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Morris stylist wins national student competition

MORRIS – Erin Romero always has enjoyed styling hair.

When she was little, it was giving her mother a funky style and sometimes getting the brush stuck in it. As she grew up, she loved doing her friends’ hair and makeup, and now as a grown-up stylist, Romero, of Morris, just received a national honor.

She is the first-place winner of The Salon Professional Academy North American Hair Styling Award, in the student category of contemporary classic. She participated in the competition while a student at the Salon Professional Academy in Shorewood last fall and found out last week she got the big honor.

“When they told me I was in the finals,” she said, “I was just shocked. I didn’t think it would go past that.”

Then her teacher called her and told her she made it through the finals all the way to the national winner.

“I was kind of freaked out,” Romero said.

For her prize, she gets a trip to New York City and classes with Chris Barron, international artistic director at the Redken Exchange Fifth Avenue. She’s taking her teacher, Shannon Doti, with her.

“Erin just shined,” Salon Professional Academy teacher Jill Kaczmarek-Caauwe said. “She always had a drive and is super creative and very inspirational to the other students.”

Not every student enters the competition, but Romero jumped at it.

“It’s beautiful,” her teacher said of Romero’s entry. “It’s polished. It’s a look for a modern woman today.”

Romero’s winning style included hair and makeup. The look she chose is 1940s movie star allure.

“I knew I wanted to do something that was old Hollywood glam,” she said. “I really like that style.”

The look had to be something that was wearable, she said, and it had to be done all in one day at the school. She chose her niece Kelsey Walker, also of Morris, as her model.

“She had long, beautiful hair, and I thought, oh, there’s so much I can do with this,” Romero said.

She began with the cut, up to Walker’s mid-back, then colored her ash blond hair a rich brown with subtle highlights. Styling to get the vintage waves involved a big-barrel iron, then the curls were pinned up to let them set. The hair was then teased, combed out and molded in place with hair spray.

“It was such a simple, elegant look that I didn’t expect to win,” she said.

It may have looked simple, but achieving it was not. It was an all-day process including the classy makeup and the photographs.

Romero was happy with the sultry Hollywood look at the end of the day, but her model wasn’t quite as thrilled. She didn’t like to be all “dolled up,” Romero said.

Walker, 21, said it was a long day, but it also was fun and a chance for her and her aunt Erin to catch up.

“I’m really proud of her,” Walker said of Romero winning. “She’s artistic. I think she did a great job.”

The judges apparently loved it too, and Romero was glad she made the decision to enter the competition.

“I did it for the experience and to have awesome pictures in my portfolio,” she said. “I never, never expected to win.”

Romero won in the contemporary classic student category. The other categories were color, texture and makeup. She received her diploma from the academy and is scheduled to take the state boards for her license next week. Meanwhile, she’s working as a guest coordinator at the Bolingbrook Ulta.

Doing hair is a lifelong learning process, she said, which is something that thrills her. The variety of the work and the changing trends keep her interested. Plus, every haircut is different, she said. In school, she learned finger angles, layering and several techniques, but each client will be a little different, even if the same style is used.

“I love cutting hair,” she said. “There’s so much you can do. Every little snip makes a big difference.”

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