Monday, 11 April 2016

A CUT ABOVE: Barbers, beauticians welcome life-changing opportunities at JN expo

BEST IN SHOW: The annual expo had no shortage of highlights, as seen above and below.

The local beauty services industry was in the spotlight all day Sunday, as Jamaica National Small Business Loans Limited hosted its second annual Barber and Beauty Expo & Competition inside the National Indoor Sports Centre, bringing together dozens of talented hairdressers, nail technicians, makeup artistes and barbers from across the island to share space with business operators/booth holders and gain access to financial opportunities.

The spirit of sweaty competition was intoxicating, mixed with the sweet stench of hairspray and styling gel, as the pros competed before a large and captivated audience for a share of almost $2.5 million in cash and prizes. Fashion designers are forever hogging the spotlight, season in season out, so to say that the beauty practitioners, who took part in Sunday’s event, welcomed the exposure, would be a gross understatement.

“We don’t often get our own spotlight. The focus is usually on the stylists and the designers. We are now being given some of the limelight, so we appreciate this,” says 31-year-old makeup pro Nicola Johnson, a ten-year veteran of the industry, who operates Cola’s Artistry in Kingston. “It’s been quite an experience so far today, very nerve-wracking because usually we work on our own time, but since this is a competition we have to work with the set time that we’re given.”

Like Johnson, 34-year-old barber Alrick Parris was thankful for the networking opportunities that the expo/competition made possible. “This is a step above working in the barber shop. You get a chance to meet other people in the industry, win cash and prizes and get certified,” the St. Ann’s Bay native tells TALLAWAH.

The HEART Trust/NTA, one of the sponsoring partners, handed out certificates to all the participants at the event, a major boost for the individual profiles. “The certification is important because as a barber if I want to go overseas to work, I will need my certification or you have to start all over again. So it’s very important,” Parris explains.

Johnson, who is proudly “certified, licensed and registered,” urges her fellow beauty services practitioners to get with the programme. “It’s important. No matter the amount of money that you’re making. And it’s something to be proud of,” she advises.

Jacqueline Shaw-Nicholson, training coordinator at JN Small Business Loans, says the main aim of the expo, held last year at the Jamaica Pegasus, is to empower and support members of the local industry. “It’s not just to showcase the talent but for them to learn more about the industry, become certified and learn how they can further develop their skills and get financial advice,” she explains. 

At the end of Sunday’s fierce “battle” (as described by vibrant emcee Khadine ‘Miss Kitty’ Hylton), three deserving winners emerged, selected by a team of judges. Kadie-Ann Brown, a 30-year-old Kingston-based cosmetologist, was named top hairdresser, walking away with a cheque of $500,000, a trophy and other prizes. For topping the nails category, Marsha-Gaye Edwards was awarded $200,000, while ‘swag barber’ and devout Christian Marlon Phillips outshone his brothers to take home the $500,000 cheque.

Both Brown and Phillips were presented with championship belts usually reserved for heavyweight boxers. “I’m feeling elated. It wasn’t unexpected, but I’m still grateful,” declared Phillips, after receiving a congratulatory hug from Rodaine, his wife of three-and-a-half months. “I appreciate what JN is doing for barbers across the island, and I’m looking forward to next year.” What the 29-year-old is also looking forward to is spending some of that hard-earned money refurbishing his St. Catherine-based shop, Barbers for Christ, and hopefully starting a franchise in the parish.

Champion girl Brown, meanwhile, is gearing up to take her craft onto the international stage. “What’s next for me? I have a big hair show in Atlanta coming up in August. I’m already booked and everything, so that’s what I’m looking forward to right now,” she tells TALLAWAH, with a river-wide smile. She also wants to give back to the competition. Says Brown, “In a few years I hope I can become one of the judges to give others a chance to achieve what I achieved, because I know what it’s like.”

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