Ana Luisa Valdes always loved cutting hair. Now she gets to share that passion. As the BC Educator for the globally distributed, environmentally conscious Hair Line Davines, it’s Ana’s job to travel to salons around the Province, teaching professionals advanced cutting, styling and colouring techniques, along with how to best use the brand’s wide range of products. It’s a fabulous position, ideal for a stylist whose gift for making people look and feel great was apparent even before she arrived at Canada’s #1 Hair School.
“I really don’t remember how I started cutting hair,” she laughs, recalling her time growing up in Tampico, Mexico. “I had no training. It was something natural to me. My aunts would get me to cut their hair with the same scissors they used in the garden. My sister-in-law ran a hair salon in Tampico. She saw me doing hair and said that I should help her in the salon.”
When the suggestion came that she should enhance her natural talent with some formal training, Ana Luisa investigated the possibility of a dramatic change of scenery.
“I’d been to Vancouver before, and I’d always liked it. One of my girlfriends from Mexico lived here and said that I should try Blanche Macdonald. I heard it was one of the best schools. And the brochure they sent me looked really interesting.”
With Associate Director Mary Hombrebueno making sure Ana Luisa’s student visa came through with minimal fuss, two months after that brochure arrived in Tampico, Ana Luisa was starting classes in Vancouver. The weather wasn’t the only shock to the system.
“I wasn’t prepared at all,” she admits with a broad smile. “I thought I’d take a one-year hair course and see what happened. I just wanted to learn and have fun.
“Oh my god! It was totally different from what I expected. It was tough. I had to wake up early! If I was late three times I’d have to go back home, so I learnt to be on time.”
Despite the early mornings, Ana Luisa found that her interest in hair was turning into a passion. And with Blanche Macdonald’s training, the skills she’d taught herself back home blossomed.
“I started getting it, and I started getting excited about hair,” she recalls. “I was having so much fun learning about everything, and I wanted to know more. The photo shoots opened a door to show me what I was capable of. I’d never done avant-garde or fantasy styles before. I’d only seen that in magazines. I didn’t think I could do that type of thing myself.”
Ana’s ability and newfound sense of determination were evident before she’d even graduated. Recruited by the award-winning Toni&Guy salon, she quickly blossomed, being named as one of the Top Ten Hairdressing Newcomers in Canada at the Contessa Awards.
After five happy years at Toni&Guy, Ana felt the time was right to start seeking new opportunities. The discovery of a new product line and an encounter with her hair hero, three-time British Hairdresser of the Year Angelo Seminara, sent her career in an exciting new direction.
“I’ve been Angelo’s fan forever,” continues Ana. “When he came to Vancouver I was able to go backstage and meet him. Oh my God, I have never been so inspired! He told me that he is inspired by nature. Me too! Then he told me he was going to Mexico to do an exhibition in Frida Kahlo’s house, taking inspiration from her hairpieces and her real dresses. When he said that my jaw dropped. I love Frida Kahlo!
“Angelo is the Artistic Director for Davines, and the more I learnt about the company, the more I thought it was what I was looking for. The quality of the products was the first thing I noticed. The line is almost completely natural and all the packaging is totally recyclable. It’s a hair product line that isn’t bad for you in any sense. I threw out all my products from other companies. Now it’s the only line I’ll use with my clients. I need to believe what I work for and feel it in my heart. If I can’t feel that connection I can’t be passionate about it. And if I’m not passionate about something it just won’t work. I’d love to work with Angelo one day too. Now I’m part of the Davines team, I think that dream will come true.
“It’s also a multicultural company. They have offices in Mexico, Paris, London, Italy and New York. Knowing that they have offices in Mexico is huge for me.”
Ana approached Davines, and the team were immediately struck by her artistry and enthusiasm. Now she’s passing both onto stylists across BC.
“Right now I’m going to salons to teach. I’ll use several products and explain why I’m using them. It’s always fun. It’s inspiring to see people sharing the same passion and the love for what we do. It’s like sharing something that you really love. When you share you keep learning and keep inspiring each other. And there’s more people walking around looking better too!”
Ana still has a hands-on role making people look great. After leaving Toni&Guy she was looking for a salon with a fresh environment and Davines on its shelves. She found Sutro.
“The first day I stepped into Sutro I loved it. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming. I just knew that this was it. We don’t have apprentices here. Instead, we help each other. Someone will always help clean a station or get clients a drink. It took me a while to get used to it, but now I love it. I get a full hour with every client. I don’t leave them the entire time. That way they’re getting my full attention, which creates even more of a bond.
“I’m here five or six days a week. I’m often busy with Davines, but I don’t want to neglect my clients. They’re so important to me. I want them to feel that they can come see me any time. A lot of them followed me here from Toni&Guy. That’s when I realised they’ve become real friends.”
Talk to Ana for even a few minutes and you realise you’re in the presence of a young woman blessed with the power to inspire. For her, hair is more than a job; it’s a way of making the world a more beautiful place. To absolutely no-one’s surprise, sharing that enthusiasm with the next generation of super-stylists comes easy.
“My grandma was a teacher and my sister runs a Montessori school back in Mexico. She wanted me to become a teacher before I became a hairdresser. I told her that it wasn’t happening! I never thought that I’d end up doing hair in Vancouver or be an educator, but she could see it all along!”
Although Ana spends her workdays with clients and experienced stylists, that commitment to inspire is on 24-7. Naturally, she has warm words of advice for anyone taking their first steps in the industry she loves.
“If it’s really your passion, do anything to make it happen!” she insists. “Be friendly. Be positive. If you have to apprentice or clean toilets don’t complain. We’ve all done it. Keep observing the stylists around you and do as much as you can.
“I want to be the Educator for the whole of North America eventually, but I know I’m in the right place now. And I love what I do!”