Ask Blanche Macdonald Pro Hair graduate Sandra Perovic what keeps her travelling from her Vancouver hometown for international hair competitions in Toronto and beyond, and her answer might just surprise you.
“I don’t enter because I want to win,” she explains. “I do it for me. I love the thrill of competition. Hairdressing is always fun, but it’s also important to do something that makes you feel good creatively. I like what I do every day but I love stepping out of the box for competitions. Clients don’t often want you to do something crazy to their hair. So I love the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone, put my skills to the test and see what I can create.”
Sandra may modestly insist that she’s not in it to win it, but her results say otherwise. She won an incredible two trophies for Best Men’s Cut and Style and Best Day to Night Look at this year’s Mirror Awards, Canadian Hairdresser Magazine’s annual competition, and was recognized as one of North America’s Top Five Newcomers at the Contessa Awards.
Competing in Toronto against some of Canada’s most respected stylists at the Mirror Awards made her double victory particularly sweet and surprising.
There were so many things that I took from the program at Blanche Macdonald. The instructors really moulded me.
“There were hundreds of people at the actual Award Ceremony. It’s a really big event. They announced the Day to Night category first. I thought I had a chance but it was still shocking when they announced my name. And I was genuinely speechless when they announced my name as the winner of the Men’s Cut competition. There were so many amazing stylists in that category. I was the youngest stylist in the final with the least amount of experience, so that was a big honour. A lot of people I didn’t even know congratulated me, which was really awesome.”
Sandra’s Toronto triumphs didn’t come easily. Her amazing results at the Mirror and Contessa Awards were dramatic improvements from her very first hair competition, which she entered when she was still a student at Blanche Macdonald.
“I was still just starting out,” she recalls with a smile. “In the colour theory level Renata Trebacz was our instructor. Out of the blue she asked me if I wanted to enter the Skills Canada BC Competition. I asked her, ‘Why me?’ And she said, ‘Why not you?’ I guess she saw something in me.
“I spent hours practicing with Renata before and after school. The actual competition was a lot more intense than I thought it would be. We had to cut, colour and style three types of look – a woman’s day look, an evening look and a men’s look. On the actual day of the competition I felt the pressure and didn’t really organize myself effectively.”
It turns out that you sometimes learn more in defeat than in victory.
“I didn’t win, that’s for sure,” she laughs. “But whenever I don’t succeed in something it makes me want to kick butt and do even it more.”
Kicking butt and improving her craft go hand in hand for Sandra. Before she even arrived at Blanche Macdonald she’d taken a hair program in high school in Burnaby, and studied barbering after graduation. But she knew that to take her career to the heights she knew she was capable of, she needed to become the finished package.
“I knew I wasn’t there yet,” she admits. “I wanted to get into competitions and do photo shoots. There were so many things that I took from the program at Blanche Macdonald. The instructors really moulded me. I had previous experience from other hair courses so I had this mentality that I already knew what to do. I remember doing a crazy pattern on foils on a mannequin, and my instructor gave me three out of six. I was so offended. I thought the foils were perfect. I told him, ‘Why would you give me a failing grade? These are perfect.’ He said, ‘If you were perfect you wouldn’t be here.’ That idea really stuck with me. From that moment I knew I could always learn more and do better.
“Photo shoots were the biggest thing for me. I had no idea how to do a shoot before I came to Blanche Macdonald. That segment really helped now I’m doing competition work. My avant garde shoot at Hair School was like a samurai headpiece. It was a lot of work with so much hairspray and hair glue. And lots of hair! That hairpiece is still in my basement.”
Sandra graduated and immediately started working on the floor at Vancouver’s C–zô Salon. An instant star, she also delved further into the world of competition, reaching the Finals of arguably North America’s premier Hair Contest, the Contessa Awards, in the category of Best Newcomer.
I love waking up and going to work to see what exciting things the day has in store for me.
As one of the top five new stylists across the USA and Canada, Sandra flew to Toronto for the final, where was able to meet and mingle with the industry’s elite creative talents.
“That trip to Toronto reset that passion to love my craft. Everybody has a different story of why they put their collection together. It’s really inspiring to see a style you love and talk to the person who created it.”
She still loves her time in Vancouver, putting in occasional backstage shifts in hair departments for runways shows during Vancouver Fashion Week (along with the most recent Blanche Macdonald Fashion Design Graduate Show), and relishing her time at her new home in the city’s fashionable Gastown neighbourhood, Ignite Beauty Lounge.
“I love waking up and going to work to see what exciting things the day has in store for me. There’s always something happening at Ignite Beauty Lounge, both with the continued education we receive and my amazing clientele. That relationship between a stylist and a client is very personal. Developing these relationships and learning more and more keeps me looking forward to work every day. There’s never a dull moment.”
Another great relationship is the one between Sandra and her instructors at Hair School.
“I’m back at Blanche Macdonald all the time,” she laughs. “I feel like I never really left. The team there are close to a second family. Each instructor there has given me something I’ve taken away and used. The doors are always open. If you have a question or a problem or need advice, they’re there for you, whatever you need. Renata trained me so closely. Everything she did was always so precise. She was my inspiration to go into competitions and try to be my best.”
With such a lengthy list of achievements already under her belt, it’s dazzling to remember that it’s been less than two years since Sandra graduated from Hair School. She learned a lot at Blanche Macdonald, and has continued to learn since then. There’s always room to get better.
“I still take courses to this day,” she explains. “Even if I know the techniques, I’ll remember things I’d forgotten or pick up new tricks. You have to go into hair with an open mind. I’ve seen people arrive at Hair School and think that only one instructor is right and everyone else has nothing to teach you. That’s not true. Everyone brings something new to your skills. There’s not just one way to do things.”
As a stylist challenging herself at the highest level, she’s still happy to share some words of wisdom for those beginning the journey.
“Don’t be scared when you’re a student and people come in for haircuts. They know you’re starting out. Have patience and don’t take anything personally. If you’re nervous clients can feel that. So shake it off!”