Hair is one of those things. You've either got it
or you haven't. And if you have, then there's a whole Pandora's box of
whats, ifs, hows, dos and don'ts that must be considered between that
moment you get out of bed in the morning and take leave of your place
of residence - exiting your safe space to the realm of random critical
judgment that is the public sphere.
is though, it doesn't have to be random - for you or your hairdresser.
And that's where the OMC Israel Cup 2009 comes in. For the first time,
Israel held a championship to choose a winner to send to the OMC Paris
Cup Open, scheduled for October 18 and 19.
But let's take a step backward.
The Organisation Mondiale Coiffure is "the world's biggest
beauty organization, with over 60 member countries and 500,000 salon
owners worldwide," according to its Web site (omchairworld.com). Member
countries include China, Lebanon, Pakistan, Russia, Ukraine, the US
and, of course, Canada. The countries are divided up among different
regional zones. Israel, which only joined last year, is in the Western
Europe zone, as some sort of Zionist dream.
And, to be clear, it is Zionism that was the
propelling factor for Israel to seek membership. At the press
conference (that took place a week prior to the Israel Cup), blue and
white was a constant reference by the event's organizers. "Our vision
is to promote Israel," offered one participant. Though they were also
very careful to make a distinction between politics and art, which, it
was frequently asserted, "do not go together." It seems that this might
have stemmed from the concern that, on the international level, Israeli
champions will come in direct competition with champions from enemy
states, a recurring point of conflict for the locals.
At the time this piece is being written, the OMC Israel Web
site cannot be accessed - despite attempts on multiple Web browsers.
Each time the warning that the site could harm your computer is
displayed, indicating that someone, somewhere, decided that an Israeli
pursuit of hair, makeup and nail championships is a bit too normal for
a country still occupying another people. Or, it's just some punk kid
having a good time.
Either way, it should be noted that almost every
time the words "blue," white" or "Israel" were said, it was wrapped in
a Russian accent. In fact, on the OMC's main Web site, it list the
contact languages for Israel as English and Russian. While no one would
comment directly on the disproportionate representation of Russian
participation, I was told by one Israel Cup organizer that this is just
big in the East.
Well, now it's big in Israel.
ARRIVING AT Tel Aviv's Dan Panorama, it was clear that this was
going to be an event best categorized as "other." Swarms of people had
arrived for the days event, free and open to the public with the minor
hassle of having to register. Entrance was dependent upon presenting
your printed-on-the-spot name tag. Aside from that little environmental
faux pas, walking into the exhibition room was like taking a step into
the most toxic salon space you could ever imagine.
Coughing and taking quick breaths, I tried to expunge the
horrible memories of youth that involved my mom taking me with her to
have her hair done. But if one can get used to the Tel Aviv air - hot,
sticky and carcinogenic - outside, then, well, inside could almost be
played off as a a slight improvement: it wasn't as hot.
Even before entering the main hall - with its runway, myriad
prep tables and oodles of oglers (especially surrounding the four body
art models), there was a veritable madhouse of cosmetics, hair
products, nail accoutrements of previously unimaginable varieties and
those types who look like they go to a bar only if it has FTV on a
projection screen. We (my photographer and I) were now playing bumper
bodies in Little Odessa.
This market had representatives of so many different suppliers
for commercial and personal use, including Reisz Professional, BOAZ,
Minx Nails, Nano Keratin (an anti-aging hair product) and other gems,
such as OPI.
OPI is the largest producer of nail polishes, based in the US.
Its product, says Ilana Casif, an OPI instructor, is made without
carcinogens and with an emphasis placed on "green" ingredients. It was
also the only vendor present with a bar. That's because the "nail bar"
it had set up, called as such due to the high table and chairs that
people sit at to have their nails done resembles a bar. But, in Israel,
says Casif, "a bar is a bar." So alcohol must be served. I'm convinced.
But the intrigue of the main hall is too much to ignore. It's
where the actual action of the day's festivities is going down. So, we
enter to take in the scene. And what a scene it is. "It's like
backstage at a cracked-out fashion show," says the photographer. I'm
inclined to agree.
WE ENCOUNTER wedding dresses filled with brides that get your
juices flowing, but that you might think twice about taking home to
mother. One female has her body painted with scales, in green and
black, with her hair done in alternating stripes of those same colors.
Then there is the fantasy competition, which entails models decked out
in various Vogue
-type fashion - all-inclusive, from dress to
makeup to nails to hair. But mixed in are two models who stand out for
rather obvious reasons. One is "Eve" - barefoot and holding an apple
with tree branches and flowers adorning her costume. And an Israeli
sports girl - her body painted with the logos of various local teams
from Maccabi Haifa to Maccabi Ashdod.
Announcements come, once again, in Russian-accented Hebrew,
calling out Russian names and the cities where they're from. To add to
the whole atmosphere of unexpected oddities, the musical interlude,
during the afternoon runway shows, is provided by Jamie Cullum, piped
in over the sound system.
Then we come to the evening's award ceremony. After all. this
is what the whole day has been about. Israelis of various origins have
congregated here to compete for the coveted Israel Cup to represent the
country in Paris later this year. This is about the models as much as
it is about the designers.
Shelly Greenberg, 17, from Rishon Lezion, is a
model representing the work of Gabi Weinstein, himself representing
Carin Gal hair and cosmetics. This is Greenberg's first time in the big
leagues and she is excited. Decidedly attractive, Weinstein's input has
added a few years on the high-schooler, who admits that the competition
brings out the glamour in its participants.
it is the designer who takes center stage. In this case Weinstein, who
has a long career behind him, is looking to advance on a professional,
From the photo gallery available on the OMC's main Web site,
there is a huge gap to be traversed. The sheer representation of
creativity and fantasy from abroad that is presented outshines the
bush-league presentations of the local crews. But "this puts us on the
map," Weinstein asserts. "This opens the doors to a new generation."
And between Greenberg's glowing appearance and the sheer multitude of
local participants, he is most likely correct.
Besides, apropos the earlier assertions that there is no
connection between politics and art, he promotes the notion that "maybe
this will help to advance the relationship [between Jews and Arabs]."
AND THEN the evening's gala event goes down.
The room starts off, packed with spectators and participants,
eager to advance to the international level. A woman of Russian
background hosts. She is a somewhat frightening Eastern-looking
Christina Ricci. Between announcing the winners, she introduces the
evening's entertainment. First comes a Russian singer, dressed like a
slutty belly dancer. Then comes a Russian opera singer, decked out in
an internally lit costume, from skirt to bra to outlandish headpiece.
the night wears on, the crowd thins and it is clear that those
remaining are waiting/hoping to receive the OMC Israel Cup medallions
that will ensure their advancement to the international championship in
Paris. And, as Arthur Yakubov, who took first place in the Street
Fashion competition says, "Thank God, [OMC] arrived in Israel."
To him, it is very important to carry the Israeli flag to
Paris. But in the short-term, his victory has already had a positive
influence on his Ashdod-based salon. So, Paris or not, OMC Israel has
already made waves. Where it is to go from here, only time can tell.