SLUG Style: Abigail Marie Nielson of Paul Mitchell The School
For this special edition of “SLUG Style,” SLUG partnered with Paul Mitchell The School for a styling contest, which stylist Abigail Marie Nielson won! Paul Mitchell The School conducted the first phase of the contest, and SLUG chose from among three finalists from Paul Mitchell The School. Nielson rose to the top with the deft technical abilities she exhibited in the haircuts and dye jobs she submitted to the contest. The winner would get to style a model for a “SLUG Style” photoshoot, and beyond solely hair, Nielson rocked us with the overall looks she set on her model, Presley Lucas. It’s no wonder—with a background in theater, Nielson is poised for success in her craft.
Every month, “SLUG Style” features a distinct and unique member of the community and asks them why they do what they do. Exploring more than just clothing, SLUG Style is an attempt to feature the people who give Salt Lake City flavor through personality and panache.
SLUG: What are your stylistic influences for yourself? This could be a band, decade, fictional character—anything.
Nielson: My influences are kind of all over the place. From ’80s fashion to nowadays fashion, I like to stay somewhere in between. I love being edgy and outgoing, like Miley Cyrus, Freddy Mercury and Lady Gaga. I also love being simple and classy like Marilyn Monroe and my mom. My mom has been a big influence on me and how my style has evolved.
SLUG: What about your influences for styling clients?
Nielson: I find that my influence comes from what looks best on the clients. Whether it’s beach waves or an updo, it all depends on the person.
SLUG: What first got you into doing hair and style overall?
Nielson: I started out being in theater. I did everyone’s hair and makeup for all the shows, and I ended up being really good at it! I found out that I love being behind the scenes as much as I love being onstage.
SLUG: Why and when did you become involved with Paul Mitchell The School?
Nielson: I felt like they could really help me accomplish my goals to be where I wanted in the beauty industry. They had a great program, and they have amazing opportunities for us to take advantage of. They have amazing connections, and they always have our best interest in mind.
SLUG: Where are you now in the program?
Nielson: I have about six months left! I am almost to my year mark!
SLUG: How would you describe your approach to styling people?
Nielson: I see their face shape, skintone, hair color and eye color, and I figure out what goes best with their style and who they are. You can’t make someone something they’re not. You have to take into account who they are and what [works for them].
SLUG: What are your career aspirations when it comes to hair and styling?
Nielson: I want to work in the entertainment industry. I want to work on models and movies. I know the entertainment industry very well, and I feel like it is where I am meant to be, whether it’s on or off the screen.
SLUG: How and why did you choose the looks you selected for this “SLUG Style” photoshoot?
Nielson: I wanted to be big and bold. I wanted to have a lot of range to show off the styles I can do, everything from simple to glam.
SLUG: Please break down each look for us—what’s your thought process for each look?
Nielson: Casual Look – I took a simple approach to it. I thought, “What would be most comfortable for my model, and what would I think is most comfortable.” I wanted to get a really authentic version of my model.
Business Look – I wanted to be edgy and sleek while also being professional and classy. I didn’t want too much skin. I wanted her to look like she is the queen bee. I wanted to give the feel of commanding the space. I already know she commands the room just as she is, but I wanted to intensify it.
Glam Look – To be 100% honest, I really wanted to go for a “walk of shame” look. I wanted her to be coming home after a long night of fun. I didn’t want to make her “trashy”; I wanted her to show that women can do what they want and still be empowering. Women and men can both do as they please and still be acknowledged in a good way. A “walk of shame” is always presented as a bad thing for a woman. I wanted to show that a woman can do as she wants while also being a boss.
SLUG: Of course, as a hair student, you paid special attention to each phase of your model’s hair. What did you do, and what was your approach to transforming it with each phase?
Nielson: I wanted to show the [range] of my outfits with the hair. I wanted to show that I can be diverse in styling and that we can give a different feel to each piece with even just changing [Presley’s] hair.
SLUG: What does each phase of the hairstyling impart to each look?
Nielson: In the Casual look, I wanted to just have a simple normal hairstyle without anything crazy going on. With the business look, I wanted to have a sleek loose curl. She is a girl on the go, but she can still look flawless. With the Glam look, I wanted a little bit of a tighter curl and have a lot more texture. She just finished a fun night of partying—of course her hair isn’t going to be perfect, but she can still look like a boss.
SLUG: Each look is distinct yet feels cohesive paired alongside each other. What was your approach to achieving this balance?
Nielson: I wanted to show a week in the life of my model. She can be professional, casual and edgy all at once, and nothing has to define her. She is who she is, and she’s proud of that.
SLUG: Let’s learn a little bit about your model. Who is she, and why did you choose her for the looks you curated for this photoshoot?
Nielson: Her name is Presley, [and] we have been best friends since high school. She has such a presence in person and on camera, so I thought she would be perfect for this photoshoot.
SLUG: What’s your favorite part of your and Presley’s friendship?
Nielson: We are just real with each other. There’s no B.S. We are always there for each other no matter what, but we will call each other out if we have to.
SLUG: What are your interests or hobbies? What is the hobby or interest that you have that no one would realize to ask you about?
Nielson: I was a figure skater for 10 years. I performed and completed all over the U.S. on a synchronized skating team. I performed in a bunch of shows and I loved it. I ended up stopping skating to pursue theater. I loved performing onstage, and I loved being able to sing and dance my heart out. Unfortunately, COVID hit and hindered me going to college to get my BFA with an emphasis in musical theater at Southern Utah University.
SLUG: If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would those be?
Nielson: Outgoing, kind-hearted, loyal.
SLUG: How has your approach to hair and style evolved over time?
Nielson: I used to be so timid and scared to show my creativity in hair, but now I do what I want and don’t care what others think. It’s my style and my creativity. I can do what I want.
SLUG: Besides what you did on Presley for this shoot, what other styles of approaches of doing hair excite you? What do you think you’ll do for your next shoot?
Nielson: I honestly want to do something super out of the box! I want to use bright colors and interesting outfits to create an unusual piece. I would love to do something along the lines of candy or a candy shop. I feel like there are amazing colors and outfit choices I can do to really make a unique piece.
SLUG: If you had no limits or restrictions, what look would you create and why?
Nielson: I feel like I would want to do a piece that has some kind of stunt in it, maybe suspended in the air or underwater. I feel like it could give such a beautiful effect and that people would be in awe. I love [a] shock factor in my work, and I think doing something along the lines of that would be amazing.