On the face of it, Natasha King’s story of her career in the hairdressing industry reads like that of someone who was inherently ambitious.
Born and bred in the deep South, what could have been a geographical disadvantage for a competitive hairstylist didn’t appear to be a hurdle for Natasha. She won NZ Editorial Stylist of the Year in 2017 and 2018, a prestigious accolade that saw her competing against the best in the business. She was a finalist for Expo NZ Hairdresser of the Year 2016-2018, and then was the recipient of the Peoples’ Choice Award at Hair Expo Australia 2017. Natasha’s salon, Freds, has been the birthplace of many talented hairdressers (“We trained intensively and we trained fast. You had to be committed to make it in my team!”). This year, she will sit on the judging panel for the Goldwell Colorzoom 2019 Australasia. Now in her role as Vivo Hair & Beauty’s Southland Regional Manager, Natasha oversees 6 salons across the South Island with a team of 45 people under her guidance.
BACK IN THE DAY
But Natasha is the first to admit that, while she is now counted among the hairdressing elite, this was certainly not always the case. “The road was hard,” she recalls, the words coloured with memories of a difficult journey. It’s not easy to believe that someone with so many industry accolades, Natasha was actually a slow starter. “I wasn’t even qualified until I was 28!” she exclaims. Like many people “back in the day”, Natasha was encouraged to find a trade as an alternative to high school. Natasha’s Aunt invited her to work in her salon after school, washing hair and helping out. Many hairstylists point to this experience as the ‘eureka’ moment, when they first discover their lifelong passion. “Not for me. It wasn’t my first choice,” Natasha admits, “I actually wasn’t very good at it.” Hampered with self-confidence issues, and a skill set that Natasha felt was not up to scratch, she tried to leave the hairdressing industry. “I went to the freezing works!” she laughs.
"Here’s what makes the difference. It’s about attitude. You have to be someone who wants to grow. To push yourself a bit more. To risk failing. As a hairstylist you have to care, and care a little more. Our whole job is essentially about making people feel better.”
But, as all good stories go, there was a twist. Unsatisfied with her career change, Natasha decided to dive head first back into the hairdressing industry, opening her own salon. “I realised if I really wanted to take this seriously, I first had to get myself certified” So, already 13 years into her hairdressing career, Natasha finally qualified as a hairstylist. “At the heart of why it took me so long to qualify was a lack of confidence. This is an issue for a lot of people, but I now understand that hairdressing is a teachable skill to everyone. But,” Natasha pauses, taking a breath. “Here’s what makes the difference. It’s about attitude. You have to be someone who wants to grow. To push yourself a bit more. To risk failing. As a hairstylist you have to care, and care a little more. Our whole job is essentially about making people feel better.”
Motivated by this realisation, Natasha put philosophy into practice and decided to throw herself into competition work. “Competing naturally makes you better, because you’re trying new things, extending yourself. Ultimately you learn that you’re capable of things you thought you weren’t.” It would be easy to think competition work came easily to Natasha, but she’s quick to offer a reality check. “During the first photo shoot I did, I realised I wasn’t good enough for what I wanted to achieve. I needed to hunt out the skills required to get all of the things that were floating around my head out.” There was no magic formula for success. Natasha just kept practising. “I found that if I kept doing it, I would eventually get there. The confidence I have even since 5 years ago is x10 fold”.
“There’s no way I could have stacked the votes, I’m from Invercargill!”
Those 5 years in particular have seen Natasha reap the rewards of her mindset. For the People’s Choice Award at Hair Expo Australia 2017, industry peers voted for whose collection they like the most out of an exclusive selection. Knowing the win was truly organic was a reward in itself. “There’s no way I could have stacked the votes, I’m from Invercargill!” she laughs. It proved to Natasha that no matter where you’re from, if you work for it you can win it. “What I love about what I do is that it inspires others to give it a go,” she says, earnest in her belief. “Before I won that award, it seemed to be untouchable for a stylist from my background. But someone from Invercargill took out the prize - you don’t have to be a superstar.”
Now, Natasha has turned her attention to the next part in her story. Her Invercargill salon, Fred’s, was a phenomenal success, she had won the awards she had set her sights on. When James and Lynden, owners of Vivo Hair & Beauty, offered her the role of Southland Regional Manager, she jumped at the chance. “I’d been in touch with James and Lynden a bit over the years. I’ve picked their brains over industry topics; I respect them and what they’re trying to achieve and establish. They’re doing things differently.” Earlier this year, Natasha merged Freds into the Vivo group of salons, and is taking her whole team on this new journey. “Ours has been an unregulated industry, and I admire that the team behind Vivo are raising the standard. I want to support that. They have revolutionised the standards in training and education.” What does she think has made the biggest difference? “Great hairdressers are getting paid their worth in this company. I think hairstylists need to get more savvy about their business. Within Vivo, you can earn what you’re worth as a hairstylist without any of the stress of salon ownership. Why wouldn’t I want to be part of that? This is the future of our industry”.
And for someone who knows how to mould her career, it’s no surprise that we find Natasha King riding up front in this new chapter of NZ hairdressing.
Headway Magazine Winter 2019
By Tereze Taber