It is my honor to be invited to judge so many competitions. I just wrapped up judging NAHA (which I have judged since the competition began in 1989), and have also judged Goldwell’s Color Zoom as well as Wella’s Trend Vision, Sebastian’s What’s Next Awards and so many others – including a couple Beauty Competitions! Not only have I seen entries develop (making it harder to narrow down a winner), but even I have evolved as a judge.

MODERN's Beauty and Fashion Director Maggie Mulhern judging a competition.
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MODERN's Beauty and Fashion Director Maggie Mulhern judging a competition.

Frequently I am asked by competitors “Is there anything I can do to win?” I am reminded there are some things most people should know up front to give them an added edge. It’s also important to remember that if your entry doesn’t make the final cut, it doesn’t mean it was BAD, it may have been in the wrong category or the judges didn’t feel it was right for that particular competition or that year. I’ve known many artists who created a collection and held on to it for years until he or she felt the timing was right. In any case, if you have created a photo that you are proud enough to enter any competition, you still have it for your portfolio or to use to decorate your salon space. It’s really a win/wn.

It has been a great “judging” season so far this year (2019) and I feel the timing is right to give some tips to anyone entering any competition in the beauty world:

  1. FOLLOW THE RULES: Sometimes there are so many great entries that a judge has to figure out how to edit down the selects. Make sure if you are entering a competition that requires a formula, that you give the RIGHT formula. Frequently there are technical experts that can tell if formulas have been “tweaked” making your entry no longer eligible.
  2. ENTER THE RIGHT CATEGORY: There have been entries in some categories that make me say “HUH?” This happens a lot in NAHA. Artists will enter something in “Texture” that really should be entered in “Avant Garde.” A confused judge will sometimes just move on, leaving your fabulous entry in no man’s land, not earning the deserved points.
  3. YOUR MODEL: Make sure your model can carry off the look. It’s not always about having the MOST BEAUTIFUL model, it’s about having an appropriate model for the finish you have created. However, if you have the option, a beautiful model does help! We are all (judges included) conditioned to respond to beauty, so it helps!
  4. YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER: If you’ve done everything right, you must have the right photographer to capture your finish. It’s best to have a photographer who understands the industry and beauty in particular. A great “event” photographer does great event coverage. A great “fashion” photographer knows how to light wardrobe and may not make the hair (or makeup or nails) the hero. Always look for examples of his or her work to make sure the lighting is right to feature what YOU want to have featured.
  5. YOUR TEAM: Make sure  your team (hairstylist, colorist, model, photographer, makeup artist, fashion stylist) are all on the same page and appreciating your vision. While you’re at it, make sure that you have the right team understanding your goal. If it's a photo competition, it’s a great idea to have a mood board on set for reference to keep you all on the same page throughout the shoot.
  6. THE DETAILS: Don’t overlook or diminish what you may consider the secondary details. If it is a hair competition, make sure the makeup, nails and wardrobe are all “cover” worthy. Frequently I am asked, as a judge, to look for something that would be worthy of a MODERN cover. If the nails are not done or the makeup is “off”, that entry will get a lower score.
  7. THE FOCUS:  if you are entering a hair competition, make sure the HAIR is the focus. For nails, make sure the nails are the focus, etc. Do not let the wardrobe overpower the hero.
  8. THE JUDGES: If possible, learn who is judging! I once judged a live compeitition where most of the other judges were consumer editors. They did not understand (or appreciate) any of the stronger or more avant garde looks. In fact, many were kind of horrified! Some deserving competitors lost to less dramatic entries simply because the judges were thrown by the look. On the other hand, if the judges are strong technical artists, make sure your entry makes the right statement. At a recent live competition I saw one great competitor lose simply because he was “messy”. His station was in disarray with color marks splattered on the floor. The technical judges gave him a low score saying they "did not want him representing their company if he won." Fortunately, most of the competitions I’ve judged have a perfect mix and balance of judges.
  9. KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GETTING IN TO:  If your competition has a photo element followed by a live competition (like Goldwell’s Color Zoom), make sure your model is willing and able to travel and will carry off your look during the live part of the competition. If you won with a look that has a lot of movement and flowy hair, make sure you will be able to recreate that movement for the live part of the judging. Remember, your model will not be able to carry a fan in front of her (no “Beyonce” moment here!) Also, know that in the event you DO win, you may have to be away from your salon or suite for an extended period of time for either training or touring as a member of the winning team.
  10. MANAGE EXPECTATONS: While a “win” may get your name in front of some very important people, it doesn’t always change your life. I know one nail artist who won NAHA and nothing happened! NOTHING! She is no longer doing nails and is now out of the beauty business all together. On the other hand, I’ve met several hairdressers and colorists who have used their NAHA win to propel them to stardom. They’ve used that title to meet the right people and ultimately work with the appropriate brand.