Alternative hair show


Beauty and Hair shows have had a huge setback during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. Many events have been postponed or cancelled due to the government’s restrictions on big events and travel bans, posing enormous risks to the industry. But Tony Rizzo, founder of Alternative Hair Show, was committed to promoting one of the most renowned hairdressing and charity events globally.

Antonia Trevini talked with Linda Evans, Alternative Hair Show PR, to understand more about how Covid-19 has changed the Alternative Hair show.

The Alternative Hair Show was the first virtual hair shows aired in October last year to become an outstanding success. It reached more than one million people on social media, raising over £120,000 of funds for Fighting Leukaemia and other charities engaged in blood cancer research.

Since 1983, the Royal Albert Hall of London, one of the biggest and most prestigious venues in the UK, has hosted the show. However, the Coronavirus pandemic represented a huge obstacle to overcome for hairdressing shows last year. Despite the circumstances, Rizzo and his team decided that they couldn’t let the virus stop them from running the event.

What made you decide to run the show despite the pandemic and push it online?

Tony commits a lot of money each year to fund researches and various projects. He needs to make the money in order for them to keep going so something needed to be done quickly. 

We usually start to work at the show in January when we send out the publicity, the date and the time. Fortunately, in March we haven’t confirmed where we wanted to do the show which meant that money hasn’t been spent. So we quickly decided that we needed to have the Alternative Hair Show and we started to talk about what we could do if we couldn’t organise the show live. 

We carried on organising the show as we normally do, having meetings with the production and the technical teams, with those who organise the competition but also with the participants. We knew we still had the Visionary Award so hairdressers sent their pictures to us. Tony got a commitment from various teams, but not as many as usual. 

Eventually, in June we decided to create a virtual event but we directed people towards the website and social media since the beginning.

How did Covid-19 restrictions affect the Alternative Hair Show?

The show had to be pre-recorded as well as the voice-over. We were lucky that the team that worked on the show have been part of this project for a long time. Some people have worked on it since the very first show. Moreover, Anthony Mascolo, AHS Global President, has his own studio space so the actual filming was done there. A very small team was involved on the actual filming day. Besides Anthony, Tony and I, who were the hosts of the show, we had one photographer, who was also a videographer. He also ended up directing the show because the producer couldn’t come on the day since he had been in contact with someone who had COVID. There was also one other person doing the light and the sound and one cameraman. 

Regarding the actual competition, we sent a brief to the team who participated and they filmed their little shows in their own countries and sent them in. The show ran as it was live. Obviously, we knew the winners before we announced them but to generate a surprising reaction we made them believe that other people were on call on the day of the show but we phone just the winners.

On its 38th anniversary, the virtual event summoned international artistic teams from all over the world to create incredible presentations in their own countries with their personal interpretation of the theme “IMAGINE”. In partnership with the International Visionary Award, the finalists of this competition fought remotely for this prestigious prize with extremely colourful, visionary and innovative videos of their creations immersed into marvellous backdrops like the magnificent Duomo in Florence, Italy.  

What difficulties did artists encounter in delivering their creative projects? And How did they overcome it?

It was different from different people and countries because there were different restrictions in place. Tony and I have worked for TIGI hair care for many years. They wouldn’t allow having live models as it was against their protocol; so the TIGI show was done with model dummies and then it was animated. Some people filmed outdoors. Tony and his team filmed in a huge house that was lent to them by the grandson of Stanley Kubrick. In this way, they could space out their models in this vast space. 

People got over in different ways depending on where they were and what facilities they had to make their film. It pushed people’s creativity and that was what made it quite interesting. 

What was your biggest fear? And what made this show possible despite the pandemic?

The biggest fear was that no one would watch it, of course. We usually do a limited amount of publicity and AHS will work on it more this year. But our social media strategy wasn’t probably as successful as the live show usually is. We did some paid adverts on social media and try to push people’s engagement. The social media team encouraged people to sign up and donate money. The trade press also contributed to its digital platforms around the world. 

The Alternative Hair Show also received incredible support from the hair teams, who self-fund their shows, donating their ideas, creativity and time to blood cancer research. It takes a lot of effort, time and money to learn the routine, which can take months of practice, and to bring makeup artists, choreographers, models and a hairdressing team to the UK for a couple of nights. Although a lot of the participants were sponsored by the company they work with, some of them just did it because they love doing it.

Did you expect such success?

We were amazed by how many people watched the show. Although we couldn’t raise as much money as we usually do, we were surprised by the actual reach of the film. The audience for the show is very much global. Indeed, some people usually come from the far east, flying over every year from Australia, Korea and the Philippines. This year, audiences, that cannot always come to the UK, had the opportunity to watch the show and the response was very positive.  Even hairdressers from Britain said we should always do it online because it allows people to see it from home. 

What have you learned from this pandemic? 

Tony and I have often discussed how we can change the show and what we can do to modernise it. But then it is a successful formula so there was no reason in changing it. Certainly, we need to move on. I think the digital aspect of the show will continue but I know Tony would like to do the show live. 

It’s not just about the money. It’s about performing and entertaining, receiving applause from the audience which gives you a very good feeling. The atmosphere backstage of AHS is always phenomenal. It’s incredible to see all these models wearing incredible makeup or dresses. It takes your breath away and people absolutely love doing it. 

We worked very hard on the show last year. We were there from morning till the evening but the joy of finishing it was nothing like the live show.

This year the International Visionary Award will once again be virtual. But we are increasing our coverage to give maximum exposure to all the entrants. We will also launch a new initiative: the new Visionaries Presentation Show. This competition will see previous winners and finalists of the International Visionary Awards create a unique presentation under the theme: ILLUMINARE.

During last year show, Tony Rizzo said: “We are here to inspire and entertain”. He reminded us of the importance of this event as a way to celebrate artistic hairdressers from across the globe as well as support research programmes in the UK and abroad for families with a child suffering from blood cancer. 

“This show is not just about imagination and artistry, it is about charity and above all hope”.

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