From war-torn Iraq to the top of the world

Apr 7 2016

Lina with medalKITCHENER — When Lina Shamoun's hand shot up in the air in a Grade 11 cosmetology class, the now 32-year-old recalls not knowing what she was signing up for.

Her teacher explained it was a chance to compete in hairstyling at Skills Canada.

"But I didn't know what 'competing' meant," Shamoun said with a laugh.

Back in Grade 11, Shamoun was a new immigrant from Iraq, just starting to learn English.

Now she's back from a global hairstyling competition with a gold medal in hand.

"If I didn't put my hand up then I wouldn't be here now," Shamoun said.

The Kitchener resident had the best progressive women's cut at OMC Hairworld, a bi-annual global hairstyling competition that ended in Korea this March.

It's commonly known as the hair Olympics. Nothing tops it in hair circles.

"This is definitely the highlight of my career," Shamoun said with a beaming smile.

When she's not training feverishly for competitions, Shamoun snips away unwanted locks at her business, Artline Salon.

If you asked seven-year-old Shamoun living in Iraq during the Gulf War what she wanted to be when she grew up, she wouldn't have had an answer for you.

"I didn't have a typical childhood (in Iraq) where I could have dreams," she said.

Now she can't seem to dream enough.

Along with fellow hairstylists she dreamed up the futuristic design that won her gold.

It's got bangs, sharp edges and layers. There are intricately shaved circles along the back and sides and a long, bright red ponytail.

"It's self-expression," Shamoun said.

The pro has two simple tips for future hairdo competitors: "You have to cut fast and you have to cut good."

Stylists get only 30 minutes to razor through a mannequin's tresses with precision before judges descend on the coiffed heads with keen eyes.

Luckily for Shamoun, speed isn't a problem.

Her customers often laugh at how swiftly her scissors slice through their manes, she said.

But when it comes time to compete, Shamoun said it's just like an athletic sport.

She has to train and practice because every movement and minute counts.

Ten Canadians competed this year, including another local hairstylist, Dee Fortier, who brought home a silver medal.

Fortier's salon, Deeva, is where Shamoun first trained as an apprentice more than 13 years ago.

It was also where she first trained to cut hair competitively.

Now that Shamoun is back from brightly lit competition floors and avant-garde hairdos, she's gearing up for the next hair contest in Paris this fall.

It means more training and dreaming up creative and bold new ideas.

"It takes a lot to compete but the expectations are higher for me now," she laughed.

Shamoun only wishes more local stylists would compete because North American representation at global contests is always slim.

"European and Asian countries typically invest more in artistic competitions," she said.

"We just don't have the same level of awareness."

Canada's wins in March — three individual medals in total and a fifth place position as a team — is a huge boon for them, Shamoun explained.

"People were coming up to us and asking us where we were from … it really brought attention to Canada."

Original WR Record article

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