Backstage among the glitz and glamour of Brisbane Fashion Week 2022 (BFW22), Ben Wright will be a long way from the dusty, red streets of his rural Queensland hometown.
It was there, in the corner of a quaint, little Mount Isa newsagency he first pried open the pages of a Vogue magazine and instantly fell in love.
“I think I was the only 14-year-old boy in Mount Isa buying Vogue,” he laughed.
“I loved looking at the amazing hairstyles in those pages and dreamt of one day creating looks like that and being a part of that industry.”
Since then, the 24-year-old has shot to success, working at an award-winning salon in Brisbane and behind the scenes at fashion shows and shoots across the country – including Melbourne Fashion Week and Australian Fashion Week.
As he readies himself for his new role as hair director for BFW22, Mr Wright remembers the moment he realised this was the world for him.
“It was my Nan that got me into hairdressing,” he said.
“I was always with her on school holidays and she was always one of those nannas dressed to the nines. I would go with her when she was in the salon getting a perm, a cut, a colour or even just a blow-dry.
“I could never take my eyes off what the hairdresser was doing – I was enthralled.”
‘Passion was contagious’
From an early age, he cheekily started schooling his mum about the clothes she bought him.
“As a kid I always loved fashion and I always cared about what I was wearing and all of that.
“I’m pretty sure Mum stopped buying me clothes for Christmas when I was like nine or 10 because I just would refuse to wear whatever she bought me.”
As soon as he could, Mr Wright walked into his favourite salon – the Capricorn Hair Studio in Mount Isa – and demanded a job.
Owner Michelle Donald still remembers that day.
“He said, ‘I want to be a hairdresser, that’s all I want to be and this is where I want to work, I’m happy to work for free if you’ll take me on’,” she said.
“I said, ‘You don’t have to work for free’ and that was it.
“He started work that Saturday. He was perfect and we bonded immediately. His enthusiasm and passion were contagious.”
From salon to behind-the-scenes
Whether he’s on set or in the shop, Mr Wright’s greatest motivation comes from the people he gets to work with.
“When you’re in the salon, you get that sense of gratification from the small act of making someone feel and look beautiful, changing how people feel about themselves,” he said.
“Seeing people so happy when they leave the salon that feeling stays with you.
“Backstage and on set, you get that sense of adrenaline and excitement. It’s fast-paced, you’re working with so many different creatives in such a pumped-up atmosphere.
“That’s a feeling that I’ve loved since I started dancing competitively in Mount Isa and that’s stayed with me to this day and a big part of why I love what I do.”
As his career skyrockets into its next phase, the 24-year-old encouraged others to join the industry.
“If you’re feeling a little lost or intrigued about what the industry might be like, if you’ve got a passion for hair, you’ve got a natural creative flair, if you love people and high-energy environments, and what’s happening in the world right now, this is an industry for you,” he said.
“Walk into a local salon and ask questions, get your hands dirty, even if you just do a day of work experience — try it out. Not only is it the best job, it’s the best world to be a part of.”
For his first-ever employer, his achievements come as no shock.
“Reading and hearing about Ben’s success never surprises me,” Ms Donald said.
“He was destined for greatness and it makes me super proud to know that, as a boy from the bush with a big dream, he let nothing hold him back.”
Mr Wright’s hair creations will feature on the runway at the BFW22 from August 22-26.