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Published May 31 2010

Fargo woman's hair-raising designs gaining national attention

Lisa Dresser wasn’t supposed to be a hairstylist.

After graduating from high school in Utah, Dresser was planning on a career in nutrition or exercise physiology, but before she committed herself to the college courses necessary for those fields, Dresser decided to learn a trade as a fallback plan, something that could make her some money if she needed it.

She settled on hairstyling and never looked back.

“I didn’t think it would be a career,” Dresser, 46, says, “but after working with hair, I loved it.”

Nearly 30 years later, Dresser lives in Fargo with a family and is still working with hair.

But her work has advanced beyond the basic hair-cutting stage. Her ability to craft voluminous, dynamic hair show pieces has earned Dresser some minor acclaim on the national hair scene.

Dresser won an online hairstyle contest in April and was flown to Los Angeles to be part of a red-carpet celebrity event.

She also has some of her hair portfolio in the What’s Next Awards, an online hairstyling contest at www.whatsnextawards.com. People can vote for their favorite styles on the website.

The contests are more than just a way for Dresser to be recognized for her skill; she sees them as a way to achieve her goal of styling a celebrity’s hair.

Restoring beauty

While Dresser’s dream is to add some dynamic hair design to a famous face, much of the Fargo woman’s work is making the average woman look a little more beautiful.

As a stylist at Hair Success, Dresser spends a lot of time creating and applying hair pieces to women who want to cover up balding spots or fill in thinning hair through hair restoration. To do this, Dresser crafts hair pieces from human hair and weaves them into a woman’s existing hairline.

“Lisa finds solutions for people with problem hair,” says Jill Krahn, co-owner of Hair Success and Day Spas and the Salon Professional Academy in Fargo.

“Let’s say they don’t have enough hair on top to get the look they want, she’ll give them the hair to get that look.”

The results can vary from typical to transformative, depending on how flashy or fashionable the customer wants to feel.

“I love to help women have a full head of hair, those who have lost their hair,” Dresser says.

She also likes to have fun with her designs, which she does consider to be artistic creations.

Hair as fantasy art

To fully understand the detail and diligence that goes into the work of Dresser’s hairpieces, it helps to be aware of the hair fantasy circuit that’s built a cult following in recent years – even appearing in the Mo’Nique film “Hair Show.”

In these contests, stylists use hair as a canvas to support their artistic ideas that can range from shaping and dyeing the hair to resemble an American flag to building a traffic bridge made of hair between two models.

“It’s so crazy what people can come up with,” Dresser says. “I’m at the low end of the totem pole … but I use it as my canvas.”

Dresser’s designs might be more modest, but not necessarily easier to make.

She’ll spend hours or sometimes days creating a hairpiece. Some are for her clients. Others are made for the pageantry of hair design.

For example, she’s made a vertical hairpiece colored red and orange and sculpted in a frenetic pattern to replicate fire.

In another design, Dresser wrapped hair around a piece of Styrofoam to achieve a super-voluminous look with a fairly typical long-haired bob cut. That design also has a wide swath of bangs covering the front that was made as a separate piece.

“It’s like statement hair,” she says. “I want them to catch the eyes.”

And it is hair.

While some hair show stylists will use synthetic hair in their work, Dresser says she only uses real hair. It’s expensive, but she says the result is worth it, as synthetic hair can’t be shaped or curled like the real stuff.

And when she’s done with a show piece, she’ll reuse the hair, washing it, re-dyeing it or whatever else it needs to make someone’s dream look come true.

As for her dreams, Dresser’s hoping online contests like the What’s Next Awards can bring her closer to her goal of designing a hairstyle for a celebrity like Tyra Banks, Adam Lambert or Lady Gaga.

But she doesn’t want to make a habit of it.

“I just want to do it once. I don’t want to make a career of it,” she says. “I have family. I’m happy here.”



Readers can reach Forum Features Editor Robert Morast at (701) 241-5518