I met Ilona about 7 years ago.
I was in my best friend’s bridal party and I needed someone to do my hair, because my Mother was going to be in Italy at the time of the wedding.
From the moment we met at my consultation – we clicked. She also reminds me of one of my cousins – so I felt like I knew her already!
She is passionate about what she does and her career has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years.
Here is her story.
Hair Stylist. Entrepreneur. Visual Artist. Salon Owner.
You have been riding a major high over the past five years, but let’s start from the beginning. When did your passion for the hair industry begin?
From a young age I showed interest in hair, makeup and fashion. However, it wasn’t until my roommates photographer friend asked me to do hair and makeup for a photo shoot, that I got that feeling that drove me to pursue it as a career.
I’ll never forget it, I was going to art school when we did the shoot. The model was posing on a womb chair worth more than I had in my bank account and right then and there I thought – Wow, I want to do photo shoots all the time. Within a month I was registered for the hair styling program at the Ottawa Academy School of hair styling and beauty esthetics.
In 2015, you won gold for Canada in the Color Vision category at the North American Trend Vision Awards (NATVA) in Las Vegas – making history as the first Ottawa Stylist to make it to the international level. How was that experience — seeing the photo of your look hanging from the rafters and being surrounded by artist from all around the world.
It’s hard to put into words, but I felt an amazing sense of gratitude and excitement when they announced my name.
I was humbled to be amongst so much talent.
I worked very hard to set myself up for success, so being recognized for something that I created gave me a sense of accomplishment and confidence that I was where I was meant to be.
As part of winning gold at NATVA you were invited to participate at New York Fashion Week, as a hair stylist, for American designer Phillip Lim. Tell us about that experience?
It was a whirlwind adventure and a dream come true. It was everything I hoped for and more. Our key stylist was Paul Hanlon and I had the honour to work alongside Aubrey Loots, Claudio Lazo, Shirley Gordon, Katie Manselle and Anthony Crossfield. I couldn’t find a team with more talent if I tried, and they made me feel like I belonged. The venue was an old storage warehouse called Pier 94 by the docks in Manhattan and the runway had these huge piles of soil everywhere for the models to navigate around.
Backstage there were photographers taking pictures, people everywhere, a sort of calm chaos just buzzing. Anna Wintour was in attendance as well as Solange Knowles and a few cast members from “Girls” from what I could see.
Meeting Philip Lim was brief, but watching him adjust all the models wardrobe, speaking with Paul about the hair, and just seeing the attention to detail and the passion behind it all had me on cloud nine.
I felt so lucky to have been even a small part of something so huge.
You own a successful business in a tough and competitive industry. This year you have been nominated for the Businesswoman of The Year Awards. How does it feel to be recognized for this part of your career?
I feel like even though this is a competitive and saturated industry, as long as you find what makes you unique and make it the best you can, you’ll stand out and be successful. Being recognized as a finalist in the BYA’s is huge for me I feel honoured and humbled, but I certainly couldn’t have gotten here alone.
My support group should be given as much credit for this achievement. Having surrounded myself with like minded and inspiring people is what keeps me going.
Color: Ilona | Cut + Styling: Savanna
This year you will be celebrating the 5th year anniversary of Jet Black Hair & Studio. I think you have done an amazing job building a strong brand – from the esthetics of the salon to the website. What was the initial inspiration for the salon?
Thank you! It is kind of crazy to think that we will be 5 this year. I should probably plan a party or something!
My initial inspiration for the salon was all about making a space that I felt excited to be in, and as a means to connect with and ‘add’ to the community. I wanted to do something that was different from what I was seeing everywhere and I wanted to share it with others so they could feel like they were having a new kind of experience. Everyone that walks through the door always comments on how good it feels in the shop, like there are some good vibes happening.
What inspires you as an artist?
As an artist I am inspired by so many things. It could be a song, a piece of fabric, a painting or a dream. I’m driven to create something when I want to see it materialize or come to life and to see if I can actually do it.
The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves. – Steven Spielberg
As a Stylist, you have enjoyed a great deal of success both behind the chair and as an editorial artist. Now you are taking on the role of a leader. How have you embraced your role as mentor?
I see the role of mentor as a big responsibility, I try to lead by example, and nurture the talents I see in my staff. Each of them have unique strengths and weaknesses, so I watch and listen carefully in order to help them reach their true potential.
Along with being a Stylist, salon owner, mentor – you are also a mother. How do you balance it all?
Well you said it, balance.
I see my life as a moving pie chart and I’m super sensitive to when stuff gets out of balance. I feel most at peace when I’m getting enough time to do things just for me, like pottery class, going to the gym and spending time with my friends and loved ones.
What is your favorite way to pamper yourself?
I love going to the Spa Nordik, or getting a facial or pedicure. There is also something really satisfying in making myself a really delicious meal paired with a nice glass of red wine.
If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?
Wow how can I answer that?!! There are so many amazing places in the world, but I think it would have to be exploring a new city in Europe on bikes with my husband.
Finally give us three words that describe you best.