Downtown hairstylist selected for NY Fashion Week a ‘bright light in a small city’

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Groove Jet co-owner Brandy Alexander is fulfilling a childhood dream of working behind the scenes as a stylist at New York City's Fashion Week in September. Photos by Hilary Snow.
Groove Jet co-owner Brandy Alexander is fulfilling a childhood dream of working behind the scenes as a stylist at New York City’s Fashion Week in September. Photos by Hilary Snow.

Brandy Alexander fell in love with New York City Fashion Week from her living room.

Starting as young as 10 years old, Alexander would stay up late to watch the coverage of the latest couture trends from around the world on the Style network, dreaming of what seemed then like the faraway, exotic streets of the Big Apple.

“I didn’t know how, exactly, but I knew I wanted to be a part of it,” she said.

Nearly two decades later, Alexander’s childhood dream has been fulfilled. Come September, she’ll be watching this year’s fall Fashion Week not in front of her television, but from behind the scenes of the runways.

Following her longtime passion for all things fashion, the 29-year-old co-owner of Groove Jet Salon was picked last week, after an intense audition process, to be a member of the stylist team of Bumble and bumble–one of the nation’s leading innovative haircare companies.

“When people see you as from a small town in North Carolina, they don’t always look at you in the same light… But I’m now chosen, and I didn’t have to live in New York or LA…or any other big city and I can pave that way,” a teary-eyed Alexander said. “It’s validating, and it shows other people you can do it, too. You don’t have to go to a big city. You can be a bright light in a small city.”

Acknowledging some people may find it silly, Alexander said she can’t help but get a little choked up when she talks about this most recent professional victory–or just about styling in general. Because for her, hair is more than a career–it’s an all-consuming passion.

“I cry all the time when I talk about what I do,” she said. “I live, eat and breathe hair. It’s not a job; it’s my life.”

Before Alexander discovered Fashion Week, she found Vogue magazine. And before that, she always made sure her dolls had the best dos.

“It was just something that I was always interested in,” she said.

Strangely enough, when Alexander graduated high school she chose to major in business at UNC-Wilmington. But it didn’t take long before she realized she had made the wrong choice.

“A week or two into it, I realized it wasn’t for me,” she noted.

So, she dropped out and enrolled instead in cosmetology school.

“I remember sitting there that first day…and I went, ‘This is where I need to be. This is exactly what I need to be doing.’ I am a firm believer in finding your path and fulfilling your path. I didn’t know then that was what I was doing, but it was,” she said.

Along that path, Alexander discovered she wanted to do more than “just be behind the chair.” She became the owner of the downtown Groove Jet Salon, along with her mom, Valerie Baxter, six years ago.

And she embarked on an exploration of her chosen field that included continued education courses and teaching opportunities, eventually exclusively through Bumble and bumble. That then led to Alexander’s interest in styling for photo shoots, of which she has now built up an impressive portfolio.

I live, eat and breathe hair, Alexander said of her passion as a stylist.
‘I live, eat and breathe hair,’ Alexander said of her passion as a stylist.

“The salon will always be my home base, but I wanted to be greater for my team and inspire them…and make the team proud of their work,” she said.

Two years ago, Bumble and bumble opened up auditions for Fashion Week stylists to a select few who had completed certain continuing education courses. Knowing that’s where her path would take her in time, Alexander decided to hold off on trying out in order to further hone her skills and perfect her craft.

Then, last year, she took the plunge and headed to New York City for auditions. Coming in with high expectations and tons of nervous energy, Alexander was crushed when she didn’t make the final cut.

“I took it as a defeat…When I wasn’t selected last year, it was a huge letdown,” she said.

But Alexander was determined to try again. And this time, she went in with an all new outlook.

“The first time I went through it, I was a basket case…I got way too into my head and let it get bigger than it needed to be,” she said. “I am a believer in meditation, so this year, I meditated on my self worth and appreciating the gift I have been given. You know, I’m back again and I have had so many people on my side supporting me. I realized if it doesn’t happen, it’s okay.

“I had to tell myself Fashion Week is not the end-all-be-all; it’s a stepping stone…I kept telling myself I will make it, even if it is not this time or the next time, or the next.”

But she wouldn’t have to wait so long. After a stressful three-hour session–in which she had to style a ponytail, double French twist and a curling iron set–in New York City earlier this month, Alexander got the email she had been hoping for on June 22.

“I know to most people, that sounds easy, but when you are being judged by the best of the best, they expect perfection,” she said. “Every grain of hair had to be in the same direction…the elevation of the hair had to be appropriate, it had to be suitable to the shape of the model’s head. People don’t realize the actual amount of detail that goes into it.”

Now that the intensity of tryouts is over, Alexander is looking forward to heading back to New York in mid-September as a Fashion Week stylist. If things go well, she’ll be automatically invited back for spring 2016 Fashion Week in February.

She’s looking forward to continuing to learn from the best to better her own artistry. And, as she has learned from years of following her own path, she is going to just see where Fashion Week leads her next.

“You don’t always know why you’re on the path you’re on; you just know that it’s right. This is something I have dreamt about forever. To see it come full circle and I get to be a part of it–it’s an intense feeling,” she said. “I am going into it without expectations. I want to see what happens with it. Opportunities tend to present themselves along your path.”

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at (910) 772-6341 or hilary.s@hometownwilmington.com.