Tatum Blog Photo

Tatum Neill, creative director for Paris Parker salons and Aveda North American Artistic Director of Social Media, has always had a passion for education. A few years ago, he saw an opportunity to create educational events that could pair that passion with his love of music and fill a need for smaller, community-based hair shows in the beauty industry.

In 2016, he launched Elevate, hosting events for a couple of hundred people in intimate venues featuring local artists and a DJ.

“Every city has its own feeling and vibe,” Neill says. “And I can’t tell you how many times I hear hairdressers say they are grateful for the opportunity to be on a platform they would normally never come near.

“I also hear how much their community needed a show like Elevate, which speaks to the original concept: providing an open environment for people to come together in communities to celebrate hair.”

Unlike most hair shows, artists on stage at Elevate events don’t speak while they cut hair. They just focus on their craft while a DJ spins tunes and the audience enjoys drinks, music, and creativity. Here, Neill shares the past, present, and future of Elevate.

#1 SalonBiz: Tell us how you create each Elevate event?

Tatum Neill: I try to do 12 per year, and they are mostly in my home territory—Dallas, Nashville, Austin, Houston, New Orleans. But I also try to hit cities that are asking for an Elevate event, (for example, we recently went to Denver) or sometimes partner up with a bigger event. We can work in tandem with some shows. We’re small—only 200-300 people, so we don’t want to compete with another show, we’d like to work together.

Through Instagram, people are becoming aware of us, and I’m able to look at their content and see if they hit the vibe of Elevate. Or I reach out to stylists I know in the area and see if they know anyone who would be a good fit.  

#2 SB: What do you want hairdressers to take away from an Elevate event?  

Tatum Neill: We bring a different perspective on education. It’s free for hairdressers to attend, because I don’t incur a lot of expenses when I stay local, and we aren’t associated with any brands.

By associating with brands, we can fractionalize ourselves by only exposing ourselves to what is immediately around us. My hope is that stylists see a wide variety of techniques and get inspired to try them.

I think about my dad (Neill Corporation founder Edwin Neill II) and his idea that through education, you could elevate the stylist and also the industry. I want the hairdresser to command respect. I want to see kids getting out of high school or college to see this as a career and give them more discipline and technique so we elevate not just them, but also the whole industry.

#3 SB: What is Elevate Masters?

Tatum Neill: Elevate Hair is very much a party with a DJ spinning the whole time. Stylists have a chance to do their craft without being encumbered by communication. But Masters is a full-day hair show with segments—a little more traditional, but we tried to shake it up and be somewhat disruptive in format.

A variety of artists present together on a specific discipline. For example color. Five artists, all doing different things, do color from start to finish on the stage. To tie in the Elevate vibe, we have a DJ, so artists will work with the DJ playing at first, then the DJ steps down and the artists educate.

The idea is that the artists can get into the zone without having to talk to the audience, and then they’ll start educating. Each segment will have its own DJ sets (for example, the barber segment features old school hip hop). There will be segments on barbering, cutting, styling, and color. In the end, the artists will walk the audience through everything that happened with the color models—the beautiful results and what didn’t work out.

During the finale, three artists will do a hair mix up/mashup, rotating between each other’s models. And of course, we’ll still have a party afterward, including awards. Attendees will be able to see these haircuts on stage and go to a class the next day to learn how to do it themselves. We want to be transparent and give away as much as possible.

#4 SB: How does technology come into play for you as a creative director and stylist?

Tatum Neill: The great thing about SalonBiz is that it’s a platform that lives in your salon and in your hand—you’re always connected. SalonBiz gives you the tools you need to apply creativity in your career—knowledge is power.  One way I use SalonBiz is to take notes on clients. Is she growing her fringe out or cutting it again? It’s helpful to have that tool in my hand and not just wing it. I know what products I used on clients and all sorts of data. It may not be fun or sexy to analyze numbers, but I can’t be creative if I’m broke. I need that tool. There’s so much power in what hairdressers do, but you need to treat it like a business. Your goals are achievable if you have a monitoring device.

#5 SB: What’s your vision for the future of Elevate Masters?

Tatum Neill: I’d love to do one yearly or every 18 months. I love having these emerging artists work alongside masters, and I really believe in building up these local hair communities.

Buy tickets to Elevate Masters, in New Orleans, June 9-10 here. Featured artists include Lupe Voss, Gerard Scarpaci, Allen Ruiz, Maria Klass, and many more.


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