August 2019

Fran Peterson: Local hairstylist to enter prestigious hair competition

Author: Linda S. Hopkins | Photographer: Roberto Ligresti

Fran Peterson enters a room like a bottle of fine Champagne. She is passion uncorked, sparkling from within—an explosion of joy that bubbles over the top, delicate and powerful all at once—the embodiment of the beauty industry she represents.

Stem cells exist in an undifferentiated state in our bodies. They are capable of dividing and renewing themselves over a long period of time. Also, in adults, stem cells can become other cells to aid in tissue healing, repair and regeneration. If you think about a cut in the skin, stem cells are largely responsible for the healing process for that tissue. They are signaled to become the cells needed at the site of damaged tissue. In addition, when we are growing, stem cells become specific cell types that are needed for growth during those years.

At age 24, Peterson, artistic director, educator and hairstylist at Salon Karma in Bluffton, is not only on top of her everyday game behind the chair; she’s stepping up to the next level by entering the North American Hairstyling Awards competition for the second year.

Last year, Peterson entered and was nominated in the category of texture, attending the gala presentation, and finishing in the top five. This year, she’s going for a nomination in the editorial category. (An editorial stylist is typically the person in charge of choosing the look of the model before a photoshoot. These photographs are used in a variety of “editorial” material: print and digital ads, album covers, magazine spreads and other visual creations.)

“The whole vision for editorial is different, because it has to be about the mood, too, not just the hair. I feel like that’s why I got nominated the first time, because there was sort of a mood about it. It was kind of grungy and pretty at the same time,” Peterson said.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Peterson describes herself as a creative person. “Since I was little, I was always creating something whether with glitter, tape, glue, clothing, makeup, hair—anything I could get my hands on, which led me into the beauty industry,” she said. She began her career at Élan Hair Studio in New Jersey at age 17. There, she gained experience and was introduced to the world of hair competition, serving as an assistant and soaking it in like a sponge.

“I wanted to do more,” Peterson said. “Year before last I started to play around with some editorial work on my own—playing with fashion and creating concepts with different scenery, finding inspiration everywhere. My brain literally did not stop!” She bought a camera and began practicing at home on the weekends. “It made me realize that you see everything behind the camera; every strand of hair has to be in the right place.”

Photographer: Daryna Barykina
Makeup: Abigail Wilson
Model: Grace Lawton

For the 2020 competition, Peterson decided to up the ante by hiring an award-winning hair and beauty photographer in New York City, Roberto Ligresti. “Shopping for this shoot was my favorite part. I pulled inspiration from the place where I grew up: the Jersey Shore,” Peterson said. Using peachy tones and pearls as part of the fashion, she employed different textures to create waves in the hair, like waves in the ocean, to support the beachy vibe she was after.

Working with professional models was also an important part of the process, she explained. “Features and personality play into it. You have to choose the right model for the look, because they have to be able to take that mood that you’re wanting and put it behind the camera. The fashion, hair, makeup and photography really brought my vision to life.”

Competition hair can be intimidating. It’s complicated and is many steps removed from what Peterson does on a daily basis. “The sense of accomplishment I felt at the end of that shoot was overwhelming but so rewarding,” she said. “I love being behind the chair. That’s what brought me to the work initially. Editorial work just allows for a little more creativity. With photoshoots, you’re not the only person doing it. Someone else is doing the photography and makeup. It’s a much longer process—like seven hours to do three hairstyles. It’s two different feelings.”

For Peterson, hairdressing is technical, but it is also a creative endeavor that comes rather naturally. The biggest thing she’s learned in competition, she said, is not to be attached to one vision. “Let it go. Let it happen. Trust the process!”—advice she believes crosses over into life.

A great deal of her inspiration comes from who she wants to be, she said. “I want to be a strong person, but I also want to be able to enjoy the moments and take them in and be vulnerable. That’s what I go for in my photos—that balance between being a strong, powerful woman yet still soft and beautiful. Sometimes we’re not beautiful … and it’s okay to be all those things.”

Fueled by a palpable enthusiasm, Peterson sees her career as a giant opportunity to practice her artistry and to be a light in the world at the same time. “Being able to do something you love and also make a difference in people’s lives is really something special,” she said.

She’s grateful for the support of her husband, family and her Salon Karma family and encourages other women to take the opportunity to grow in their own way. “I guess what I’m saying is step out of the box; be creative; find your passion. No matter what you’re doing, it’s so worth it!”

At the end of the day, it’s about striving to bloom and grow—to do good in the world and foster confidence and a sense of support and camaraderie among women. “Hairdressing is so much more than hairdressing. It’s about relationships and life and experiences,” Peterson said. “I educate my clients on their hair, but I learn so much from them. It’s much more powerful than most people realize.”

About the competition
The North American Hairstyling Awards (NAHA) is the industry’s most prestigious professional beauty competition, featuring 16 categories of excellence across hair, makeup, and nail artistry. Produced annually by the Professional Beauty Association, industry artists from the United States and Canada push the boundaries of skill and creativity, competing to win a coveted NAHA. The competition concludes with a star-studded celebration honoring beauty’s most talented artists.

NAHA entry closes August 8, 2019. Judges are internationally renowned stylists, photographers and top beauty editors from consumer and trade magazines. Multiple rounds of judging take place, and all judging is done anonymously and independently. Judges are unable to see the name or salon name of entrants and are not allowed to discuss any entries before, during or after the judging. Entries will be narrowed down to the best in each category; nominees will be notified in late 2019 with winners announced in January of 2020 when the award ceremony takes place in Long Beach, California.

Good luck, Fran! 

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