By Karie Bennett

In this special edition of One-on-One,
Salon Owner Karie Bennett (and her staff)
interview the Queen of Creativity and
fellow salon owner Brig Van Osten.

It’s not often you see this particularly glowing
shade of canary yellow hair on a woman’s
head. But women like Brig Van Osten don’t
come along very often and become creative
role models to a whole industry. Of course,
in the beauty industry, you can be anyone
you want to be. Brig, as I found out, just wants to inspire
others, bake better cupcakes than Betty Crocker
and have tons of fun.

Along with two million others, I watched Brig win
Shear Genius 3, and I immediately thought she would
be an interesting person to know. Between her wild,
colorfully mismatched outfits, crazy artistic hair ideas
and shrewd contest strategies, I sensed there was more
to this woman than meets the eye.

I met Brig on Facebook, and connected with her again
in Las Vegas at the 2010 North American Hairstyling
Awards, where she asked to interview me, since my
salon was nominated for a Salon Master of Business
Award. After much texting and navigating through the
huge crowds, I finally caught a glimpse of that signature
yellow hair, and there she was, in all her “Brigged
out” glory. Tall and fabulous in an outfit of her own
creation, we were able to say a quick hello before the
chaos swallowed us up again. Our NAHA interview
never materialized, but I decided to turn the tables. I
asked the team at my San Jose salons, Atelier, for some
questions for Brig, added a few of my own, and wound
up with some great insight into what makes her sing like
the proverbial canary:

Following the Yellow Brig Road

Karie: When did you first get
interested in hair as a career?

Brig: My mom suggested it to me after I
told her I didn’t want to attend community
college after graduating. My mom knew me
well and always supported my creativity so
she thought it would be a great fit for my
talents. (Guess Mom always knows best!)

Karie: Did you play with hair as a kid?

Brig: Not really. I spent my teenage years
first trying to tame my red curly hair and
then desperately trying to alter it in any way
I could. At one point I used Sun-In over
blonde box color and picked up a “You
Go, Girl” chemical relaxer from Sally’s.
I didn’t “Go, Girl,” but my hair sure did!

Karie: If you weren’t a hair stylist,
what would you be?

Brig: At 12 years old I wanted to be a whale
trainer at SeaWorld. Good thing that didn’t
pan out! At 15, I visited FIDM (Fashion
Institute of Design & Merchandising) with
my mom only to discover that I would have
had to design clothes with one arm and one
leg since that’s how much it costs to attend.
Ultimately, the fact that cosmetology
school cost $2,500 and I could complete
it in 10 months grabbed me. I didn’t miss
a second, graduated and passed my state
board in under a year.

Karie: What made you decide to
enter Shear Genius?

Brig: I had no doubt in my mind after I
watched two stylists I had worked with/near
on the “hair show circuit” and respected,
do quite well on Season 1 (Anthony and
Tabatha). I love to compete and I thought it
would be a great challenge and opportunity
to gain some publicity for my salon and
staff. That definitely proved true. However,
I auditioned for Season 2 and didn’t make
the cast until Season 3.

Karie: Wow, you’re a brave one.
Where do you get your courage?

Brig: My mom. Had to be. She never told
me I couldn’t or wouldn’t. She always found
the means to provide me with whatever
goal I had at the moment. At 17, I entered
a beauty pageant and my mom made my
swimsuit. It was the best one in the pageant.
I didn’t win the title, fortunately, or I might
be a politician’s wife now, but I did win
“Most Photogenic,” whatever that meant.

Karie: How has your
professional life changed since
winning Shear Genius?

Brig: Since the airing of Shear Genius
I have been given opportunities that I
have wanted for many years. I wanted
to venture into what I refer to as “La La
Land.” Living in the Los Angeles area,
a lot of TV shows film locally. Recently
E! Network asked me to film a few episodes
of Style Star. This was extremely
exciting and I had a blast. I also have
been a regular on NBC’s Today in L.A.
talking about hair trends. On the “pro”
front, I have been making appearances
from Los Angeles to Miami and places
in between. I enjoy spreading positivity
and inspiration throughout the industry
and encouraging artists to branch out. I
have also been forming new relationships
with some awesome stylists. Recently
Charlie Price and I did a shoot for 303
Magazine and scored the cover of an
upcoming issue. Collaborating with
other top stylists is amazing!

Karie: How has your clientele
changed since your SG win? And
how much time do you spend in
the salon?

Brig: The visibility of P!ay hair lounge
has grown in an amazing way. My own
clientele has expanded, but more importantly,
so has the clientele of each stylist
at P!ay hair lounge. We feel incredibly
fortunate for this success. I am behind
the chair four days a week, approximately
eight-10 hours a day.

Karie: How much do you get to
‘play’ with your clients?

Brig: My average client is over 35
years old and a professional woman with
two or more kids. She is well dressed
and wants an easy-to-maintain hair style
and color. I never assume my client
wants the same color or style. I always
have suggestions ready and encourage
them to bring ideas or pictures. If you
are not open to change and your client
is, they will change you!

All goofiness aside, Brig is smart, quick-witted, undeniably
creative, and is a whirlwind of ideas and inspiration. During
Shear Genius, she took a lot of hits for her “over-the-top”
personal hair and clothing style, although many of the
Bravo TV bloggers have expressed their admiration for her courage
and how “real” and “down to earth” she was.

Karie: How important is your “look”
in attracting the clients you want?

Brig: I think all established stylists should
have a signature look/brand in their appearance.
You should be completely put together
every salon day. At P!ay, we approach it
like being on stage. We always have our
hair styled, make-up done, accessories and
costume/outfit ready to show. Equally as
important is the bio that sells each stylist to
the masses. At p!ay, we consider what type
of client each stylist is “fishing” for when
we write the stylist bios. We have found
that almost all new clients, including referrals,
visit our website prior to scheduling
an appointment.

Karie: What was the best lesson
you’ve learned along the way?

Brig: I learned that a 12-chair salon was
a much bigger team than I wanted to be in
charge of and that my salon space’s square
footage could handle. As a solution, I removed
five chairs and decreased the size
of the team, resulting in more space in the
salon. I am much happier and involved
now and so is the team. Clients responded
to the change very well.

Karie: What are your personal or
professional goals for 2011?

Brig: On the personal side, I plan to maintain
a healthy balance between my business
and my personal life. That may be a bit
cliché, but it’s always on the forefront of
my mind. As far as my professional goals,
three main ones come to mind:

  1. Continue inspiring and empowering
    future professionals around the world and
    near to me, including my team.
  2. Getting involved in fun events, like the
    upcoming Pravana hair color contest that
    I’m the spokeswoman for.
  3. More television adventures!

Karie: Where can SALON TODAY
readers catch you?

Brig: My adventures can be followed on
my YouTube, Twitter and Facebook pages.
I’m a huge computer nerd.

One thing we can expect from Brig is the
unexpected. Her YouTube channel is where
she posts everything from how-to hair videos
to cooking tips to her clothing makeovers.
Never a dull moment with Brig, check her
out at

In 2006, Brig opened P!ay Hair Lounge (yes, that’s
an exclamation mark instead of an ‘L.’ Brig’s
obsession with exclamation marks seems to fit
her constant state of excitement). With bright
yellow walls and a doorway draped with a huge red-and-white striped circus tent, the atmosphere is definitely
whimsical and energetic. Original art is showcased on
the walls, and rotates every eight weeks. In this fun,
playful space, P!ay stylists consider their clients part
of the social architecture, and enjoy making the salon
experience fun, and the hair beautiful.

Following the Yellow Brig RoadAbout the Author

KARIE Z. BENNETT, here with her team from Atelier Salonspa and Atelier Studio,
cut her own bangs on her third birthday, wrote a book when she was eight, and the
rest is destined for her memoirs. 2011 marks her 30th year as a hair stylist, and she
is celebrating by launching a second career—as a writer. Currently working her way
through The Writer’s Studio program at Stanford University, she writes three online
blogs, including ‘The Owner’s Forum’ for, and is the San Jose Small
Business Examiner for
She still loves working on clients,
developing new salon artists,
and being a source of inspiring
ideas for the beauty industry.
Find out more at and

Following the Yellow Brig Road