Career Ladder: Meet Joana Neves

With her roots in Portugal and after training as a hairdresser in Spain, Joana Neves is the Editorial Director at professional hair care brand, Alterna Europe, working on educational sessions, product launches and photographic shoots. She is also Global Ambassador for Schwarzkopf Professional, and session stylist for Guido Palau’s core team.

Joana NevesWith her roots in Portugal and after training as a hairdresser in Spain, Joana Neves is the Editorial Director at professional hair care brand, Alterna Europe, working on educational sessions, product launches and photographic shoots. She is also a session stylist for the Guido show team.

It seemed to be Joana's destiny to become a hairdresser but for many years she fought against following in the footsteps of her mother. At school and later in her first years at University, Joana was not inclined to become a hairdresser and be part of the industry her mother loved. 

Inspired to learn

Growing up Joana's Barbie dolls all had very different haircuts from her friend's dolls – shaved sides and multi-coloured hair – perhaps that was the early stages of her creativity. After school, Joana went to University to study PR and Communications and at the time didn't really enjoy it so looked for a way to escape. Her best friend was selected as a hair model for a local distributor and they were looking for additional models. Joana took part in the show and was completely taken by the world of hairdressing; she went straight home and woke up her Mum announcing she wanted to be a hairdresser. 

Having her Mum's full support, they spoke to the hairdresser who had been demonstrating for the distributor and found out which training school he attended, and Joana enrolled there. The school was not in Joana's native Portugal but in Spain, and she spent the next two years there learning all she could about the craft.  

After her course finished, she was asked to join the training team, teaching product knowledge to students and visiting salons to help sell in the products. At this point the distributor from her hometown asked Joana if she would like to join his team and return home to Portugal. Back in Portugal, Joana was working for the distributor but most of her time was spent working in the office. “I was a hairdresser and I wanted to do hair,” explains Joana. “It was time for me to move on.” 

Moving to Spain

She started to actively seek out the best hairdresser and her search led her to Carlos Gago. After contacting Carlos, Joana worked for him for free for a few months and throughout that time Carlos fed her creativity and energy, encouraging her to strive for more. It was then that Joana started entering competitions such as the OMC and Trend Vision, which allowed her to develop her skills and win many gold medals and awards. 

Heading to London

Carlos advised Joana to go to London as that was the place to be to allow her to become the hairdresser she strived to be. There was only one challenge, at that point Joana couldn't speak English, but her boyfriend, João, could and he acted as her interpreter at her first interview.  

João's cousin worked for Erdem and she suggested that Joana should contact the Windle and Moodie salon in Covent Garden. Paul Windle agreed to interview Joana and they went straight from the airport, dropped their luggage in a nearby Starbucks and got changed in the toilet before Joana, accompanied by João, went into the salon for the interview. 

The interview went well despite the language barrier and Paul's last words to Joana were, ‘when can you start?'. Joana started the next day, dressed in her salon uniform of black and started retraining and learning to speak English at the same time.  She re-trained to wash hair, to make coffee and was fortunate to work alongside a hairdresser who could speak Spanish.

Working as a Session Stylist

With her English improving, Joana was looking to do more and more within the salon and asked her mum to send over all her certificates and photographs of all the work she had created for competitions and in salon. She showed this to Paul, who set up a meeting with Neil Moodie, who as one of the UK's leading session stylists was working with fantastic brands including Burberry and Margaret Howell. This was a whole new world to Joana, and Neil introduced to her to working with magazines and on shows and very soon was asked to join his team. 

That was just the start of Joana's career as a session stylist, which is fast paced, very competitive and where your work is always your calling card. From Neil Moodie's team, Joana then joined James Pecis Team and went on to work with one of the greats of the session industry Sam McKnight, working in Milan, Paris, New York and London on runway shows and campaigns.  

“I wanted to work with all of them. To learn from them and to find out why they are so good,” says Joana. Fashion week schedules are demanding, and Joana could be working on three shows a day and often 50 shows in a season. Editorial shoots have taken Joana all over the world including Asia. 

Impressing Guido

There was always one artist Joana wanted to work with and that iconic hairdresser was Guido. Continually calling and emailing his agents without any luck, Joana couldn't find a way to get in front of Guido and show him what she could do.

Whilst working on the shows one of her jobs was cancelled and that gave her golden opportunity. A friend recommended Joana for the Dolce Gabanna show, which Guido was heading up and Joana put her name forward. In the session world you are only as good as your name and the people who recommend you. That night Joana heard nothing back from the agents and went to sleep waking up every hour on the hour to check her messages. Early morning, she checked her phone again and it had 4% battery and very quickly she charged her phone to find she had received a call from the agent, asking her to be at the venue in 30 minutes time. 

Joana was first at the venue and from that day she knew that she wanted to be part of that team. Whatever kind of hair they were doing, it was the best and Joana wanted to be part of that world. 

“The hair created is perfection, you are learning every day,” adds Joana. Gaining more and more experience with Guido's team, Joana was then asked to join the main team. “It's tough, stressful and pressures are changing. Each season is different and each season I have been given more and more responsibility and I want to do my best work each day,” she says. 

An educational role with Alterna

Running in tandem with Joana's role as one of the leading session stylists in Guido's team, Joana is also Editorial Director for Alterna. The role came about after working with Simon Ellis as a Schwarzkopf Global Ambassador and she was introduced to Nikolas Tilaveridis and Alterna. Through this introduction, Joana became part of the Alterna team working on educational sessions, product launches and photographic shoots for the renowned brand. “I believe education is so important. 

“I have never stopped learning throughout my entire career. Working with Alterna has given me a platform to share my ideas and skills, they have given me the resources to explore this avenue. We managed to educate throughout the pandemic with Instagram Live sessions called Creative Corner and they got better and better with each one we did. We used the technology available to share ideas with our global audience,” says Joana. 

What's next for Joana? “Education is my passion and I'd love to translate my experience in the session world to a course for other hairdressers to attend. It's important to understand salon work to enable you to do session work and I think it's an area lots of hairdressers are interested in,” she says.

Timing has been everything in Joana's career to date, with the next stage set to be as exciting as her journey from Oliveira do Hospital in Portugal to the fashion pages of the world's glossiest magazines and her educational and creative collaborations with Alterna. 

See more of Joana Neves' work on her website and Instagram. Alterna Europe products are available from Xpert Professional.