In the spring of 2015, Vanessa Li won the Vidal Sassoon Advanced Scholarship. We had the opportunity to connect with her and ask her a few questions about her experience and how winning the scholarship impacted her life and career.

BCL: How did winning the Vidal Sassoon Advanced Scholarship change your life and your career?

VL: The advanced scholarship allowed me to take the ABC cutting course which I’ve always wanted to take and never had the resources to do so. I was confident that Sassoon was the top cutting system in the world and that attending the course would show me how the top hair cutters in the world performed their craft.

BCL: What was it like attending the Sassoon Academy? Which course did you take?

VL: Cole Thompson taught the course while I was there and did not disappoint.  He broke the entire Sassoon cutting system down into easily understood geometry that made so much intuitive sense and gave hundreds of tips and tricks to enhance my cutting knowledge. I hardly had a chance to pause between taking so many notes! The haircuts were simple to understand and beautiful and perfect.

I’m so thrilled that BCL gave me the opportunity to attend the course and in doing so to enhance my skills and my confidence.  I bought two cutting books and several of the Sassoon videos after attending the course because there is always so much to learn in reinforcing the basics. Even the most basic of cuts can look sophisticated with precision and suitability of length and shape to the client’s features and lifestyle.

BCL: What advice do you have for fellow hairstylists, or aspiring stylists, who might be thinking about applying for a Beauty Changes Lives scholarship?

VL: The process of applying for and winning this scholarship was in itself a confidence boost. I had submitted a photo from a shoot for a look that I had done just for fun and just to challenge myself… and industry experts liked it! Hairstyling is my third career after leaving two others, and the toughest one. We compete against every other professional in the industry to earn our clients’ patronage. There is no career path that you have to take to become successful, and we hope every step we take is making us better and leading us to where we want to be. Having the chance to have successful professionals see my work, attending a course with knowledge-hungry professionals from around the country, and learning from the top instructors from around the world was such a special way to integrate with the rest of the industry outside of my small community. My parents were so proud, since there’s no metric of how good a hairdresser you are until someone else tells them! I’ve been making at least one entry to a hair competition every year since then.

BCL: What are your favorite hair trends right now?

VL: I love the messy, textured, imperfect hair trend… even Sassoon is doing it!!  I used to think that messy was messy and then I had a seasoned industry veteran look at my portfolio… he said messy hair isn’t supposed to be actually messy!  So I take forever making my curls perfectly imperfect, eliminating every bit of frizz, thoughtfully disorganizing every too-organized piece, but arranging all the pieces to make a pleasing shape.  When I was in engineering school I had the idea for a project to determine what makes a shape visually pleasing… I still don’t know for sure, but I’m continuing to explore!

BCL: What are you up to right now?

VL: I am working as a booth renter in my small beach town in Hawaii, working on commercial shoots, and doing weddings, and continuing to do art projects to push my boundaries in collaboration with other artists. Last year, I had the opportunity to work on a Coca Cola shoot here in Hawaii as well as with some smaller brands. All my work and all my clients I feel I have earned through love for my job. I think clients can tell that I love what I do and that I want to share my very best with them, and if that’s good enough for them then I get to work more on the things I love and still make a living! I collaborate with photographers, fashion stylists, and models for fun… I dream up hair ideas before bed, while driving, while doing yoga, etc… and challenge myself by making those ideas a reality. Then I get pictures to share with social media and potential clients and collaborators!

You can follow Vanessa on Facebook, Instagram @vanessalistyle and on her website (

The Vidal Sassoon Advanced Scholarship is open to licensed professionals and is currently accepting applications until April 2, 2018. Apply Now!