Leah Mathews, 19, from Reading, won the Intermediate category and was crowned the overall winner in the Inspire Hairdressing Challenge 2021.
The annual competition was organised by the Inspire Young People Charity, which design events and competitions to challenge students, which are not only fun but also relevant to the skills that are needed in the workplace, using role models as a motivating force.
To enter the competition, Leah submitted a photo of her hairstyle in April. In May, Leah was one of the three students from the King’s Road campus who made it through to the final of the competition.
Leah, who is studying Level 2 Hairdressing at Reading College, described how she created her winning hairstyle.
She said: “I prepared a mood board about the design or hairstyle I wanted to do and included any materials I may use when creating the hairstyle.
“I chose a wedding theme, as I love all the glamour and big hair. I looked online at a lot at pictures for inspiration to create a look that I felt comfortable doing. I took ideas from different pictures to create the look I wanted and felt what fit the theme the most. The look I created took one hour.
“I used twists in the hair which is a really nice technique to use and easy to do as well. I also curled the hair to create that wedding curl look. I used backcombing to create volume in the hair as well.”
The virtual final took place on 21 June, featuring finalists from further education colleges and apprentices. All of the entries were judged by Peter Belcher, Trustee of Inspire Young People Charity, and professional hairdresser Errol Douglas MBE, who is a patron of the charity.
As part of her prize, Leah will do a day’s work experience placement with professional hairdresser Errol Doulas MBE. Her work experience will take place at one of his exciting commitments, such as a day backstage at a photoshoot, or at a hairdressing exhibition or in his salon.
Errol is an award-winning hairdresser who is globally recognised for his fashion-forward collections and photographic work. In summer 1998, Errol opened the Errol Douglas salon in London’s Belgravia Village.
In 2008, he was awarded an MBE by the Queen for his unprecedented skills and his unrivalled education and services for inspiring young hairdressers.
Leah also received a certificate, goody bag and an Amazon voucher.
“I feel very shocked about winning as I really wasn’t expecting it all, I was taken my surprise.
“I won a day in Errol Douglas salon in London for the day and he has also invited me to join him on a photo shoot to assist him etc and I won a bag of Wella products and a gift card.
“I am most looking forward to spending time with Errol Douglas, as he is such a massive inspiration to me and to spend time with him is just unbelievable!
“In the future, I intend to take my career constantly to the next level and keep progressing. I will be starting an apprenticeship, which is exciting. This is my first step in my career to being the hairdresser I really want to be.”
Peter Belcher, Trustee, Inspire Young People, said: “The Inspire Hairdressing Competition allows students to demonstrate their skills and abilities by entering a hairdressing photographic competition.
“There are several categories including Men’s, Avant Garde, and Women’s, aimed at different course levels.
“As overall winner, Leah’s prize is to attend a high-profile photo shoot in London as a guest of Errol Douglas.”
Anne Powis, Hairdressing Lecturer at Reading College, said: “Leah has been one of my students for the past two years, over which time she has made great progress.
“I am very proud of her and hope this win will give her the confidence and motivation to participate in further opportunities and a successful future.”
Discover our hairdressing programmes at Reading College or contact us on 0800 612 6008.