Battle of the Strands 2013: The Beginning of a Beauty Revolution

Mod Style, Jacksonville, FL

Mod Style, Jacksonville, FL

Written by Jake Conlee

Photos by Jake Conlee and Jessica Polly

From the time that the lights dimmed on stage, we knew that we were all in for something truly special and groundbreaking. What the audience thinks is the beginning of the competition, is in fact witnessing one of the most incredible exhibitions of hair, makeup, costume that we have seen up until this point. And then we figured it out: this is just the Intro. Last night, the Pearl Theater in The Palms Resort was taken over by yet another spectacular event, that can be found in this glorious city.

The epic beauty competition, Battle Of the Strands 2013 descended over Las Vegas in it’s final competition of the year. Battle of the Strands is an all encompassing beauty competition which shows the skills of costume design, makeup design, hair design and nail design. To qualify for this competition is the end of a long, hard road of work and regional qualifiers throughout the year, at different trade shows around the country. Some of North America, The Caribbean and Central America’s premium stylists come out to Battle their creative and industry counterparts. It was not surprising to see the tour de force of Latin American countries: Mexico, Panama and Puerto Rico; I was not expecting the amount of Avant-Garde artistry and out of the box design in beauty.

Some of the best work of the night came from all competitors, from all countries. But to be perfectly honest, (with the exception of the night’s Champion, Clark Russell) the fit, finish and passion really shined through the Latin Americans’ final product. All teams obviously have a strong work ethic, but it was apparent through each team, from Puerto Rico, Mexico, Panama and California, how hungry they were for the Battle of the Strands 2013 Title.

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With some incredible sponsors of the event: Enzo Milano Styling tools, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Sexy Hair, I.C.O.N. hair care, TIGI Products, Cosmopolitan Magazine among a dozen others, the support and caliber of artists was some of the best I have ever seen. Which I may add; I was a contributing artist on a team that was NAHA finalist, and some of the skill we saw last night was just breathtaking. Real blood, sweat and tears (us stylists can be known to be a bit emotional) went into these beautiful living canvasses and the passion and many hours of work were definitely showcased on a grand stage.

Beauty Entourage, Newington, CT

Beauty Entourage, Newington, CT

Being a hairstylist myself, I was a bit excited to see celebrity stylist, Kim Vo on stage as mc of the event. Kim Vo is a self made master stylist and colorist for some of the biggest names in Hollywood, and he literally worked his way up from being a Vietnamese Refugee, escaping the atrocities as a child. Now he is a true hero in the ranks of worldwide hairstylists and is one of the premier colorists on the planet. If you are curious at all, Kim Vo salon should be visited here in The Palms Resort. He can also be seen on the upcoming Battle of the Strands Reality Show, and as a featured judge on the Hair-centric reality competition, Shear Genius.

The big winner of the evening was Clark Russell from  Lafayette, Ca (near San Francisco), who’s rendition of Cher and Bob Mackie absolutely brought down the packed house. Other notable artists were WM Squad from Isla Verde, Puerto Rico who won the People’s Choice award and Mastery in Makeup Design, Peter Cardon Salon from Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, winner of Mastery in Wardrobe, Miranda Beauty Group from San Juan, Puerto Rico, which won Mastery in Nail Design and Henderson’s very own House of Style, whose rendition of a pirated Lady Gaga completely floored the audience with a pirate ship made of hair and a charismatic slightly green and scaly model.

Battle of the Strands seems to be on the forefront of something special in the United States and beyond. Battle of the Strands is taking a typically guarded beauty industry happening and showing it to the masses. Beauty and runway shows that put hairstylists, makeup artists, nail artists and wardrobe stylists are always an incredible time, and considering the fickle nature of personal image in the Americas, the field of aesthetics and beauty are always progressing into something we have never seen before. I am positive that next years event will move forward into a new plane of beauty that I haven’t seen before, and to be quite honest, I am already looking forward to next October’s Show.


Jake ConleeJake Conlee is a California native that has been blessed with the gift of restlessness. With an undying fervor and passion for what he does not yet know, life is a constant adventure. Truly fearless in implementation of wandering down less trafficked roads, this has led to many ordinary days turning into a treasure hunt. Emblazoned on his arm, the self photographed sign of this incredible City of Sin. He loves this city so much, a mural of Las Vegas is currently under development on his arms. If you need to know about anything in Las Vegas, if he doesn’t know the answer, he will find out for you. He loves Las Vegas, the good, the bad, but mostly the nostalgic. He’s also a sucker for a good hunk of meat. He is, most of all, a father of two girls, 12-year-old “Vern” and 18-month-old “Chuck”


twitter: @JakeInVegas @luckyhuelv @iknowvegas

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