Andrea Sampson is a first-generation Canadian who was raised in Toronto. She has been an integral part of the Canadian beauty industry for almost 25 years. She has worked as a hairstylist, writer, and publisher.
Sampson’s Professional Journey
Sampson had a long-standing fascination with hair, experimenting with different styles on Barbie dolls when she was a little girl. Sampson would observe her mother closely as she did her and her sisters’ hair, quickly becoming an expert in the craft.
“I’m a hairdresser by trade and it’s my first professional love. I loved what it represented, and I love being able to change someone’s mood by giving them a new hairstyle. If you could make somebody feel better then why shouldn’t you?” explains Sampson.
She went to hairdressing school but also attended George Brown to acquire business skills needed to eventually run her own business.
Hired for a co-op position as a barber at Nappy’s Hair Shop, a prestigious barbershop in the Greater Toronto Area, she has fond memories of her time there. “I fell in love with the culture of the salon. I didn’t mind working 12-hour days because it was so much fun.” Sampson was hired as a manager after graduation.
Sampson uses traditional hairstyling techniques she learned in school to create innovative ideas. She is also a multicultural expert and a master colourist. “I worked in the hair salon as a colourist. I also worked as a technical advisor for Revlon Professional many years ago,” explains Sampson.
Her career roles have included managing brand awareness and educating the industry about current trends. She has also created educational programs in collaboration with a diverse group of educators across Canada. This allowed the program to connect with more hairdressers who wanted to feel represented on the stage.
In 2018, Sampson launched Efe magazine and assembled a team of 8 educators and 6 contributors. Efe is Canada’s first multicultural trade publication in the beauty industry. It is a bi-monthly publication that publishes 10,000 copies distributed throughout Canada.
“Before starting Efe, I used to write for other magazines on topics related to hairstyling. I now manage Efe with my son. It’s all about inclusion and gives everyone the opportunity to be seen,” explains Sampson.
Sampson considers Efe her biggest professional success. “Because what I'm doing here is changing the landscape of the beauty industry, changing people's views, opening eyes, creating new opportunities, and creating a community that didn't exist before.”
The Big Tease
Sampson also founded "The Big Tease" eight years ago. It’s an annual event that takes place every September and provides more diverse representation in the beauty space. The competition invites artists of all skill sets, including art, hair, makeup, music, clothing, and more. Winners are judged by the audience.
The Big Tease was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic and Sampson didn’t opt for a digital platform because she felt it wouldn’t do justice to the event. “It’s such a high-energy event that we didn’t feel it was right to opt for a digital platform,” says Sampson, adding, “the pandemic tore the industry apart and tied everybody's hands, but it also brought to light the changes that we needed to make within the beauty industry around the importance of diversity and inclusion. We were so busy before that we were overlooking the things that needed to happen, but now all eyes are on the industry to make the proper changes.”
The VZN Awards
Recently, Sampson launched "The VZN Awards" to recognize artists in the Canadian beauty industry. It is an image-based award where hairdressers will submit work for a panel of judges. Online submission for the first VZN Awards has already started. “The award has a total of 45 categories and subcategories and is open to all ethnicities and all stylists. We have created something where everyone belongs,” explains Sampson. The inaugural ceremony of the VZN Awards is scheduled for June 2021.
Sampson has the pleasure of working with two of the largest companies in the beauty industry, (L’Oréal Professionnel and Schwarzkopf) as well as working with other brands like American Crew and Matrix. L’Oréal and Schwarzkopf are collaborating with Sampson to incorporate diversity and inclusivity. Sampson provides training to teams and consults for them on products that are compatible with all hair types. Sampson is very proud of her professional partnerships which have made Efe magazine possible.
However, Sampson’s achievements didn’t come easy. “As a Black woman, I had to first prove to everyone that I was worthy of moving up the ladder." Sampson believes that her biggest strength is to follow through and never doubt herself. “I’m a mom first and business person second. My son inspires me to make sure I can give him everything he wants, so I just work hard to ensure that I can give him all that he deserves to have.”
Sampson notes that the beauty industry has evolved by leaps and bounds but there is much more room to grow. “The beauty industry has traditionally been segregated, however, things have improved for the better and you’ll find a greater intermingling of culture, which makes your salon better for everyone. Understanding all hair types changes your perspective on things and opens the door to many opportunities.”
For Sampson beauty is an expression of one’s self. “I think the most important part about beauty is inner beauty. Once you've mastered your inner beauty, everything else will follow.” Sampson also believes that all hair is beautiful regardless of ethnicity. “There is a misconception that Black hair is difficult for hairstylists or less beautiful. It’s the lack of awareness in the beauty industry that has perpetuated these stereotypes. If we are all educated about all types of hair, we would change our perspective.”
Sampson encourages others to join. “The beauty industry is the most amazing place to be, so don't think about it for one second. The only challenge for someone within the beauty industry is themselves. It's about your true potential and diving right in.” Still, Sampson always recommends learning about all hair types so that clients can get exactly what they want.
“Water is key to hydrating the hair so don’t just slather hair products into the hair, start with water first,” advises Sampson when prompted for hair tips. Concerning seasonal care, Sampson adds, “We’re transitioning out of very dry winter months where hair and nails will become more brittle, so whatever hair type you have, make sure it’s well hydrated and gets deep treatments.”