Alison Valsamis (@braidedandblonde) started creating braided rose upstyles after being inspired by planting roses with her grandmother. She never dreamed that a figment of her imagination would go viral worldwide. MODERN sat down with Valsamis to find out more about her garden-party updo, and what its like to achieve the ultimate Instagram goal--going viral.
MODERN SALON: Okay, so, for anybody who hasn't been on the internet in the past two weeks, could you just summarize what happened?
Alison Valsamis: So, I did these updos on one of my wigs that looked like roses. I think you guys had shared them and they'd been shared before. I was at work on Friday when I got an e-mail from someone that said they were from Allure magazine and I was like, "Yeah right, okay." I put my phone down and went back to my client. Then I googled the author and, stalked around online for a bit, and then did this interview with them. The author posted the article probably like four or five hours later [on allure.com], and then I woke up the next morning to, like, absurdity. Holly Decastri sent me a message telling me I'm on Cosmopolitan. I had no idea what she was talking about. She's like, "You need to check Twitter because it's everywhere." So, thanks for Holly for teaching me how to use, Facebook, Twitter [laughs].
MS: What happened from there?
AV: There have been articles on Cosmopolitan in Germany, Australia, Italy, France, Japan. I got an e-mail from a Japanese newspaper. It's been on five different Greek websites in Greece. It's everywhere. Like, everywhere.
MS: When somebody's trying to build their following on Instagram, this is something that one can only dream of happening.
AV: I'm so grateful. It's been such a whirlwind of a week, but I guess that's the hope. But for me, my Instagram was always to bring in new clients and to challenge myself to get better. I re-posted my Instagram post from January 1 of last year. It's just that my intention was to challenge myself as an artist and as an educator.
On Instagram there's such an incredible community of artists that support each other and inspire each other and we keep challenging each other to do more, and be better. This one picture just spoke to so many people, which for me is special because it was really something I did for my grandmother. So to have that, to have a moment where I could share that with her, and for her to watch Good Morning America and share it with all of her nurses, to me, is like the greatest gift I could have ever given her.
MS: I read that you were inspired by a rose garden, but how did you put that from your brain into the hair?
AV: My brain's kind of like the Ikea warehouse. Everything's there, it just might take a couple hours to find a box and then, like, five days to put it together. I do a lot of journaling and a lot of writing, and I have a lot of crazy ideas that don't work. But it took probably about six or seven hours on a Sunday, with my husband being, like, "Are you seriously still working on this wig?" I was in the middle of my kitchen and my kids were handing me bobby pins, and then I would take it out and start over. I started changing and alternating the different types of braids and he's like, "Oh, that actually looks like something." So I kept going and it worked. It was beautiful; I loved it. I was really proud of it. I was really, really proud of it.
It's funny because I posted it probably six or seven weeks ago, so it just took some time to gain traction. But now, here we are. I mean, Good Morning America sends you an e-mail that it's like, I don't know.
MS: So crazy. So, was it just kind of a domino effect, where you feel like one consumer outlet saw it, and then it was one after another?
AV: Yeah, it was one after another, after another. I had e-mails reaching out to me just for permission.
MS: How has this affected your Instagram following?
AV: In the past 10 days, I have gained about 5,000 new followers, which is so unreal. And it's been amazing to connect with people from all over the country and from all over the world. I've gotten to talk to people and people have done looks and tagged me in them from my tutorials, which as an educator is really [incredible]; that's why we teach.That's why I've always taught and I had so many wonderful mentors in my life that have helped progress my career. So, when I get to see people that thank me for my tutorials or create updos that are inspired by the education I gave them, that takes the cake for me. That's all I could really ask for.
MS: If somebody were to ask me even a few months ago, "What is Allison known for?" I would probably say, "Amazing balayage, amazing color." So, like, now you're known as this bonafide stylist. Have you always been styling like this?
AV: I'm a colorist by trade. I worked for about 11-12 years in a departmentalized salon where I only colored hair. So, I hadn't blow-dried or cut hair in about 12 years. When I started four years ago at the salon I currently work in in Trumbull, Connecticut, we do a bit of everything. The company I educate for were looking for updo artists and styling educators. I enjoyed doing updos, so I started practicing, and I started to become really addicted to braiding.
I started braiding mannequin heads; every hairdresser has a million laying around their house. I guess some people knit, so I just started braiding. And it just became addicting and I couldn't get enough of it. I wanted to do more and I started looking up every video I could. Now that's something that's a new love for me. I do still love coloring hair, but it's really exciting to have this whole new passion.
MS: How cool is it that you're known for both now?
AV: Yeah, it's awesome. It's awesome. I couldn't feel more grateful or blessed. It's such an unbelievable ride.
MS: Is this gonna change how you're posting to your Instagram?
AV: I'm a trial and error person, I'm such a type A. I'm like, "I will figure this out. Don't tell me," and I probably should sleep more. I haven't slept in like five years. But, it's challenged me to really look at my work from my perspective and if I saw this, would I like this? Because we are so inundated with imagery right now. I don't post as much. I still post color but now my color-bar is set super high. I mean, there's so much incredible color work out there. It's unbelievable. So, I do have some scattered, so I try to put that in there to remind my clients, like, "Hi, I still do color, too." So, I'm working on that, but, it's fun.
MS: Beyond the fact that your styles and color creations are amazing, you're also such a nice person.
AV: We're all in this together and I know this week is not the normal. This is something that is once in a lifetime, but I do know as someone who did start over and someone who is new to Instagram, people like Holly and Amy (@camouflageandbalayage) that were ahead of me and people I looked up to, when they would comment and reach out to me, it kept me going. It's inspiring and it's important to remember that we can't just post pictures and expect people to like and comment when we're not out there sharing that with other people. We have to engage with each other and we have to continue to support each other. It's a really important part of being social on social media. And that is the first word in social media, social.
MS: I feel like as an industry some of our best relationships are formed now on Instagram.
AV: I made so many relationships on Instagram and it's so powerful. There are so many people that I look forward to meeting in real life, but we've developed such a strong relationship online. You know, sharing formulas or asking questions. It doesn't just all come down to the number of followers. That to me is great and it helps absolutely and I can't lie about that, but it's also having people in the industry that support you, or help you, or you have a new product line, or you have a question, or you know someone that's really good at blogs. That, being able to reach out to people that are in different parts of the world or parts of the country makes us better as stylists, it makes us better as people.
And I think with anything, I think, being nice to one another, you really can't beat that. You have to be kind. You can't fool the universe. Just be kind, and be authentic. The universe always know what your intention is, and you can't fool the universe.