What the heck is a Contessa Award? Master Stylist Frank Calandrino opens up about the coveted Canadian hair industry awards.
What are the Contessa Awards and why are they important?
The Contessas are the biggest hair awards in all of Canada and have been considered the gold standard in beauty awards since their conception in 1988. They’re kind of like the Emmys of hair! The most famous Canadian hairdressers have all been recognized and celebrated at one point with a Contessa Award. Violet (Master Stylist and bob + paige’s co-founder) and I have been participating since we started our careers.
How do you enter and become nominated for a Contessa Award?
Nominations are announced in September and awarded in November. There are a bunch of annual categories, including:
- Canadian Hairstylist of the Year
- Canadian Salon Team of the Year
- Elite Master Hairstylist
- Master Colourist
- Ontario Hairstylist
- Men’s Hairstylist
- Avant Garde Hairstylist
- Multicultural Hairstylist
Participants can enter a category by submitting a photo collection of their work (hair, makeup, nails). In order to win, your collection must be versatile, creative and feature a variety of visually captivating looks!
The contestants’ submissions are then blindly assessed by two panels (live + online judging) of independent experts. What’s cool is that these judges aren’t exclusively hair experts — they come from fashion, beauty, and editorial worlds as well. With blind judging, the contestants’ identities remain anonymous throughout the process to keep the Contessa Awards as unbiased as possible.
What does a Contessa nomination mean to a salon?
Since we first opened bob + paige in 2008, we’ve been competing in the team category
It’s not the actual winning that’s most important to us. Just by participating in this category, we naturally cultivate a positive, collaborative environment in the salon that makes our team members feel good about their work and each other.
How does a Contessa nomination impact the salon experience for clients?
A Contessa nomination validates the bob + paige team’s expertise and relevancy in the hair industry. It’s a $5000+ investment to photograph our collections for the annual competition, so it shows that we are actively engaged in industry trends. A nomination is an industry-recognized affirmation that our team is doing things right!
What do you personally love about the Contessa Awards?
I like standing close to our photo collections, hearing people’s comments at the cocktail reception, and learning what people respond to most.
I also like the Contessa Awards because they’re made up of all ages and experience levels. Sure, many competitors are senior and master stylists… but at bob + paige we involve our younger stylists as well. We team up our juniors with our senior and master stylists. I believe this strategy shows how great we are as a team, since we have our juniors go on to compete against some of the best master stylists in Canada.
Keep in mind, Contessa winners and finalists go on to become educators, editorial stylists, and collaborators with some big hair brands! So these really are the best of the best industry leaders at the top of their game.
Can you share your team’s past wins leading up to your 2020 Contessa nomination?
Bob + Paige has been nominated for the Contessa Awards’ Canadian Salon Team of the Year for 3 consecutive years now (2018-2020). There aren’t ever many Toronto nominees — this year, we’re one of just three Toronto nominees in our category!
As for prior history with the Contessas… we won the interior design award when we opened approximately 10 years ago. Our senior stylist Connor Lange has enjoyed several individual nominations, as have our master stylists Violet, Joey and myself. We’ve also won Color Zoom (a Goldwell competition); Connor won for all of Canada last year!
We’re excited to showcase our most recent collection for the 2020 Awards. It features the work of all our newer team members! We always go heavy on colour and like to mess around with the trend watch. This means we feature shorter hair with less styling, and are opting to focus on the cut and colour of the hair instead.
Any final words of wisdom for someone who wants to follow their dreams and get their work (creative or otherwise) out into the world?
Do what we do as a brand: we submit what we think is great; what we excel at; what we’re good at doing. We do our best to put our own stamp on it, sure, but then we let it be. Our team’s attitude toward the Contessas is basically, “Let’s do what we do and see what sticks, and not worry about what everyone else is doing.”
The most important takeaway is that everyone in our salon supports each other. Team building is our priority. Competition is healthy when it’s fun, and we all grow when everyone consistently shows up for one another.
Looking for an award-winning hairstyle? Make an appointment at bob + paige salon.