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We are thrilled to partner with the Professional Beauty Association (PBA) to promote all the amazing artists who are finalists for the 2015 NAHAs (North American Hairstyling Awards), the most prestigious hair and beauty award in the country. We had the pleasure of getting to know Lizz Kopta, one of this year’s finalists in the “Newcomer of the Year“ category. Check out our exclusive interview with Lizz to learn more about her collection and what fuels her passion for hair artistry.

Tell us a bit about your nominated collection this year. What was the inspiration behind the looks? How did the creative process unfold?
I’m always trying to build new collections; sometimes it’s laborious and time consuming. This collection was totally organic and was created rapidly. My favorite photographer and good friend Keith Bryce and I were playing around with some hairpieces while working together on some other collections. We were looking for something different and original to do with these little puffs of hair. When we began playing with this new technique of creating the puffs, the pieces started making themselves. I think I made around 20 pieces, all with different finishing, sizes, colors and shapes. Once we secured models, we shot within a week of creation. It all felt very… predetermined, for lack of a better word.

The pieces were all secured to the models' own hair, and could be shoot in many different positions and angles, which made picking our three favorites a fun, but somewhat toilsome task.

Were there collections in other categories that you found inspiring or particularly appealing?
Well, of course! I have assisted in many NAHA shoots over the years, and was nominated in the 2013 for Student of the Year category. I think what inspires me the most is the risk factor. Try something new. Do something that will TOTALLY fail, and when it doesn’t, that’s when you have something special. I think I could talk about that in almost every nomination in every category. I feel there is a substantial nod to texture this year as well and shape and style.

My favorites this year are Allen Ruiz (everything he was nominated for this year is superb), Sal Misseri, Erika Fung, Christian James, Nicole Gary and last but certainly not least, Dallan Flint. Oh, and can I say, the Students are killing it! I can’t actually say I found any one thing particularly appealing this year; it’s all extraordinary.

Is there a category you are really interested in competing in next time?
Hmm… Good question. I think I’ll go for one more year in the Newcomer category, and maybe get really excited and do five looks for Hairstylist while I’m at it. I would love to work on some color collections this upcoming year, so maybe there as well. I’ve got quite a few ideas I would love to see realized.

What was the most surprising thing you’ve discovered about the hair industry?
A sense of family is really important in the work place. I thought doing hair would be somewhat of an individual experience; if I put in the work, I get the product. However, it’s very important to keep a sense of respect and community around you, especially as a new budding stylist. Push each other to work hard, and give encouragement. It’s so easy to loose that. I’ve felt very alone and undervalued in my career at times, and it was heartbreaking. When you do find that perfect balance of respect and creativity, it’s unreal. The joy you can bring to yourselves and others is magic.

Who are your idols in the hair industry? Have you met any of them?
I am DYING to work with (or simply grovel at) Angelo Seminara. He is terrifying! His work looks so effortless and natural. The things I could learn! I wish I could tap into his brain and drink some of that genius juice. I bet it tastes like strawberry Pop Rocks.

For the long list: I would love to drink tea with Charlie Price, Dimitrios Tsioumas, Sue Pemberton, Geno Champman, Allen Ruiz, Lisa Vann, Chrystofer Benson, Heggy Gonzalez, Alina Friesen, Mischa G, Guy Tang, Geneva Cowen, Ryan Burke, Pat McGrath, are you still reading? Haha… The list goes on!

As for meeting my idols, I have been very lucky in that regard. I have cut hair next to Philip Wilson and designed updo’s with Nicholas French, I’ve worked alongside with Andrew Carruthers, Nick Hemsley and Jake Thompson, I went to school with Carley Throgmorton, and Tuesday Teal. And of course Keith Bryce, the one and only, photographer and wardrobe creator! The talent in my hometown of Salt Lake City is unreal. I have also assisted in several collections that have been NAHA nominated; Dallan Flint (2015 Avant Garde and Haircolor) and I are as thick as thieves, and I feel like family around DeAnnalyn and Ryan Teal (2013 Haricolor).

Can I say, spoiled much?

Do you have a ritual or lucky item you'll be bringing to the awards?
When I was nominated in 2013, I got these cheapo plastic glasses that I handed out to my supporters. I think I’ll be doing the same this year, so let me know if you would like a pair of #TeamLizz glasses!

How will you celebrate a win in your category?
With tears and an arm workout (those trophies look heavy!) And if he’s lucky, a peck on the cheek for the husband as well.

Which non-hair related areas do you constantly find yourself being inspired by?
Utah landscape. Utah is stupid beautiful, and the colors here award an amazing pallet to pull from. There are so many shapes and textures to discover that mimic the nature here. I have also found myself influenced by street art and architecture. I like to play with the idea of creating/copying something that was not intended for reality.

What is your recipe for a successful shoot?
1. Surround yourself with inspiring people. It’s scary and daunting to even think about entering NAHA, you’ll need as much help as possible.

2. Research. Ask yourself: Has this been done before? Is it boring? What response am I looking for? What wardrobe (if any) would I like? What makeup? Atmosphere? Setting? Poses? Music? Mood?

3. GET A GOOD OUTSTANDING PHOTOGRAPHER! That doesn’t mean the one that’s best known, or the one that always gets nominated. I mean find someone who cares about you and your art as much, if not more, than you do. Someone with passion! Keith Bryce is an amazing friend and colleague to me. He has ideas and knows the business. He is inspiring and supportive, and I would never have been able to do this without him.

Not only does he supply a good support team, he also has amazing connections. Makeup? Check! Wardrobe? He does that too! Need a model? Who do you think your photographer works with?! Hooray! They make life just that much easier.

4. Prepare and practice. Try what you want to accomplish before the day of your shoot. You don’t want to learn that your cool idea won’t work day of, and have a disaster on your hands. However, if you have prepared and practiced and it still didn’t work, have a backup plan. Oh, and bring nail polish remover.

5. Find the models. A good model will know how to pose well, and find focus. Hopefully, they will also be reliable. I have loved every model I’ve ever worked with. They are charming, beautiful and usually professional people. Find at least one extra model that is willing to help or show up if needed. A great hairdo won’t work if your model doesn’t show up and know how to bring it!

6. WORK YOUR TAIL OFF! If you have been shooting for many hours in grueling conditions and your feet are blistered and your head hurts and you are so hungry the hair starts to look like cake, you’re probably just getting started. Don’t give into phone checking, whining, boredom and bad juju… Keep up the energy, stay hydrated, and have fun. If you can have a small space to shoot with only the necessary people and excited focus, the air becomes electric and the creativity flows. It’s seriously magic.

What’s your guilty pleasure?
I’m not really guilty about any of my pleasures… My most indulgent is being in bed all day. Sleeping in until I naturally wake, checking my phone for social media and email, watching dumb videos, snuggling with whomever is in bed with me (the cat, dog or hubby… usually…wink wink), rolling around and stretching out. Seriously, being in bed for hours upon hours. Eating, napping, coffee drinking, reading, painting my nails, noshing and sleeping again. I might get up to stand in the shower, but not wash, just stand, before I jump back into my fluffy bed and just do nothing. Best. Day. Ever.


Be sure to Stalk Lizz Kopta to see more of her awesome hair art and wish her luck at the upcoming awards!