Cementing her position as one of the best hairdressers in the country, celebrated hair stylist, Michelle Thompson was named as this year’s Afro Hairdresser of the Year at HJ’s British Hairdressing Awards 2018, which took place at a glittering ceremony at Grosvenor House in London last week.
This is the third time she has held this honour, following closely in the footsteps of Hair Lounge’s Charlotte Mensah. Michelle, from Francesco Group in Birmingham, claimed the title in front of 1,750 hairdressing greats alongside host and TV celebrity, Rylan Clark-Neale.
We sat down with Michelle in the aftermath of her big win to find out more about her inspirations and journey in hairdressing so far.
Why did you decide on a career in hairdressing?
To be honest, my mom wasn’t the best with my hair to be fair. When I was growing up, I thought to myself that I needed to take care of my own hair. I started doing my hair when I was at school and I noticed that older people would always ask me, “Ooh, where did you get your hair done?”, etc. and they’d ask me, “Can you do mine?”. Of course, I wasn’t a hairdresser, I was obviously still at school, and I’d not had any training in it, but I thought I’ll give it a try and I realised, “I’m quite good at this”. I managed to get some work experience at school, and this involved one week in an office, you know, doing administration work and then the following week in a hairdressing salon. I thrived in the salon part. Following my work experience I was offered a role in the salon and things kind of started from there.
How did it feel to win Afro Hairdresser of the Year for the third time?
It was great. Initially, at the beginning of the year, I wasn’t going to enter, but then people were saying, “Michelle, you must enter, etc”, so I gave it some thought and decided “Why not, why the heck not?” The process reminds me of when I was back at school. I loved doing art and the process is like that. It’s not only about hair, it’s coming up with a concept that everyone will appreciate. I feel that I’m kind of good at bringing my ideas to life. So, fusing the two together [ideas and hair] obviously creates a collection. I wanted to keep it simple and just focus on hair, which I think the collection captured. It’s not about the clothes, it’s not about the make-up, it’s about the diversity and different textures of Afro hair.
Can you talk us through your collection for this year’s awards?
I looked at current trends with hair and obviously we’re going through a stage at the moment where people have started to embrace their natural texture, which I absolutely love, you know. Obviously in all the years that I’ve been doing hairdressing, everybody’s kind of had relaxers and things like that, but now people are embracing their curls and want to know how to work with their hair and it was those clients and these current trends that inspired my actual collection. Yes, there’s still waves and wigs within the collection, but that is still part of protective styling, you know, that’s what a lot of clients are wanting. They wish to protect their hair but it’s about not forgetting what’s underneath.
How can people book you to do their hair?
I’m based at the Birmingham Francesco Group Salon and Academy. I am responsible for a lot of teaching and courses within the group, so my time to do actual hair is quite limited. I only do like two days. But clients contact me by calling the salon and booking a consultation.
Have you got any plans to open your own salon at some point?
I have always said I would love to actually open my little academy and salon, simply because I remember when I was doing my training, there weren’t many facilities available to actually learn how to do Afro hair, even down to getting a proper qualification in the UK, it’s very difficult, there aren’t many colleges that offer that qualification and if they do, it’s like an extended qualification or unit that they add on to your standard NVQ Level I, II or III. I always feel education is key. I know hair inside and out, textures, the capabilities of what you can do with hair and it’s always been a passion of mine to empower and educate others to understand what they’re actually working with, to get the best out of it. So, probably sometime in the future, I would definitely like to have a hair academy.
What are sort of the trends we can expect to see in Afro hair in the next couple of years?
I can see the natural hair movement getting stronger, I really can. It’s great to see so many women embracing their curls and kinks and coils and you know, just working with it. The Afro is back but in many different shapes, you know, many different styles, whether it’s all short or all long.
What celebrity client would be on your hair wish list?
One person that I would love to work with is Meghan Markle. Absolutely, getting that textured hair, you know, and working with it. Her hair never looks a mess or anything like that, but I’d love to see it with curls, I really, really would, with her natural texture. Another person that I would love to work with would be Oprah and that is just because I think she’s just a woman of the world, who’s got just so many stories to tell and you know, just kind of sitting and chatting with her, would be amazing.
Outside of hair, what are some of your passions?
That is a thing. It sounds really, really sad but my life really does revolve around hair. I do like having quality time with my partner and you know, obviously some of those days are obviously priceless, but with me being so busy [pauses], luckily I’ve got a partner who understands, and obviously pushes and supports me with what I do, but it is just kind of taking a breather to be honest and enjoying just being at home.