Locked, styled and loaded
Melissa Langley grew up doing her Barbie's hair, her own hair and then her high-school friends' hair. She got her first job at a salon when she was 16, went to Citrus Heights Beauty College, and has been styling tresses professionally for 12 years now. This Saturday, the 30-year-old master stylist and education director at Aveda Willo Salon & Spa in Gold River will compete in the Hair & Fashion Battle Expo, a challenge in which Sacramento-area salons and designers team up to showcase their work and compete for bragging rights in the fields of hair and fashion. This year's theme is Hollywood. Her team is made up of 20 people: 10 behind the scenes (stylists, mostly from Willo; costume designers; and makeup artists), and 10 models (some of whom are also stylists), who'll also be dancing and posing to music. Langley put down her comb and scissors long enough to explain how Styrofoam, seahorses and dancing fit into the competition.
What’s the most popular hairstyle right now?
For men, it's the pompadour. It's classic. Yeah, it's definitely a very good look for men.
And for women, balayage is in for highlights, which is like a very natural highlight, where the hair just kind of looks like it's sun-kissed. I see a lot of A-lines—it's where it's shorter in the back and longer in the front. It's kind of like that angled, sharp look.
What’s the worst hairstyle?
I don't like the textured mullet.
But mullets were generally never good, were they?
They were in for a minute. I also didn't like this stringy emo thing that people were doing, the one where their hair was always in their face—the old Justin Bieber type of cut. But I don't hate a lot. I'm very open to a lot of hairstyles. As long as it looks good on the person, I'm open to it. That's all that matters.
How’d you get into hair battling?
I went to a hair fashion show by Aveda about five years ago, and I've always had this artistic side to me. I styled a model for the show, and it was OK, but I went in there and saw this hairpiece that someone did, and it just changed my world. It was made out of these huge cascading Styrofoam balls, wrapped in hair all the way down, and it just swung so pretty. And I didn't realize before that moment that I didn't have to just use all hair—I could use other things but wrap it in hair, I guess you could say. That changed everything for me.
Then, Willo Salon & Spa won first place at Hair Wars, at The Park Ultra Lounge in 2011. That event alone, that really opened up my creative flow on everything, because I achieved a hairpiece that I never even thought was possible for me to make. Here's a picture (holds up her phone showing a picture). It was a seahorse. Our theme was animal artistic. It was crazy, because it wasn't a piece I had worked on for a long time beforehand, but when I did it, everything just came together, and I was like, “Wow, I really love this, and I'm really good at it.” And I knew from then on I wanted to get more into it.
And it's funny, we didn't have the stronger performance; the other team had the stronger dancing performance, and we still won.
Dancing? Is that in this upcoming battle, too?
Yes, we have a full-blown performance. All of our models will be dancing, posing, modeling. I definitely have a lot of confidence. I love what we chose to do. I think we're going to be pretty good to compete with this year.
So dance, hair and fashion are together in the same battle?
Yeah, we try to coordinate for this show. We have a costume designer, and [she] and I try to coordinate. I can show you some pieces I've done so far for this year.
So this one (shows phone depicting a glittery, silver, conical hairpiece with various objects in it) I'm fully done with.
It’s that tall? What’s it made of?
The taller the better, because there's a lot of space you want to take up between the stage and the ceiling. Now, you can only go so tall, though, because the taller, the heavier also. So you just have to use all lightweight materials. Anything lightweight that you can cover with hair: Styrofoam, cardboard, plastic, lots of glue, cotton, wire. Those are your typical craft supplies. Lots of spray paint. And the person who has that on her head, they're wearing a corset that's really shiny, like that hairpiece.
How do you choose your models?
I based mine off of personality. I figure if you put enough makeup and costume and hair on somebody, they'll look beautiful no matter what. Weight and height isn't so much of an issue for me, but it could be an issue for other salons. But for me, it's all about the performance, and everyone showing their personality and that they're having fun onstage.
What does winning a battle like this mean to you?
I get to brag about it, but there's a lot of good things that come from it aside from winning. The thing I like the most is the teamwork from within the company. It's so good for morale, because after you're done with it, everyone just created this amazing experience together. If we don't win, it won't discourage us from doing it again. I learn something new every single battle seeing something that someone else did. I'm only going to get better at it, so winning doesn't really matter for me.