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Last updated: February 17, 2021

How To Find Inspiration During A Pandemic

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Instagram via @msnataliejean
Finding creative inspiration is challenging even in the best of times—and when you mix in a global pandemic and salon closures, times have never been more tough. That’s why we were inspired to see this look from Natalie Jean(@msnataliejean), the Grand Prize Winner in PRAVANA’s Show Us Your Artistry contest. Natalie shared her tips for pushing yourself creatively even when the odds are stacked against you (and how to create an award-winning look on a mannequin!).

Cash is King

This year’s PRAVANA contest was mannequins-only for all five categories to acknowledge social distancing requirements, and for the first time, the prizes were ALL cash. As the Grand Prize Winner,
Natalie received $5,000. 
“A big factor that inspired me this year to enter was definitely the cash prizes. This past year has been financially hard for hairstylists due to closures because of the pandemic,” Natalie said. “I rarely see
contests put up cash prizes, and honestly, it was awesome they chose to do that.”

Making Mannequins Cool

“I wanted my entries to look really edgy and editorial, especially with my VIVIDS entry, which is why I went for a precision haircut,” Natalie said. But as well all know, doll heads can be tough to work with. 
“Cutting mannequin hair can be difficult because the strands on the head come out in all different directions sometimes, so trying to make sure it looked perfect and precise was hard,” she shared. “Once I got that first bang cut, I was able to follow my guideline and cut the second bang. I actually used scotch tape to make sure I didn’t cut any of the first bang.”
Image via Natalie Jean
Photographing a mannequin to look editorial was also tricky. “Mannequins are stiff and don’t move freely, so making my entries look more human-like was difficult. I ended up using a coat hanger and some cool jackets to pose them in different ways. I’m pretty sure my neighbors were laughing at me when I was walking around outside my apartment trying to get the best shots of my creations,” explained Natalie.

How To Stay Motivated

“Making sure I met the deadline was definitely a challenge because even though we were out of work, trying to get creative while I was feeling depressed from being out of work was hard,” Natalie shared.
We feel you, Natalie—and you aren’t alone. Here’s how she got inspired.

1. Start with a mood board.

“I made a mood board on Pinterest to collect ideas of looks and colors that jumped out to me,” Natalie said. “I wanted to create something I’ve never done before, something I felt like I wanted to see, which were precision haircuts and bangs.”

2. Research a LOT to feel prepared.

“I really researched what I wanted to create, how to take the photos, and how to execute this look the way I wanted,” she shared.

3. Recognize your creative process and harness it to be productive.

“I feel like sometimes my brain goes to a million places and I want to create too many things at once and end up going overboard with my ideas,” Natalie said. “So for this, I decided to keep my entries pretty simple with some textured finishes. Even if people were to look at my entries and think they were too simple, I was so proud of them because I stepped up my own creativity and pushed myself.”

4. Keep perspective.

“Sometimes with these contests, I find we put a lot of pressure on ourselves because we want to win or we want our art to be seen. We almost forget that these contests are outlets for us to have fun, create wild and colorful ideas and make them come to life,” Natalie said. “I’ve been doing hair for seven years now and honestly, I still get scared of putting myself out there. I just try to remember that I’m an artist and this is just a way to get those creative ideas out of my head.”

The Finished Result

The result of Natalie’s hard work? This INSANE finished shot—cool, edgy, editorial and wearable. Here’s how she did it:
Instagram via @msnataliejean


PRAVANA ChromaSilk Express Tones Pearl and Smokey Silver + Zero Lift Developer

After the haircut:

“I chose the PRAVANA VIVIDS Neon Yellow and Yellow to create a dramatic double-bang look with disconnected pieces that laid over the bangs for a very edgy, editorial style,” Natalie shared.

Pushing Your Limits

“Entering contests pushes my creativity. I’ve entered Show Us Your Artistry and the BTC #ONESHOT Hair Awards because these contests give stylists a place to push our limits,” Natalie said. “When I’m behind the chair at the salon, a lot of my clients don’t typically want crazy haircuts or crazy fantasy color. I have found that using wigs is really helpful because it allows you to be as creative as you want and do something completely outside the box with no limitations,” she said.


Maintaining Mental Health

Salons may be open again, but the pandemic is still wearing stylists down and taking its toll on everyone. Again—you are not alone in this!
“Creating helps my mental health. This past year has been really hard and some days all I want to do is lay on the couch and other days I’m like ‘Get up, shower and let’s create!’ Even if I’m just taking a walk outside, I find inspiration everywhere,” Natalie said.
“I have been purchasing wigs on Amazon and just creating looks and fun makeup ideas that I see. It helps me heal when I’m feeling down. Once my ideas come to life, it just brings me so much joy,” she shared. “I have also found different outlets to create when I’m not working. I have gotten really into photography this past year and have found friends that will model my wigs or even shoot them on myself. It’s just a way to keep my creative juices flowing and not think so much on all the negative thoughts.”

Now It’s Your Turn!

Ready to shake up your artistry? Natalie’s advice: Grab a wig or doll head, make a mood board on Pinterest and just have fun. “Find a local makeup artist or even a local photographer and collaborate together. I understand that not everyone likes to put themselves out there and likes to stay in their comfort zones, but once you step out it’s so rewarding because it’s your own art and your own ideas coming to life,” said Natalie.


To see the full list of winners and entries, click here!


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