Award-winning Artist Michelle O’Connor Reflects on Her NAHA History
A trained dancer and performer, multi-year North American Hairstyling Awards (NAHA) winner Michelle O’Connor understands the stamina, professionalism, and adaptability that’s required to reach career prestige. Having won several NAHA awards during her beauty career, Michelle’s ability to adapt her vision and artistry to create award-winning concepts continues bringing her success… and she’s not slowing down!
Michelle, a PBA Member, Artistic Director of Matrix USA and Creative Director of The Salon By INSTYLE, was first introduced to NAHA over fifteen years ago. “I remember being in awe, sitting in the audience, because I never knew a photo could be so beautiful. I never knew the medium of hair could really translate and be so artistic. I remember feeling something when I looked at these images – it was grand.” After witnessing a stylist win four awards during the ceremony, Michelle realized that such a level of achievement was a long way off… but it wasn’t impossible.
In 2019 alone, Michelle was nominated in four NAHA categories including Avant Garde, Salon Team of the Year, Texture and Editorial, and came home with two awards for Texture and Avant Garde. The NAHA Texture category honors stylists wh o work with and have mastered the ability to style all natural and non-textured hair types. Entrants of the Texture award demonstrate high-level expertise, vision and versatility when working with diverse hair types. “This is my third texture win. I love textured hair; it is the most forgiving medium of hair. I love enlightening those stylists who have never worked with texture and are afraid of it. I want to broaden the knowledge of this hair type and make it universal, something we all can be comfortable with.”
Avant Garde introduces futuristic or unusual ideas and recognizes those individuals who push the boundaries of hair through innovative, unique and unusual concepts. Beginning with a foundation of classic hairstyling techniques, Michelle peppered unexpected netting throughout the style to add texture, color, and definition. “I had to wrack my brain to figure out what to do. I thought of classic hairdressing and incorporating net stockings that are Avant Garde. Avant Garde can mean many things.”
Though her expertise in creating award-winning collections is undeniable, Michelle’s passion for hair extends far beyond NAHA’s national stage. What she loves most about working in the beauty industry is that she’s never felt like there is a ceiling for her career. “I’ve never felt that there was one avenue or one road… I feel like there are so many different avenues and I feel like your license and what you build with it have opened so many doors. Your potential is only limited by yourself.”