Michael Beel - Stylist Extraordinaire!

Well it has been quite a year for Wellington Stylist Michael Beel, after taking out ‘Mens Stylist of the Year’ at the Industry awards in February, he was awarded ‘NZ Hairdresser of the Year’ at the Hair Expo Awards in June! We were proud to be part of the audience that witnessed that very special occasion when Michael accepted his pinnacle award on stage at the Star Event Centre in Sydney. We chatted with Michael recently to find out just a little bit more about him and his career.

What made you take up Hairdressing as a career and how did you get started?

I was in my third year of studying Marketing and Psychology at Otago University. I was in getting my haircut and my hairdresser offered me a part time job sweeping floors, shampooing etc. and needing more beer money I took the job. I ended up loving the salon environment and enjoyed seeing clients walk out with a sparkle in their eyes so I phoned mum and dad and said I’m dropping out of Uni and taking an apprenticeship at $5 an hour and I haven’t looked back.

What would you say was the single most important thing you have learned over the years?

Communication! Hands down this is the single biggest thing I’ve learnt… not only understanding and communicating the client needs and wants, but communicating to your team to help deliver and create ultimate team work and this applies in the salon, on a shoot or show. Prompt email responses can mean working on a show or being kicked off the team.

If you were to start out all over again, what would you do different?

I wouldn’t do anything differently. Each chapter or event in my career has taught me something or introduced me to some amazing people. If anything I would of paid a little more attention in finger waving and braiding classes at polytechnic. My club like hands struggle with these so I would love to have mastered those skills earlier.

Who has been the most influential person in your life?

In my life I would have to say my Mum. She taught me that never give up and she was the most hardest working person I know. A single mum raising 6 kids on minimum wage. We had it tough but the love and laughter in the house was amazing and we always had a full belly… hello look at me hahaha. Losing her a few years ago suddenly broke all our hearts.

In my career it has been Derek Elvy, who taught me precision cutting, some great avant garde hair techniques and to think outside the box. My first ever photoshoot was before retouching and digital were mainstream shooting on film and no retouching taught me to make sure the hair was perfect before the camera clicked. I still don’t like retouching hair too much. Also his mind still boggles me sometimes when he starts to get on an artistic tangent.

When you look at international hairdressing icons, whom do you admire?

Guido, Sam McKnight, Luigi Murenu and Anthony Turner. All for different reasons. Editorial hair has become a more recent passion of mine and these guys are masters. Sam is technically brilliant, Luigi is a big hair man and I LOVE big hair, Anthony Turner has a slightly more darker feel and seeing him present in Barcelona was a true highlight in my career! As for Guido… what can I say… that man is amazing!!!!!

What is in your Tool-bag at the moment?

I have 3 large suitcases full of wigs, hairpieces, pins, curling tongs etc. that I edit depending on the show or shoot I’m working on. But my favourite two products on rotation are KY Jelly…yes the lubricant! It creates a wet high sheen look that lasts for hours and saves you wetting the model every 2 minutes and L’Oréal’s Crépage de Chignon, a dry texturising spray to help get volume and a beachy dirty feel in the hair.

What have you learnt from travelling overseas and working on fashion shows?

Team work… you are just a cog in the wheel of fashion and listening and chipping in where needed is essential. Egos and being a diva won’t be tolerated. I have flown all the way to New York Fashion Week for a ponytail and stood there passing up clips and elastic. But the artistic and skill level of the lead hairdressers are beyond and watching and keeping your wits about you, you learn so much.

Besides the hair, what is the main thing to get right when organising a photographic collection?

Hair should be way down the list…. The team is the main thing to get right! First get the best photographer and models you can afford, then a makeup artist and stylist that you can talk your concept/ideas though and then you can start thinking about the hair.

Hairdressers tend to take too much control on a shoot… make the outfit, style the hair do the makeup and I’ve even seen some be the model as well??? Allow the people that are trained in their creative field to do their job. If you have a great team and communicated your idea and brief to them well they can bring their take on the concept and take it to a whole new level.

Winning ‘Hair Expo NZ Hairdresser of the Year’ is the ultimate accolade, how did it feel when your name was called out?

Initially it was so surreal walking up on the stage and giving my acceptance speech. Admittedly once the champagne headache wore off it took a few days for it to sink in.

You are an inspiration to many young stylists all around the country, what would you like to say to them? 

Put your hand up and assist with anyone coming to educate in your area and look outside your salon and town. Exposing yourself to as many hairdressers and fashion people will help your mind grow. Become a sponge… absorb and educate yourself on everything.

What does the future hold for Michael Beel?

The near future sees me working at NZFW, doing an online 4 month mentoring programme with the amazing Sam McKnight starting in September, which I’m super excited about! I still plan to motivate and inspire other hairdressers through education and creating avenues for collaboration. Leading my team and doing editorial work with the likes of Fashion Quarterly will still be a focus.