Aubrey Loots: The Obi-Wan Kenobi of Authenticity

When a brand chooses to provide their customer-base with ongoing education, it is essential for the brand to have educators who are aligned with its mission, vision, and values, who also have the proper set of skills to impart their knowledge and wisdom to those who attend their events. More importantly, to really leave a lasting impression and to make those “life learners” attending wanting more, the educators should be as true and as authentic as humanly possible.

This is something we’ve noticed about the educators Wella has employed over the years.

They have an exceptional level of skill, a wealth of knowledge, and a genuine spirit.

Case in point—Wella Top Artist Aubrey Loots.

Industrie’s Contributing Editor Erin Hundley, who is passionate about continuing education for salon professionals in the beauty industry, was given the opportunity to attend a 2-day, hands-on seminar taught by Aubrey at the Wella Studios in NYC. The class, An Invitation To Backstage Pass, took attendees on a journey to learn the key elements and skills that are essential when working backstage during a Fashion Week. Those who attended not only acquired these necessary skills and techniques but they also secured a spot to work backstage with Aubrey himself during an LA or NY Fashion Week since Aubrey has become quite a resident stylist and no stranger to Fashion Week over the years.

Before we let Erin share her experience and what she learned, we’d like for you to keep a few things in mind and ask yourself while you read her perspective:
• Do the people you have set in place to teach your audience/customer/consumer share your company/brand mission, vision, and values? (If you don’t have a mission, vision, or values, we can help you with that!)
• Are your educators authentic or are they always on autopilot?
• Will your attendees walk away from the experience feeling informed and energized and equipped with the knowledge they didn’t walk in with?
• What are you doing to keep in touch and active with them after the class?

When it comes to Aubrey Loots and his Backstage Pass class, all these questions we have just presented above can, in fact, be answered:
• Yes, Aubrey does share the Wella mission, vision, and values.
• Yes, Aubrey is authentic and he is able to present information on techniques and products from a genuine place that does not feel or sound scripted in any way.
• Yes, the attendees left the 2-day event outfitted with either a set of new, refined and well-tuned skills.
• And in terms of keeping in touch with attendees after the educational event, Wella gives these attendees the opportunity to work backstage during Fashion Week with Aubrey himself.

As you read Erin’s piece, you’ll see just how all these questions got answered above.

Take it away, Erin…

If you’ve been following my posts (and me), you know how much I love Fashion Week. I can’t get enough of the rush you get from collaborating with other creative souls who share the same passion. So when the opportunity to attend Aubrey’s Backstage Pass presented itself, I had to jump at the chance.

This was the second time since the first Backstage Pass launched three years ago that class attendees would be able to experience working a runway show. This time it was for Project Runway’s All-Star Designer Christopher Palu.

Twas two and a half nights before Backstage Pass, we all received news pertaining to our upcoming class. It was an email from Aubrey and I’d like to share with you a portion of it and why I absolutely loved it.

“If any of you are freaking out and don’t feel comfortable jumping into a show right off the bat – do not worry, I will have my Core Team of 5 or 6 stylists there, and you can assist them or observe which is also a great way to learn.

I will cover everything you are about to experience Backstage when we get back to the Wella Studio. Please take notes at the show and really observe so that it all makes sense when we discuss it in class.

Usually, we cover all of this before you go into a show. Here are some important details you need to know.

Show and Backstage Details:
• Call Time is 7 am please try to come a few min before so you can find it and be directed to backstage are for HMU.
• Wear all black and look camera ready there is always press backstage.
• See tool list below – please do not bring too much, leave the kitchen sink at home 🙂 space backstage can be limited.
• I will brief all of you on the look when you get there since I am working with the designer on the look right now.
• I will supply all of our styling products which are EIMI by Wella and if you are not familiar – please make yourself familiar on
• You may take pictures backstage, just be mindful and respectful of naked models please – this is a very strict backstage etiquette.
• I will brief you all on the do’s and don’ts when you get there.
• Bring a snack or coffee with you, at times, shows provide catering but not guaranteed.

Tool List:
• Hairdryer
• Flat Iron
• Curling Irons S M L
• Round Brushes S M L
• Paddle Brush
• Sectioning Clips
• Tail Comb – Teasing Comb – Cutting Comb
• Mason Pierson Brush or something similar. They have them at Target
• Water Bottle
• Heat Mat
• If you have a bobby pin kit and rubber bands bring it – I do supply it also

And one last thing – Please try to have as much Fun as possible – that’s what this is all about!

Despite the great amount of detail, what stuck out to me the most was his constant level of care and concern. He wanted to make sure that everyone was comfortable working the show. It probably had much to do with the fact that there were many stylists in the workshop that never worked or experienced a show before.

He also added what we need in our kits. As a session stylist, my kit is pretty well equipped, and this was a great recap of what a strong working kit should contain. We do know it should not contain the kitchen sink!

In closing, the last sentence he says, “Please try to have as much fun as possible…” Now I will be darned.
Look at that.
Not only did he just walk us through discomfort, he wants us to have fun too!

Who is this man??

He must be Obi-Wan Kenobi.

It seemed like I picked the unicorn of classes to attend.

For those who continue to further their education in the ever-changing beauty industry, they are aware that workshops have varying levels of stylists from novice to expert level. The beauty is, when it comes to this educational event, none of that matters. You come as you are, wielding your gift.

And in that moment you become part of a team energy that elevates you to Level Voltron.

The gift that is Aubrey is his ability to remain real, relatable, and humble. I notice as some individual’s progress in their careers, disconnection begins to form. I totally get it. When you are constantly in the limelight you have your responses on instant replay. There are a million people asking questions, often the same questions, and you still have to push the product and current initiative at the end of the day, and all of this is enough to force anyone into autopilot.
But not dear Aubrey.
What he has embraced, and it is completely apparent, is to be confident in what you know, what you’re teaching, and to allow people to know you are a real person living a real life.

When setting my sights on Aubrey, the first thing I noticed were his eyeglasses, which to me gives great insight to who he is as a person.

He’s colorful, transparent, embraces change, and has a keen eye for fashion.
The second thing I noticed was his warm welcoming “It’s going to be all right because it’s not that serious” smile.

I want to take a moment to highlight the importance of working together as a team, whether that be in a salon or for a show or during the everyday day-to-day ho-hum.
• The work needs to be consistent across the board.
• It is vital that you’re able to execute similarly.
• You must learn to work as a unit.
• If your left-hand goes out then your teammates left-hand should be able to jump in without skipping a beat.
• If you need hairspray or a bobby pin, your teammate should be ready and vice versa.

The key to collaboration is everyone plays a major role in helping accomplish the overall goal.

Which brings me to Jamie Pierce-Elwell (@mizzj_at_play), Aubrey’s Jedi Knight, who was also on hand to brief us on both looks we would be creating for the Christopher Palu show. Watching Aubrey and Jamie work together lead me to believe they are threaded together on some creative “may the force be with you” type of plane. They worked simultaneously while still being the awesome individuals they are. The lesson here is you can still be an individual while collaborating. Your uniqueness is what allows that work to come alive. Think of it as parts of a clock. If one part doesn’t work, the clock doesn’t work, but if all parts are working in their uniqueness, time flies.

Mission accomplished.

Aubrey and I sat down at lunch together and we had an organic conversation that offered more insight into him and his why.

I learned he is very passionate about giving back to the beauty industry through his craft and teaching. He also shared how the concept of Backstage Pass came to be. He stated that he’s been blessed to work backstage at shows ranging from LA, NY to Paris (and he’s also worked shows for one of my favorite designers to date LaQuan Smith!). One day, he said to his husband, “Wouldn’t it be great to create a workshop to allow stylists that possibly wouldn’t have the opportunity to work fashion week? This gives stylists from smaller towns a shot and it also allows me a chance to see where they are skill wise, learning their strengths and weaknesses.” And the beauty of this all, regardless of the level of stylist that attends the workshop, everyone gets to experience backstage at Fashion Week. If you aren’t able to make it one season then your name will remain on the roster until you’ve worked a show. His commitment to you the attendee is that YOU WILL get to experience backstage.

I also asked him about what the designer/hairstylist relationship is like. Is it similar to the hairstylist/client relationship? Is that sense of familiarity and closeness almost family-like?

Aubrey spoke about his relationship with Korto Momolu’s, another Project Runway All Star. He did her breakout show after Project Runway. “When you really bond with a designer for Fashion Week they want to use you again and again. There is a trust that is built, a level of comfort. They know that they can count on you.”

What I love most about Aubrey is he’s very articulate; he speaks with intent, which I strongly believe is key, especially as an educator. He teaches with an open heart and an open mind, which brings forth authenticity. The work may not be perfect but its real, we can allow that to paralyze us or we can keep going. We learn more from failure, he says. It is all a part of the creative process you will get to the other side. Moral of the story here is to stop taking yourself so seriously and allow your creative juices to run wild.

Overall, the 2-day workshop was definitely one that left a lasting impression. Aside from the fact, there were so many techniques taught and learned, the biggest takeaway from it all was teamwork.

Although Aubrey had different levels of stylists in his workshop, we all learned to work swiftly as a unit. I tribute that to the fashion show we were catapulted into from the start. I truly enjoyed this unconventionally styled class. It was fresh, creative, and most of all fun! The dedication and authenticity from both Aubrey and Jamie are what the beauty industry needs more of.

Before I leave you, I’d like to share some wisdom from Aubrey (aka Obi-Wan Kenobi):

“Hairstyles don’t fall apart because they don’t work; they fall apart because you didn’t do enough work. Take your time.”

A little food for thought…and may the force be with you.


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