venture. Beauty Underground Magazine is a forum for me, my friends (photographers, models, fashion stylists, makeup artists and so on) and hairdressers I admire, to quite simply feature their most edgy provocative work in print without any boundaries, interference or expectations. A sort of "jam session." When I started in the industry back in the late 1980’s, the hair scene was vital, wild and so much fun! People like Sam, of course, Horst, Anthony Mascolo, Scott Cole, Robert Lobetta, Jeanne Braa, Geri Cuzenza, among many others, were producing dazzling photo shoots, doing amazing sexy regional hair shows, creating iconic products by themselves, and partnering with salon manufacturers and distribution in really meaningful ways which made a huge difference in my career, among millions of other hairdressers. Now, most name companies have been absorbed into monster brands which leaves a palpable gap, a soullessness if you will, not only in education, opportunity and inspiration, but mostly in that the sense of rebelliousness is gone, the "wild streak" that celebrates the very reason we got into the industry and didn't become accountants. I want that irreverent provocative emotion back and to be alive once again on the pages of Beauty Underground. We accept submissions and love collaborations - there are no ads, it is free to download each issue digitally through our website or a high quality printed copy can be made to order and shipped directly to the reader.

How did you become so well connected to industry leaders? I stalked them relentlessly, and lucky for me, they let me stay - this year I celebrated my 25th year as a hairdresser and I still love my career! I can't imagine doing anything else.

If you have any questions or comments please leave them in the box below.

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Next week on The Road To NAHA Part 2, we go behind the scenes with NAHA 2013 Editorial Stylist of the Year, Sherri Jessee!