9878b7e24785dbcd84e5 mio sota

We are thrilled to partner once again with the Professional Beauty Association (PBA) to promote all of the talented artists who are finalists for the 2017 NAHAs (North American Hairstyling Awards), the most prestigious hair and beauty award in the country. In this feature get to know more about this year's Hairstylist of the Year Finalist, Mio Sota.

We absolutely adore Mio Sota’s latest collection and NAHA finalist entry, SURFACING. With an artistic edge, jewel-toned colors and chain metal accents, she explores stories of complete strangers and pays homage to their openness. We appreciate her honesty, not only in her work, but also in her willingness to share her story and her process. Some of her most hilarious moments include her first trip to Vegas… read on to get to know this truly amazing artist.  

What is your favorite thing about being a hairstylist?

Aside from being able to design and create, I love the close connections I get to have with people. When they are in your chair, it's just you and them. Nobody else. You can have the most interesting, enlightening, intimate conversations. You don't even have to exchange a single word, though. The moment we complete the style and see their face light up, seeing the finished look, the fact that their day got even just a little bit better because of us, I believe this is the beauty of hairdressing.

Cut, color or style?
For most of my career, I have specialized in haircutting. I was particularly trained in precision cutting so the styling/finishing had to be very neat and clean as well. But in the past couple years, I grew more interested in color and started experimenting with it more, especially after joining GOLDWELL's design team.
I have also been trying out a lot more different styling techniques as well, realizing that not everything needs to be neat and clean for it to be beautiful. That it can be perfectly imperfect and still be beautiful.

What was the inspiration behind this collection?
Whenever I try to put together a new collection, I always have an image or a piece of artwork or architecture, or some sort of visual representation that I can refer back to. This collection, SURFACING, is different. This was all inspired by complete strangers I have met in the last year or so and their incredible stories that they were brave and kind enough to share with me. 
Whether it was in my taxi ride to work, a dark corner of a late night dive bar, on a park bench in broad daylight, and many more...all the stories were heartbreaking, yet the storytellers were so powerful, inspiring and just so beautiful. 
I myself was going through a bit of a darker time and these strangers have given me strength and hope when I needed it. So I wanted to create something to show my deepest gratitude, even though I will most likely never run into them again.

What was the biggest challenge in creating this collection?

As mentioned above, color has never been a thing for me so experimenting with it and doing a lot of test strands and waiting around to see if it would turn out the way I hoped it too, was extremely nerve-wracking! 
Also, constantly having to remind myself that not every hair has to fall perfectly into place for it to have a refined finished look. I had to whack my own hand with a comb a few times during the shoot whenever I caught myself trying to perfect every little detail.

What does your collection say about trends?

I think my collection showcases that trends right now, you can be as experimental as you'd like and still be celebrated, as well as be reminded that classic shapes never get old.

How did you choose body paint?

I wanted to create something that anybody who saw my collection for the first time, would get a similar feeling I felt when I met these storytellers along the way. 

Haunting, heartbreaking, moving, and empowering. 

Ultimately I decided on the body paint for all the hardships we experience, sometimes feeling like those days will never end. But there will come a day, where we can open our eyes and breath, and see no darkness, only beauty, even if it's for a glimpse of a moment.

Tell us more about you, as an artist.

I've always loved to draw, for as long as I can remember. So anytime I want to create something I've never done before, I always have to sketch things out. But when it comes to the actual creating portion, I always have an overall idea but never a concrete plan. I like to plan out the initial idea and then rest. I usually let my eyes and hands take over and hope for the best, ha.
I remember back when I was an assistant, I was able to take part in a hands-on workshop with a Regional Creative Art Director who flew in from out of town. He asked me what my plan was for my model and I answered, "I am going to cut X,Y,Z but the rest I am going to wing it and see how it turns out!" .....I'll never forget how wide his eyes got and yelled out, "You mean, you don't have a concrete plan?!!" ....maybe it was a bad response on my part as an assistant, haha.

How do you Vegas?

The first time I ever went to Vegas, was about 10 years ago. I was feeling lucky so before I even checked into my hotel room, I walked over to the roulette table and bet $700 on black. Within 20 seconds, that money was never to be seen again –

needless to say, no more gambling for me. I just sit by my friends who like to gamble so I can get free alcohol, which that to me is a win, ha!

Salty or sweet?

Definitely salty. I can eat a family-size bag of Flammin' Hot Cheetos and Cool Ranch Doritos in one sitting.....it's not a sweet sight...

What did you learn about yourself through creating this collection?

I need to believe in myself more. So many times throughout the process I wanted to give up and quit. Even the night before the shoot, I was in tears throwing chains and combs against the wall thinking everything was going to fall apart before it even came together. But I quickly realized I was being completely unproductive and ridiculous when the chain accessory I spent 3 hours making fell apart and scattered all over the place after hitting the wall. I laughed at myself and I think that was all I needed. Laughter is absolutely the best medicine for everything. I'm also very grateful for having many people in my life that believe in me and constantly remind me that, "Yes I can".

If you won the lotto (or slot machine) tomorrow, what would you do?

I would distribute the money with my family and friends, donate to few organizations that really hit home to me, buy a small piece of land somewhere and build a tiny house that I can escape to from time to time. The rest I would travel for a bit and then invest. I wouldn't stop working though; I'd get bored VERY quickly.

Stalk Mio Sota on Bangstyle to see all of her beautiful work and stay tuned for even more NAHA Finalist Features!