ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, MATRIX
Best Part: “Inspiring others to be creative, and reaching outside of the box.”
Hardest Part: “Making sure the creation I am working on is the best thing I want to see and that everyone has the same understanding. Everything from the models to the video to the team members all need to be on the same page for everything to work in harmony.”
Best Advice: “Being a platform artist means building and breathing confidence into everyone around you. Pour your heart into your art and amazing things will happen.”
Chrystofer Benson remembers back to his student days when he would attend hair shows and study the people he saw on stage. “I was totally mesmerized,” says Benson. “I loved watching the teams function together and how a variety of manufacturers came together and presented their collections.”
It was events like these that really sharpened his competitive edge, so he began entering the National Cosmetology Association’s competitions in his local area. He started moving around nationally and internationally—named the 2011 Stars-Urban Street/Fashion Photo Competition winner—until one day he started competing in the North American Hairstyling Awards (NAHA) and won Hair Colorist of the Year in 2010. He was also named a finalist in the Fashion Forward category in 2011, Hair Color category finalist in 2011, 2010, 2009, and a Contemporary Classic category finalist in 2008.
“When I was doing competitions, I worked with one model extensively for a couple of years. Then as I was looking at different manufacturers to work with, I realized I needed a company that provided a product that was going to keep up with my model’s hair—so I learned about KPAK and started working with Joico,” he says. “I started doing some classes for them and I spent about 10 years there. I tried working up the ranks to their international team, until it came to a point where I felt like I needed to broaden my wings. Then Matrix reached out to me and offered me a job as Lead Trainer of Education and Creative at their Global Academy in New York City. After that, Matrix started sending me to perform at more shows.”
BEHIND STAGE PRESENCE
Benson says the very first ti mes you go on stage– whether you are doing a competition or presenting a technique–are going to be difficult, but once you begin to do it consistently it becomes second nature. “When I’m on stage, I love that I’m personally able to affect the next generation of hairdressers to be inspired, and create something new in that room,” he says. “I think the whole point of being a platform artist is being able to give others information they can walk away with and use in their everyday creations. I feel like it is my responsibility to educate the next generation; I feel like they need to be better than us or I feel like we haven’t done our job correctly.”
While on stage, Benson says that you have to always be prepared for mistakes. “Mistakes happen all the ti me. It could be from forgetting clips, to your microphone not working, to a wrong model being on stage, but the situation will unfold depending on how you handle it,” he says. “Mistakes are going to happen, but chances are the way you react is how the audience is going to react.” He adds, “I’ve tripped on stage before and laughed about it—you have to show people that you are real. I get my team playing jokes on me at ti mes and if the audience doesn’t see it…then I don’t see it. Have a little fun when those things pop up, make a joke or play it off well!”
To improve your stage presence, Benson says to do a little research. “I still go to shows and see how other platform artists present and handle different situations,” he says. “Find out what makes you gravitate to a specific show, and learn from it. Try all things in the industry—some like editorial hair, some like competitions, some like doing it all.”
Benson says if you’re not comfortable talking in front of a crowd of people, start in front of a small classroom or start working with a manufacturer that has an education team. “Once you start working with others who are performing next to you, they can critique your work and give you tips on performing,” he says. “Make sure that when you are searching for manufacturers, find a brand that you believe in. You have to find a product you can stand behind and see what kind of education or career that manufacturer can provide for you.” Benson says to check out different brand’s educational teams and learn how you can intern or help out.
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“Students today need to realize the world owes them nothing. Their mentality needs to shift, and they need to realize they have to go out there and get what they want. Instant gratification doesn’t work in the career world, but perseverance and commitment does,” he says. “Realize that along the way you will have trials and tribulations, but honestly you will learn from your mistakes more than you will from your successes. I wouldn’t be the platform artist I am today if I didn’t follow that philosophy.”
Chrystofer Benson’s Fashion Forward entry for NAHA 2011.
Hair: Chrystofer Benson
Photography: Joseph Cartright
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