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Charlotte makeup artist is a national star at 19

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She’s come a long way from having rainbow-colored hair.

Charlotte native Katy Albright, 19, has turned a fascination with makeup and hair that started as a little girl into a national award-winning career path.

Earlier this month, her work took her backstage at a slew of international runway shows at New York Fashion Week. In July, Albright was also named the 2013 Makeup Artist of the Year by The North American Hairstyling Awards (NAHA), an annual photographic beauty competition produced by the Professional Beauty Association.

In addition to her day job at Modern Salon and Spa at Phillips Place in SouthPark, she also does work for a number of regional and local publications, such as Belk’s ecommerce photography.

Along the way

Albright is the first to say there have been a few missteps in developing her talents along the way. “When I was really little I slept on my hair wrong and it laid funny. So I cut a big chunk out of my hair…My mom was so upset,” she said with a laugh.

At 16, what started as putting a few purple peek-a-boo highlights in her hair evolved into a full head of multicolored locks. “I learned the hard way it’s probably not a good idea to bleach, then do crazy colors. The second or third time I’d done it my hair was falling out, it got so damaged.”

Albright attended Providence High School before opting for online courses to get her GED and start beauty school at 17. She enrolled at Aveda Institute Charlotte. “I finally found something that came so naturally, I felt right at home.”

Albright joined the staff at Modern Salon and Spa in March 2012 and the business’s marketing director, Jenni Council, said they’ve been lucky to have her. “She is very young and so motivated. To have already achieved such a huge award is huge in our industry, “ Council said.

“She can be given and follow direction, or be given free reign and come up with something amazing on her own. That’s what sets her apart. People have niches of what they’re comfortable in ... she’s naturally talented and always working to develop her skill.”

Big time

Always eager for the latest and greatest, Albright has participated in and networked at a number of educational offerings through Modern, as well as invitation-only trainings around the country. She spent the months leading up to the February deadline for this year’s NAHA photo submissions conceptualizing and planning with New York City-based fashion and beauty photographer, Anthony Parmelee.

“It took a few months to prepare and figure out… I wanted to do something that was almost androgynous and different, really bold and something you had never really seen before,” Albright said, adding she drew inspiration from several aspects of African culture.

Once she and Parmelee had laid out storyboards for each look, she styled three blond wigs, selected the Kryolan professional-grade makeup to use and spent one day shooting here in Charlotte with one model and Parmlee. “It was a fairly easy process.”

Albright was up against finalists who’ve been working in the industry since before she was born. Even now, Albright said she’s still a bit shocked to have won. “I’ve achieved things I never thought I could,” she said. “It shows that if you really put your mind to it, go for it and don’t hold back.”

And before she finished digesting having won the national award this summer, Albright was tapped as one of at least a dozen artists from around the country that joined the Aveda team at New York Fashion Week.

Her favorite shows included working backstage at “Argentine Designers” and “Concept Korea,” both at Lincoln Center, as well as a Steve Alan show at Box.

“I loved the whole atmosphere. It is crazy, but it’s almost like an organized type of crazy,” she said. “Sometimes models come late or from other shows, or there were last minute little changes to get things done. For the most part, (the team) had a system ... I tried to stay calm in the midst of chaos.”

Moving up

Her 10-day stint in NYC cemented an idea for the future Albright had already been considering: “I definitely loved it up there and it’s definitely the place for me,” she said. With the goal of relocating in 2014, Albright said she’s excited to continue the work that’s helped bring so much early success.

“Traveling and doing this type of work really changes you and opens you up to new possibilities. It’s been a great experience to do this.”

Trenda: 704-358-5089; Twitter: @htrenda
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