This isn't the first time I've been paid to have my hair cut by one of the best stylists in the world. It's probably the fifth.
I'm not a model. Although after nine hours, five blow-dries, three shampoos and one fabulous catered meal, I'm starting to understand how they feel. And by the end of the day I'll leave with a cut and highlights that would have cost me about $400; except not only am I not paying for the service, I am being paid $200 for my time.
And anyone can do this.
I'm at The Studio NYC, a training salon owned by Wella-Sebastian at Rockefeller Center in New York City. It's not a typical salon. There are no regular hours and no appointments, just a storefront and a sprawling studio behind closed doors.
The Studio -- and several sister salons across the country -- hosts training events, where hairstylists flock from their hometowns to learn from the world's best colorists, cutters and stylists. And these masters need someone to demonstrate their skills on.
Enter the "models." Most of us are not models in the usual sense of the word. We stumbled on this gig on the same place you stumble on nearly everything worth finding in New York -- on the omni-useful Craigslist.org.
The ad reads "Hair Models Needed," but it also makes it clear that no experience is necessary.
What is necessary is that you have no extensions, weaves or chemical relaxers including lye, no-lye or Japanese straightening. But you can have a color job older than last year's swimsuit.
You also need to have time. Before each training event, Wella-Sebastian posts an ad to announce the model casting, which usually takes only 10 to 30 minutes.
But if you're picked, you may be asked to stay immediately afterward for prep work -- any initial single-process color or cutting that needs to be done before the day of the actual event, which is typically the next day. Generally, models spend five to eight hours, in total.
The number of women who show up to the casting depends on how much money is offered for that particular event. When $300 or more is on the table, you can expect to see 20 to 50 women there. But I've seen as few as 10.
Each event brings a different crew of stylists and a different set of criteria for determining whom they'll pick to work on. It's not always the prettiest face or the best hair that gets chosen. They're looking at everyone as a blank slate, so if they smell a way to spice up your mousy brown split ends, welcome to the payroll.
The best advantage you can bring to the casting: an open mind.
Each event is different. Sometimes master stylists are hired directly by Wella-Sebastian; sometimes it's an outside company, like Vidal Sassoon, that is using the facility for the day. You don't know when you show up to the casting whether they'll be demonstrating creative cutting or classic highlights, natural layers or an asymmetrical look.