A search for NZ's top hair stylist

Last updated 10:54 02/08/2013
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WHAT IT TAKES: 1999's supreme winner by Chad Gray and 2011's supreme winner by Armie Aninion Avillanosa.

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LIFE CHANGER: Penny Ainsley (right) says winning the competition sealed her career as a stylist.

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Penny Ainsley isn't a natural show pony, but she's not shy and retiring, either.

Even so, the exposure she got after being named 2003's L'Oreal Professionnel Hairdresser of the Year was overwhelming.

"Being in the spotlight like that was pretty amazing," she says. "It took quite some time to come back down to earth."

Picked from the more than 400 entries submitted by stylists around the country, Penny won a top-prize package (including a trip to Paris and London) worth $5000 as well as publicity and media training then estimated at about $30,000.

It stood her in good stead. Not long after winning the trophy, she opened her own salon - Ainsley's - close to Auckland's Remuera. It's since been re-located to an exposed brick and high-stud loft down the road in Newmarket.

"The competition really gave me the opportunity to push a few creative boundaries," Penny says. "I think that's why it's so important to hair stylists. It really brings the industry together. I got to work alongside all my peers, especially the people I had looked up to for years.

Now in its 20th year, the L'Oreal Colour Trophy is one of the beauty industry's most anticipated events. Finalists will initially be judged on the strength of photographic portfolios, but also have to recreate their look on the day of the event itself, February 22 next year.

The judges - New Zealand-born Brad Ngata and Australians Damian Rinaldo and Caterina DeBiase - will be looking for Kiwi hairdressers who "create beautiful hair, demonstrate a superb attention-grabbing cut, inspired hairstyling and finish, and an overall look of fashion and makeup".

Entries for this year's awards open today, August 1, and close October 31.

Fairfax's Sunday Magazine is also involved in the event, with the Sunday Magazine Style Award. Judges for this award are looking for a particularly fashion-forward entry.

- Keen to enter? Call 0800 657 666 for more

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