By Vivian Moreau
When Whistler hair salon owner Jack Noesgaard saw hair colourist Leslie Cantwell win consistently at Toronto hair competitions two years ago he knew he wanted her to work for the Loft Salon.
So when she came to check out Whistler last spring Noesgaard took her and her boyfriend up in his Cessna 172 to see the glaciers. Then he flew the two to Tofino and to Courtenay for dinner at the exclusive Old House restaurant.
“And then she mentioned she was a snowboarder and asked how good it was in Whistler, and I said ‘it’s as good as it gets.’”
Cantwell was convinced and moved to Whistler in December. The Newfoundland native said B.C. reminds her of home.
“B.C. fulfills things I miss from Newfoundland,” Cantwell said, “the trees, walking in nature without having to drive for 45 minutes to get there.”
In gold Gwen Stefani shoes, khaki pants, black sleeveless tank, multiple piercings and a vibrant shoulder-to-elbow tattoo, Cantwell, 26, has an outwardly energetic appearance but almost serene demeanour. Only four years in the hair business, she has studied and worked in Newfoundland and Montreal and won an impressive number of awards, including most recently being named Salon Magazine’s 2004 national hair colour champion and Strut Magazine’s 2005 cover stylist competition. The win meant she was flown to Los Angeles to style O.C. star Mischa Barton’s hair for the magazine’s cover. Cantwell said working in a tight 45-minute time constraint was a different scenario for someone who admits she likes to take time with her clients.
Noesgaard said Cantwell does incredible work.
“It’s very avant-garde but to be able to create those types of palettes and colours on a canvas like hair is pretty amazing.”
Cantwell said she gets her inspiration from nature and that if someone just says they want blond highlights then she considers their skin tone and may more specifically suggest copper as a highlight colour option.
Too many people get into a hair cut rut, she said, and end up going back to the same stylist because of the comfort that goes with familiarity rather than because the stylist makes them look or feel better. Recently she gave a Florida visitor a new cut.
“She said ‘it’s taken me 45 years to get the style I’m looking for,’” Cantwell said. Knowing what cut and colour to give a client involves good communication, she said, and the right colour “can let people experience a whole different side of themselves.”