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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Beauty Aids and Hair Apparent

Fluorescent green rubber bust increasers and Taiwanese acupunctural face masks -- both battery-operated -- were among the items on display at the Second Annual International World of Beauty Festival held over the weekend at a somewhat ironic venue, the Kremlin Palace.


On the beauty circuit, this was no small event. Some 50 leading beauty firms from 15 different countries had set up stalls in the foyer and did a brisk trade in everything from hair dye to home electrolysis machines.


In one booth, Yury Antipov, commercial director of Lantan, a Russian medical cosmetology center, showed a particularly graphic video of a liposuction operation in progress. In the video, a young woman reclined under local anaesthetic, watching passively as her thighs were stabbed repeatedly and violently by two fat-siphoning metal prongs. Clients pay between $500 and $700 for the experience.


Apart from the exhibition, the festival's agenda also included a very popular performance by a female impersonator and some impressive lip-synching from top Russian pop stars like Dmitry Malikov and Irina Ponarovskaya.


But it was the hairdressing -- done by some of the world's best hairstylists -- that really stole the limelight.


Over 1,000 hairdressers from all over Russia came to the festival organized by the Russian Union of Hairdressers and the Association of Hair Art. They joined assorted beauty pundits and those able to afford tickets starting at 150,000 rubles ($27.52) to feast on an eclectic display of the latest trends in hair art by top international hairstylists from Spain, Italy, Great Britain and Russia.


"What on earth is that," muttered 27-year-old businessman Boris Chernikov, as a model sporting fluorescent orange tresses with black Cruella DeVille-style stripes hammed it up on the catwalk for the bemused crowd.


"I'm picking up some ideas," said hairdresser Olga Shlepova, 23, of St. Petersburg, as she peered at the distant stage through a pair of bird-watching binoculars. "But I think some of this stuff may be a bit over the top for some of my clients."


As male models poutily posed in underpants to the sound of live African bongo drums, the golden boy of Russian hairstyling, 34-year old Sergei Zveryev seemed to clip randomly, yet expertly at an array of tresses. "I'm glad that our profession has finally received the attention and respect it deserves" said Zveryev, who recently won the grand prize at the Golden Rose hairstyling competition in Paris. Turning to the audience, he continued to clip, saying, "Before, nobody wanted to work with us, but now all the best designers, photographers and models want to be involved."


The reason for all this sudden attention is the meteoric rise to fame of Russian hairstylists on the world stage. For the past two years, a six-strong Russian team has been trained by top-notch British hairstylists Trevor Mitchell and John Phelps.


Both have impressive credentials for the job. Mitchell holds two world records for speed cutting. Phelps is a two-time world hairdressing champion. When the pair came on board, the Russian team occupied last place in the world rankings. Since then, they have taken the cut-throat world of international hairdressing by storm.


"At the biannual world hairdressing championships in Washington this year, the women's team came second and the men's team came fourth," said Mitchell, who owns some 12 hair salons in Britain. "Usually it takes 10 years for a team to be able to compete seriously on the international level."


"The Russians are so successful because they are completely dedicated" said Phelps as he relaxed backstage Sunday. "For most hairdressers in England, it is a nine-to-five job. But in Russia, the top hairdressers work extremely long hours and they make big sacrifices. One woman left her family behind in Lithuania so that she could work full-time in Moscow."


According to the two men, the Russian men's team would have come in second in Washington had they not been penalized for their costumes. Strict rules governing the male competition stipulate that there should be no theatricality or effeminacy in the presentation despite the current trends toward adrogeny in both the men's and women's competitions.


When the Russians turned up in Washington with camp white cossack outfits complete with fur trim, the judges decided to make an example of them. "It's ridiculous really" said Phelps. "Would they penalize the Greeks for wearing dresses or the Scots for wearing kilts?"