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Bloomington stylist lands special opportunity to work at Paris Fashion Week

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Fashion designers from around the world will flock to Paris during the week of Sept. 23 for Paris Fashion Week. One hair stylist selected to style for models to be featured in the spring/summer 2025 womenswear season is Maria May, the owner of Studio M Salon on 811 N. Walnut St.

Part of a team of two in a house-turned-salon beside the railroad tracks on Bloomington’s north side, Studio M has reached international acclaim for the quality of Maria May’s natural beaded row hair extensions.

“As a hair stylist, this is what we dream to do,” May said as she prepares to realize a lifelong dream in the fashion capital of the world.

Maria May, left, owner of Studio M Salon, recruited Hollie Seaford to work in her salon after learning the technique behind natural beaded row hair extensions. May has been invited to style for models during Paris Fashion Week this September.

Maria May, left, owner of Studio M Salon, recruited Hollie Seaford to work in her salon after learning the technique behind natural beaded row hair extensions. May has been invited to style for models during Paris Fashion Week this September.

Beginning a career, starting a business

Her early years were anything but certain. Originally from Muncie, Indiana, May began work as an assistant hair stylist when she found a job in Miami shortly after obtaining her cosmetology license in high school. She rented a booth out of a salon where she styled hair for five years and then moved to Bloomington in the mid-2000s where some of her friends lived.

Having little money at her disposal and her first child to take care of, she spent the next several years working as an employee for local salons before renting a space to begin her own business.

“I didn’t have any money,” she said of these formative years. “I was really young, and my son was a year old, and I was doing really well where I was, but I wanted to branch out on my own. So, my dad gave me his only $400, and I had this brand new baby … and I had to figure out how to pay rent, daycare, buy hair color, and move my entire place and hope that someone would follow me to the next location. So I did that, and it worked … and then I went and opened my own storefront location. I did that in 2015.”

At Studio M, May styles primarily for women who struggle with hair loss or have naturally thin or fragile hair. When she discovered the beauty of natural beaded row hair extensions, or NBR, she decided to make extensions her specialty.

“It’s just string, hair and beads,” May said of the effective — and secret — method.

Studio M Salon at 811 N. Walnut St. specializes in natural beaded row hair extensions, a technique appropriate for people who struggle with hair loss or have naturally thin or fragile hair.Studio M Salon at 811 N. Walnut St. specializes in natural beaded row hair extensions, a technique appropriate for people who struggle with hair loss or have naturally thin or fragile hair.

Studio M Salon at 811 N. Walnut St. specializes in natural beaded row hair extensions, a technique appropriate for people who struggle with hair loss or have naturally thin or fragile hair.

“(It) set(s) you apart in the extension world from everything else,” May said of the technique. “The way that it’s placed allows the hair to grow out from the scalp without any excessive tugging or pulling or breaking of the hair. People with the most fragile hair can wear this method … You can change your clothes and you can buy different shoes, and you can do all of the things, but your hair is on you all of the time.”

Hair extensions are strands of hair tied to a weft that are attached to the client’s natural hair in order to add length. Hair extensions come in many forms with the least costly methods involving tape, glue, or hair clips. While affordable, these methods may cause hair damage or fail to blend in with the client’s natural hair color.

“On some methods, you could be bonding the hair in,” May described of hair-damaging practices. “So you bond the hair in, and you’re going to leave that there for three to sixmonths, and then they’re going to crack that bond, which is just hardened glue, and they’re going to crack it and pull it out. So if you think about twisting the stem of an apple … it just pulls off, right? So if they have that same method in their hair … eventually your hair’s just going to start pulling off everywhere.”

Learning a technique and becoming a specialist

Laguna Beach-based stylist Danielle K. White created NBR in 2011 and keeps the technique secret from all but her students. May aspired to learn NBR for years, but White’s online classes were full every time she attempted to sign up.

A before and after shot of a client with natural beaded row hair extensions from Bloomington's Studio M Salon.A before and after shot of a client with natural beaded row hair extensions from Bloomington's Studio M Salon.

A before and after shot of a client with natural beaded row hair extensions from Bloomington’s Studio M Salon.

In 2021, White opened the in-person NBR Academy in Dana Point, California, where more spots were available, and at last, May’s application was accepted. May takes periodic trips to California in order to study business, marketing, and the exclusive method which shenow practices at Studio M.

Once enrolled in the academy, her instructors told her to stop cutting hair to devote her full attention to mastering the art of natural beaded row. “And they say, ‘tomorrow, you’re going to go back and cancel all your clients and tell them you’re no longer doing haircuts anymore,'” May said. “And I was like, ‘I think I might die.'”

First, May stopped cutting hair but retained clients who wanted hair coloring. She was still too busy to devote enough attention to clients who wanted extensions. She raised her prices, and yet her schedule remained as booked as before.

She soon realized that it was necessary to part with all other clients in order to focus on extensions, and that meant she needed to hire an assistant.

May was impressed by the styling work of Hollie Seaford when she discovered her on Instagram. After shadowing May for a day, the recent graduate of the Tricoche University of Beauty Culture Bloomington began work as a professional hair stylist just four days after graduation.

Seaford makes use of her diverse skill set to meet the needs of all other clients so May can focus on her specialty. Hollie is certified in NBR as well.

Seaford is interested in possibly opening a salon of her own one day, but she says she will be happy to work with May at Salon M for a long time.

“I love it here at Studio M, I’ll be here until I’m in a walker,” she commented. “If I had to choose one word to describe Maria, I would probably choose ‘courageous’ … even if she was afraid to take a step, she’s still going to take it, she’s not afraid to fail.”

After learning the method for applying natural beaded row hair extensions, another student of the technique connected Studio M Salon owner Maria May with the opportunity to style models during Paris Fashion Week in September.After learning the method for applying natural beaded row hair extensions, another student of the technique connected Studio M Salon owner Maria May with the opportunity to style models during Paris Fashion Week in September.

After learning the method for applying natural beaded row hair extensions, another student of the technique connected Studio M Salon owner Maria May with the opportunity to style models during Paris Fashion Week in September.

Opening new doors to exciting opportunities

As she immersed herself in her studies, May’s time at the academy eventually led to the propitious meeting with a student who brought her into contact with Paris Fashion Week.

“With that academy, I fly out to California quite often … I met a girl also in California who said she was going to Paris, and I said, ‘Oh my god, that’s a dream, how did you get that?’ And she said, ‘let me send your information over to the lead stylist.’ And so she sent my Instagram page over, and the lady called, and she said, ‘I looked over all of your work, do you have time for a call at 8 o’clock this morning?’ And I was like yes — and that was it!”

May flies out to Paris on Sept. 22 into the unknown, as she will not know what her assignment will be until the following day, or which designers she will work with. When asked how she will prepare for the unexpected, she said she is “just packing a bag with tools and showing up, because we really have no idea … It’s all happening so fast. I’ll just hop off [the plane], get into a taxi, and see what happens.

“I want the people who are coming out of the school to realize, like it doesn’t need to be your second job, it doesn’t need to be like people say all the time, ‘I’m just doing hair on the side,'” May said.

“It is a career, and you make really good money from it, and if you’re passionate about it, then you get big dreams like this.”

This article originally appeared on The Herald-Times: Bloomington stylist specializing in NBR extensions invited to Paris

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