I first came across the Pulp Riot brand in 2017. I was scrolling through Instagram late one night and saw a post by @hairbykaseyoh. She had created this beautiful rainbow on teal masterpiece that just stuck in my brain. So much so that when I went looking for this image in 2020 I recognized it immediately (thank GOD for Instagram Explore). I didn’t know anything about the brand and I didn’t intend on doing any research. I wasn’t even thinking about doing hair at this point. I was on a waitlist for treatment at Credit Valley Hospital for my eating disorder. I still believed that I was going to be a child and youth care worker. Learning about hair and hair products was the least of my concerns. My dream at that point was to become a specialist in the school board working with children on the autism spectrum.
I attended the ABA show at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in April 2019 as a student through Marca College (students get discounts on their tickets!). There, I met two amazing artists, @watermelonyhair and @michaellevinehair, and had the pleasure of watching them work on the floor of the convention, as well as doing a live hair show. I’d be lying if I wasn’t a bit starstruck meeting two artists who were talented enough to A) work with Pulp Riot, and B) be asked to do a live hair show. The show itself was amazing. The room went dark and silent, all to be disturbed by loud music and a screen displaying ‘PULP RIOT’. The models came out followed by a team of artists and the magic began. The energy in the room was pulsing as they worked to create different styles on their models and it was captivating – truly the moment I fell in love with Pulp Riot.
I spent the next few months after the ABA show researching Pulp Riot and all about the brand (Did you know that Pulp Riot is completely vegan and created from quinoa?). I spent hours watching educational videos on the pulp riot website to learn anything I could about their products and their techniques, in hopes that maybe one day I would be able to work with the brand. I dedicated myself to learning about colour theory (and I still have SO much more to learn) and created my own brand to stand out amongst my peers. I exhausted my google search of Pulp Riot events in my area in an attempt to learn more from Pulp Riot artists.
Then one day, I saw a post on Bunz from a woman searching for hair models for a show – for PULP FREAKING RIOT. So of course, I emailed her with my headshot, crossed my fingers, and hoped for a miracle.
I genuinely did not expect to ever hear back from anyone in regards to the hair show. I expected the show to go on as normal without me. As you can assume, however, by the title of this post I did in fact get an email back saying that I had been selected as a model for the 2020 Contessa Award Show. Getting that email was so validating – to have been chosen amongst who knows how many other people to model for this company’s award presentation was truly an honour. I was so happy, I almost cried. This was my opportunity to get to know Pulp Riot artists and to observe them work. As a student, I’m always trying to absorb as much information as I can so I tried to take this as a learning opportunity.
When I arrived at the L’oreal Academy, I had no idea what to expect. How long would I be here? How many models are there? What were they going to do to my hair? Most importantly, what artists are going to be involved? Imagine my excitement when I see @watermelonyhair and @michaellevinehair walk through the door alongside @hairbykaseyoh and the founders of Pulp Riot, @davidthurstonofficial and @alexisbutterflyloft. I was beyond excited to have the opportunity to watch the whole team work and transform 12 models for the final runway the next day. They went to work assessing each model’s hair, which stylist work be working with which model, and what the goal for each model would be, as quick as possible to make sure that everyone’s hair was done at a reasonable time. I got the pleasure of working with Michael Levine, a talented hairstylist from B.C, who chose to keep the warm tones from my orange in my hair (I wanted green, but let’s be real – orange is my colour). I admire how hard Michael and the rest of the Pulp Riot Team worked all day.
The next day, we arrived early at the Westin Harbour Castle to prepare for the final runway later that night. The stylists got to work styling the hair they had coloured the previous day and if I wasn’t starstruck before, well damn, I was now. They worked together truly as a team to complete every model according to the artists’ vision. Rainbow hollywood waves, neon bowlcuts, purple braids, shaved heads – you name it and they created it. It was fascinating to see such a combination of knowledge coming together to create such beautiful art. We actually had way too much time to prepare. We had so much spare time that fellow models @mintywhoreos, @laurenwymant, and I actually found a couch and a couple chairs and decided to have a nap. I think we spent almost two hours curled up in a random hallway of the hotel before another model eventually came and found us for makeup and wardrobe.
The hardest part of the entire experience was wardrobe. I am not a fan of crop tops and mini skirts. I do not like to expose. I’m incredibly insecure about my body and all I could think about while they were dressing me was “they’re going to think I’m fat and ask me to leave.” I completely believed that my body would be the determining factor of whether or not they wanted me on that stage with them. I was sure that they would tell me that I looked horrible in the outfits they had chosen for everyone to wear and I nearly let those thoughts ruin the entire experience for me. Believe it or not, wearing that crop top and mini skirt on the runway in front of all those people turned out to be my favourite part of the entire experience. It was so empowering to allow all of those deep, dark terrible thoughts to stay in the shadows as the spotlight hit me. On that stage, I felt more beautiful and more badass than I have in my entire life. I didn’t need anyone else’s validation to believe that either. I genuinely believed I was beautiful.
I am honestly so grateful, as a hairstylist early in my career, to have the opportunity to witness artists perform in this capacity. It’s inspiring and humbling, as each of the artists admitted that there is always room for growth. So often, I struggle with this idea of whether or not I’m talented enough to actually achieve what I want, and this experience really taught me that no matter how talented I am, there will always be doubt. I remember meeting @watermelonyhair for the first time at the ABA show in 2019 and she was so nervous, she came off the stage asking if she had been okay. I think we all experience self-doubt and it doesn’t matter how many people tell you that you’re amazing: you really have to believe it for yourself. Melony, if you’re reading (which, by the way would be the bomb.com [thank you for your presence on my blog]) I hope you know how truly talented you are. I hope to one day have the talent and passion that you have for what you do. You are amazing and I hope that I get the opportunity to work with you in any capacity. Honestly, even sweeping your studio floor would be an honour. You’re a light and I know all of your clients know that as well. Thank you for being you and for making an impact in my life. To Michael, thank you for helping me feel beautiful in a time where I felt like garbage. You are such an amazing human and I can’t thank you enough for helping me to transform my view of myself. Thank you for being honest about your own fears and anxieties – I admire vulnerability – and for teaching me that only by being honest with your fears will you overcome them.
All in all, my experience modelling with Pulp Riot was life-changing. I was in a dark place in my life, having just started treatment for my eating disorder at Toronto General Hospital, and this experience gave me light. This experience validated everything that I had been working so hard for, both personally and professionally. Working with Pulp Riot taught me that everyone is capable of self-doubt and that we’re capable of validating ourselves. This was definitely one of the best experiences of my life. Pulp Riot, thank you for the opportunity to model for you. One day, I’m going to work for you. I’m determined.