1 of 4
Mike Terry, Deseret News
Models and students wait backstage at the Cameo College Hair Competition.

MURRAY — Taking what may be ordinary and making it shine is what beauticians do.

At the Cameo College of Essential Beauty, students recently demonstrated their talent to make a person's exterior shine as they turned ordinary people into their versions of Hollywood stars.

For the annual hair show competition, 17 women from the college vied for a chance to travel to London, the home of their school's cutting technique, to study at the Sassoon headquarters.

"Whenever you have a competition, you push students to use all of their abilities," said college director Brenda Scharman. "It's then that you can see the work they are capable of."

While the contest held at Murray High School was a catalyst for a new burst of creativity and innovation, many students expressed the idea that they had already won by beginning their cosmetology education.

Audrey Wagner said that when she left her career as a broker to pursue cosmetology, many of her friends gave her a "hard time." She said they discredited her decision, saying cutting hair is for unintelligent women.

But Scharman said the profession requires students to be versed in chemistry, geometry and science. Precise formulas and mixtures are needed to color hair and a good hair cut is dependent on the stylist understanding the geometry of their subject's head.

Before school, Wagner said, her job consisted of desk work and number pushing. She was frustrated using only the analytical side of her brain, so she enrolled to engage her creativity and to help women feel better about themselves.

"Utah is a place where women wear makeup and do their hair every day," she said. "Even stay-at-home-moms get up and do their makeup because it makes them feel good."

National publications have recognized Utah women for their modesty and beauty, which doesn't surprise Wagner. "Women in Utah are put together and that's why we're the hottest," she said.

By skillfully combining makeup, a new wardrobe and a different hairdo, a stylist can change a person completely, said Edith Ramirez, a Cameo student.

"How we feel is often dependent on our look," she said. "And to be able to create an image is really cool. Say you're having a bad week — how many people depend on this industry to help them feel better?"

Yet, with a salon on almost every corner, students believe their work is about more than just good looks.

Colleen McArthur, a student and a local trainer for Cut it Out, a group of salon workers against domestic abuse, said that many women stylists are close friends who share more with each other than family.

The Utah Attorney General's Office supports programs that fight domestic abuse.

"Women tell you things they won't tell their best friends, family or bishop," spokesman Paul Murphy said. "Through programs like Cut it Out we will be able to save lives."

Cut it Out attempts to educate salon workers on the warning signs of domestic abuse so that stylists may recommend a way out for their clients. McArthur said that 10 percent of the proceeds raised during the salon's hair show will be donated to the program.

For the final show each student was randomly given a cultural icon such as Madonna, Prince or Janis Joplin to emulate in the style their model would wear. They created the image from the ground up, designing the costume, makeup and hairstyle. Local and international judges from Sassoon and the hair industry viewed the contestants' style boards, interviewed each individually and graded the fashion performance. At the end of the night, Audrey Miner was awarded a full-ride scholarship to study in London for a week.

E-mail: cnorlen@desnews.com