Madison Wade was always going to be a hair stylist—it was just a matter of how soon she could get behind a chair. While some stylists tell long narratives about discovering the art of hair later in life, that’s far from the case with Wade. The Shu Uemura artist and 2018 Gallery of Style winner knew she needed to cut and color from the very beginning.
For Wade, hair has been her artistic medium since childhood.
I asked Santa Claus every year for mannequin heads, and I would buy big tubs of gel from the store and just gel them back...It wasn’t anything perfect but I just always liked doing hair and then I would always braid my friends’ hair.
Today, the Denver native is only 22 years old and already sitting at the top of a career trajectory most stylists twice her age would be thrilled to brag about. In 2015 and 2018, Wade was a finalist for the North American Hairstyling Awards—one of the most prestigious accolades in the world of hair. Her Gallery of Style win paved the way for a role as one of Shu Uemura’s very own platform artists.
We caught up with Wade backstage at a daylong editorial shoot—par for the course when you’re a hair star on the rise. Although she happened to be styling that day, both cut and color are within her wheelhouse.
“You get to be super creative and fun, so it’s something that’s a little different than being behind the chair all the time,” she explains. “I try not to stress, I kind of just like to let things flow.”
At Matthew Morris Salon, her home location in Colorado, Wade plays a role in everything from extension installation to wedding appointments. It’s the variety in clientele that’s kept her love for hair and creative eye going strong since she started working at age 18.
The way Wade tells it, she’d likely have started years earlier if anyone would’ve allowed her.
“I wanted to start hair but I couldn’t at 16, so I went to nail school just to get into the industry,” she explains. “When I got out of high school, I just went straight to hair school.”
Fresh out of a two-year assisting program at Matthew Morris, Wade has taken the opportunity to develop a personal style. In the age of Instagram and personal branding, the stylist’s intricate, detailed updos set her apart.
In fact, it was just such a style that won her the Gallery of Style competition alongside two other artists.
“I do avant-garde, editorial—things that you don’t see every day, sort of outside-of-the-box, colorful,” she says. “It’s a way to get your creativity out that you don’t see every day. It’s fun how other people enjoy looking at it and you get good feedback when it’s something that they’ve never seen before.”
When it came to her Gallery of Style model, Wade was all about emphasizing texture.
“I wanted to showcase braid work and expand the model’s hair to make everything pop,” she explained to Hair.com at the time. “Direct influences of my street style are based off of urban style through the Denver streets. I was inspired by street art and texture.”
Wade started the look by applying Shu Uemura Color Lustre Brilliant Glaze Thermo-Milk to protect the hair during heat styling. Working in narrow sections, Wade crimped the whole head before spraying it with Sheer Lacquer Finishing Hairspray and brushing the texture out with the brand’s Large Paddle Hair Brush. To finish the style, she added a fishtail braid, pulled it apart for expansion, and pinned the tail to the top of the head.