Road To NAHA – Sierra’s Journey


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For the past several months, students from both GJA campuses participated in photo shoots to prepare their entries for the North American Hairstyling Awards.  NAHA is an iconic photographic beauty competition where the industry elite compete on a national level.  During this process, students had the opportunity to work with a professional photographer as well as a variety of guest artists who serve as mentors.

Of all the students who participated, one student’s collection of work was selected to enter the Student Hairstylist of the Year competition and represent Gene Juarez Academy.  Congratulations to Sierra Perry, North Seattle Campus student, for her outstanding achievement.  We recently asked Sierra about her experience leading up to entering the competition.

What made you decide to participate in the NAHA Student Hairstylist of the Year competition?

When I first heard about the competition I was so ecstatic that Gene Juarez Academy was going to provide this opportunity; I knew I had to participate. It not only seemed like an amazing opportunity and learning experience but also seemed like an incredible creative outlet to allow me to further myself as a student stylist.

How does it feel to be the only student selected to represent GJA in the competition?

It feels surreal. I have been working on these individual photo shoots for months and to finally see it all come together and to finally realize I actually have a shot at this national competition is nearly enough to bring me to tears. I feel so honored to have the opportunity to represent Gene Juarez Academy in this way.

What inspired you to focus your theme around Alice In Wonderland?

Ever since I was young, I have always loved Alice in Wonderland and when the new movie was released a few years ago I fell in love all over again. The way they turned the cartoon I remembered as a child into this almost dark mystic world full of bright color and brilliant exaggeration hooked me all over again. In the past and even to this day I have tended to weave Alice in Wonderland into my life, I have decorations, posters, trinkets, and even a couple shirts in my collection. So when this opportunity arose and I was seeking inspiration, naturally my mind slowly wandered towards Wonderland.

I knew I needed something unique and thought provoking but I also had to be able to draw three separate inspirations from one theme in order to tie all of my photo shoots together. Slowly but surely I became aware that my theme would most definitely be one of my most beloved childhood stories. I knew it would be the perfect way for me to put a piece of myself into my work, it’s the love and passion that you put into your work that truly makes it come to life. Choosing Alice in Wonderland as my theme sparked my passion and provided the inspiration I needed for the styles I created.

How did you go about selecting your model, hairstyles, costumes & makeup?

When it came to finding a model my absolutely stunning cousin, Grace, was my first thought. I knew she had a ridiculous amount of healthy beautiful hair plus she was a little younger than models of past winners so I thought it might possibly catch the judges attention.

When it came to the hairstyles, I have always enjoyed the classic Victorian style so I spent some hours online looking more in depth at Victorian era hair and decided it would mesh perfectly with my Alice in Wonderland theme. Lastly costumes and makeup; I used inspiration from the newest Alice in Wonderland movie along with my own personal style and taste to create my own creative version of the characters.

What did you learn from working with Miguel during the photo shoots & selection process? 

Miguel is an amazing photographer and stylist. I had never worked with a professional photographer or done photo shoots before so Miguel really supported me and showed me different ways of looking at things in the fashion world. He is such a joy to work with and really helped me find my confidence in what I was doing. He taught me so much about positioning your model and just the little things you can do in a photo shoot to really achieve that perfect look you’re envisioning. In just the short time I was able to work with him I feel he helped me grow as an artist and stylist.

How has your education at GJA prepared you for this experience?

Without the education I have received from GJA this would not have been possible. I have been so lucky to have such an amazing education as well as phenomenal educators who truly want me to succeed and who push me to do and be better everyday. I have learned so much during my time spent at GJA and with that knowledge, I was able to enter this competition feeling confident and prepared.

What advice would you give to students who wish to participate next year?

My best advise would be to just do it! I watched so many students either talk themselves out of doing it or just not apply themselves. It is such an amazing opportunity to learn and to grow as a stylist. This experience helped me find confidence and feel closer to being ready to take on the fashion and hair industry once I graduate.

Once you graduate & are licensed, what are your plans?

Once I am graduated and licensed I plan on working in a salon for a few years to gain some needed experience. I then plan on moving to California to attend Cinema Makeup School and complete their master makeup program; once I have finished that I will then pursue a career in editorial and fantasy hair and makeup.

If selected as a finalist, Sierra will attend the NAHA ceremony, which is the main attraction of the Professional Beauty week in Las Vegas this July.  We are extremely proud of Sierra & wish her all the best!

Learn more about NAHA