After hosting a highly successful virtual awards ceremony for the past two years, the 34th annual Contessa Awards—the Canadian Hairstylist of the Year Awards—will be returning to a live, in-person gala on Sunday, November 20 at the Westin Harbour Castle in Toronto. Renowned as the largest and most prestigious professional beauty competition in Canada, the Contessas feature 24 award categories, live red-carpet interviews and exciting (and Instagrammable!) sponsor activations. We chatted with Salon magazine editorial director Veronica Boodhan to learn more. —Noa Nichol
Hi Veronica! Please tell us a bit about yourself to start.
My name is Veronica Boodhan and I’ve been working in media for more than 10 years. I’m the Editorial Director for Salon—Canada’s most requested magazine for beauty professionals. We publish nine print issues per year in both English and French, and I oversee all our print and digital platforms. Salon is also the producers of the Contessa Awards, which is Canada’s longest-running competition for beauty professionals.
For those who don’t know, what are the Contessa Awards and how long have they been running?
Founded in 1988, the Contessa Awards include 24 photo-based categories that recognize leading and emerging hairstylists, colourists, makeup and nail artists. Entries are evaluated by an independent judging panel of global beauty industry experts on originality, creativity, technical execution and on-trend appeal. Photography, makeup and wardrobe are also factored into the judging process. The Contessas are highly regarded worldwide for celebrating excellence and setting the gold standard for the professional beauty industry.
After two years’ worth of virtual ceremonies, the Contessa Awards are back to a live, in- person gala! How excited is everyone about this, and what are the details of the event?
We’re absolutely thrilled to be returning to our live, in-person format that unites the professional beauty industry from across Canada and around the world. There’s nothing that can compare to the face-to-face connection and camaraderie in our community, and we’re so grateful to host a platform that fosters these bonds within the industry.
Who is this year’s host?
We’re happy to have TV personality and Toronto-based hairstylist Bill Rowley returning as our host. Bill knows the beauty industry and the Contessas so well, so it wouldn’t have been the same without him this year.
Beyond the usual 24 award categories (Avant Garde Hairstylist, Canadian Nail Artist, Makeup Artist, International Hairstylist, Canadian Colourist, Canadian Hairstylist, etc.), please tell us about the newest category, Collaboration.
Collaboration is our newest award category that encourages Canadian hairstylists and colourists who work out of different salons/locations to combine their skill sets and work together on a creative photo shoot. We know there are many friendships within the industry, and people who would love the opportunity to work together. After the past two years of lockdowns and restrictions, we thought it was the perfect time to introduce a new category that promotes the fact that we’re better together.
Any noteworthy nominees you can tell us about?
We have many finalists who are noteworthy! To name a few, we have Tony Ricci from Edmonton, Alta., and Michelle Pargee from Sechelt, B.C., who are two of our most decorated Contessa winners to-date. We also have four powerhouse women—Rossa Jurenas, Dana Lyseng, Joan Novak and Chelsea Sutherland—who are competing for Master Colourist of the Year. Plus, we have last year’s Emerging Hairstylist winner, Robynn Graham from Innisfil, Ont., who’s up for Canadian hairstylist—our big award of the night—which is an incredible feat. In addition, we have a wide range of finalists from across the country who are past winners and have gone on to become artists and educators for some of the industry’s leading brands.
What are some of the exciting (and Instagrammable!) on-stage presentations, sponsor activations we can look forward to seeing at/from the event?
We have two spectacular stage presentations from our presenting sponsors, Matrix and Wella Company. They’re both led by their top Canadian talent and teams, which is fantastic! We also have an exclusive show opener from multi-Contessa winner, Norm Wright, which is sure to inspire. During our pre-show cocktail party, we’ll have interactive activations from our Contessa gold sponsors that include a 360-degree photo booth, candy bar, etc. New this year is our neon-themed Contessa after-party, Glow, which is sponsored by Schwarzkopf Professional and will be held on-site at the Westin Harbour Castle in Toronto. It’s going to be a night to remember!
Who can attend, and where can they get tickets?
The Contessa Awards is all about uniting and celebrating beauty professionals and is open to anyone who is currently working in (or may be interested in working in) the professional beauty industry. Our community has been greatly impacted by the lockdowns and restrictions during the pandemic, so this is our time to be together again and celebrate our industry’s strength and resiliency. Tickets are available now on Eventbrite.