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How I became a hairstylist and worked on BBC’s Strictly

Charlotte Gibson, 31, is a bridal and celebrity hairstylist from the south of England. 

I first became a hairstylist four years ago this summer.

My introduction to hair was not through college or an apprenticeship but was from offering help to a bridal hair and makeup company when they were short of workers. My experience at the time was nothing more than enjoying doing my own hair and doing a friends hair on a rare occasion.

Read more: How I launched my own hair and beauty salon

I put myself forward to help ‘prep’ hair for a wedding morning, so just curling hair or assisting the main stylist. I ended up doing full styles on the day, which went well and from there the journey continued.

Working on Strictly Come Dancing

Strictly was the most amazing opportunity to come my way! I am blessed to know the amazing dancer Katya Jones who works on the show and she gave me the information on ‘who was who’ in the hair biz and helped put me on their radar.

Hairstylist Charlotte with Strictyly's Katya
Charlotte and Strictly’s Katya

From here I followed those people on Instagram and saw that they were running a hair course. This was definitely a big investment for me but was totally worth every penny I spent on it. I picked up so much information, tips and tricks and most importantly got to know two of the biggest hairstylists on British TV. This introduction was everything… not just because I got to meet them but it meant they could see my potential and my ability, or lack of (which is what it felt like at the time going from bridal hair to TV). It meant they could see I had creative flair, could think on my feet and had a good work ethic but also witnessed what I couldn’t do. For instance, I could style hair but had no idea about cutting.

It meant that when I was invited for my first job for Strictly I didn’t have to pretend I was something I wasn’t and it was reassuring to know that they invited me regardless of this. I will forever be grateful for them seeing more in me than what my qualifications showed.

Charlotte and professional dancer Anton Du Beke

The live shows

Working on the live shows is nothing short of exhilarating. It’s fast-paced, high pressure and you never know what you’ll be asked to do next… and that’s what makes it so fun!

Read more: How I became a professional dancer – and even worked on Strictly

One minute you’ll be at the bottom of the hairpiece box trying to find something that matches perfectly with a costume and the next you’ll be on a quick change working simultaneously with four other stylists. It’s crazy and it’s wonderful!

My life day-to-day

Day-to-day I am a mum to two young children. I usually have one to two days a week where I will do bridal hair trials and then at the weekends it’s doing weddings or working on Strictly when the season is in.

I take time each day to focus on my business whether it’s keeping my social media up to date, replying to enquiries, learning new styles or testing out new products. The juggle is REAL… so I recently set specific times in the day aside to work on my business so that I’m free to focus on my kids in the day. For instance, I will wake up an hour before my kids to write my social media posts and reply to anything I need to. In the evenings after putting my kids to bed I will practice hairstyles and do bookings for trials etc.

Set time aside to focus on your dreams

Life is very different now because of the pandemic but this current set up for my day is what is working best for me at this time. I think this planning out of time works in whatever stage of life you’re at… to know that you don’t have to be ‘at work’ to move your career forward is a great discovery. It took me a while say ‘I’m working tonight’ to my husband, though I wasn’t actively being paid for that time, knowing the time spent would ultimately make me money from what I was learning.

To set your own time aside whether it’s from other hobbies, seeing friends, your partner or watching telly to focus on your dreams is one of the greatest and most beneficial disciplines to be learnt.

My favourite thing about my job is the look on people’s faces when they see their hair and love it! There’s nothing better than making people feel good about themselves.

What I’d tell my younger self

Wow, where do I start… I think overall just to have believed in myself a bit more, and to have followed my heart of doing hair from a younger age. I definitely have no regrets but would have loved to have been doing what I love for longer.

To believe in yourself is an overused term that doesn’t resonate much with people anymore or it didn’t with me anyway, but it really is the key to succeeding in your dreams. It took me a lot of time to realise this.

My advice to those wanting to be a hairstylist

I think it’s important to know that there is room for you! It’s easy to feel like hair is an industry that is so flooded that there is no place for you. But that is not true. I think it’s only as you get older that you discover how unique you are by just being you and how special that can make you as a hairstylist and set you apart. So let me tell you before you waste the time getting older and discovering that … that you are unique and there is a place for you!

Charlotte and Strictly’s Neil Jones

If hair is what you love then just keep going, there is a space for you and your creativity and you will stumble upon jobs you didn’t even know existed. My 14-year-old self could have only looked ahead to being a hairdresser in a salon but fast forward a whole lot of years and look how hairstyling has developed, jobs available working on TV, movies, cruise ships, weddings, being an influencer, having a YouTube channel. I believe there is so much more to come and all you can do is train and prepare yourself be confident in who you are and be ready for the ever-changing possibilities of hairstyling.

One of the most important things…

Never view yourself as ‘above’ others, one day your now assistant might take a lucky turn and become head stylist on a show you’ve always wanted to work on or happens to have great managerial skills and takes over the salon you work at …wouldn’t you wish you had treated them better. Don’t value position, value POTENTIAL.

Charlotte Harding
Charlotte Harding
Charlotte is a journalist and the co-founder of The Women's Work Collective.


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