Sam Villa Gives a Glimpse at Life on the Road


Sam Villa preps models backstage

Sam Villa preps models backstage

A lot of hairdressers would like to travel the world educating other stylists. Working with Redken, I have the opportunity to do this frequently, and I would certainly encourage any talented cutter or colorist to try to become a manufacturer’s artist if that’s where your interest lies. I’ll give you a taste of what it’s like, and you can judge for yourself whether it would be a good fit for you.

It’s pretty hectic. We conduct a full Redken Symposium at various spots around the globe, and when I arrive just a day or two in advance, I don’t even have the models yet. Generally the first thing I do is get together with the staff of the Redken distributor in the host country for a pre-show meeting. I hold a second meeting with the team of hairdressers and the technical people—lighting, sound—and walk them through the whole staging of the show. After that, we cast the models from among those sent to us by a local agency. Sometimes we find people on the street to cast, too. I’m very honest about what we’ll be doing, so we line up only those models who agree to the cuts we intend to do. The model casting alone can take several hours.

I normally travel with a colorist, and we tend to present two types of education: a hands-on classroom workshop and an entertaining stage show. Prepping the models can easily turn into a 14-hour day. We divide them according to whether we’ll use them for the cutting class, coloring class or nighttime “spectacular.†In the nighttime show I try to be very theatrical and demonstrate some interesting techniques rather than go into detailed cutting instruction. So the presentation models who will be on stage must be precut and precolored, and we also rehearse the makeup looks and do wardrobe fittings.

The next day, the hairdressers who attend are split into two groups, with one group learning color in the morning while I have the other group for cutting and styling, and then in the afternoon we switch. We call this seminar “Look and Learn,†and sometimes we don’t finish up until after 5pm. Then we still have to stage the main event! Depending on the facility, the crew may have to rush to break down the classroom setting and set up for the show in the same room. Sometimes, we don’t start a real rehearsal with the models until early evening. I’ve found that audiences are very patient. When I was performing in Chile last year, we had some locally famous illusionists open for us at 8:30pm, and we were supposed to start the hair show at 9pm but we weren’t ready to begin until 10:15. The poor illusionists had to entertain the audience for longer than they’d planned!

Often I spend another whole day, sometimes two days, on a train-the-trainer type of session that we call the RAN—Redken Artist Network. To teach this class, I use a video, Fuel for Design, created by my colleague Chris Baran. It’s an awesome video and can serve as an entire training program. I also try to attend the dance or party that the distributorship throws for the attendees. When everything’s over, if I’m doing more than one city, my next step is to pack up and repeat the process!

I don’t sleep much when I’m abroad, especially if I’m doing multiple cities, and there are times I’m hungry, jet-lagged and exhausted. But I always learn a lot and meet great people when I travel for education.

sv-headshot-high-resSam Villa has more than 25 years experience as a platform artist and educator for major salon professional companies. Part of the Redken family for the past 11 years, Sam is Redken’s Education Artistic Director and Design & Training Consultant and appears on as a spokesperson for consumer consultations. He is in constant demand at international and domestic trade shows and in-salon programs, where his progressive teaching approach enables stylists to absorb new techniques quickly and for practical use in the salon. In 2008, Sam launched his website,, along with his own brand of digital media education and styling tools for salon professionals.