Hayley Atherton was born in 1979 in Cheshire, UK to a family of hairdressers. She’s grown up living and breathing the glamour, techniques and technological developments inside one of the world’s oldest fashion industries – hair.
Hayley’s father started hairdressing in 1970 and with her mother went on to develop the highly successful Paul Micheal’s Hair salon in Altrincham, Cheshire, which operates to this day. Hayley and her sister loved helping out in the salon and spent a lot of time there. “One of my first memories is holding Bobbie pins for my dad as he created glamorous, elaborate hair-ups.”
Hayley started working weekends as a teenager and began her full time training at age 16. She fondly remembers her time working in the family business. “After we closed the doors at the end of each day, we’d sit and chat about hair and the business all night long!”
After completing her GNVQ in hairdressing in South Trafford College in 1995, Hayley’s sights were set firmly on foreign shores.
With her backpack strapped on tight, she set out for the USA. She later moved on to Asia, then to New Zealand and Australia where she worked in various salons, picking up new techniques, developing her skills and expanding her knowledge of ethnic hair types and traditional hair dress. “The most important thing I learned from my travels is to respect tradition. Always keep trying to understand people and their culture.”
While Hayley explored the world and the industry she remains passionate about, one thing became very clear; she wanted to become an expert in a specialised field: performance make-up and hair.
Heading back to the UK at age 20 to further develop these skills, she completed her one-year fulltime ITEC qualification in Fashion, Theatre and Media make-up. Hayley thrived in all aspects of the course, which extended to special effects, photography and wig making, and allowed her to extend her broad skill set. Perfect for future endeavours.
Again, Hayley’s drive to stretch her horizons was strong. New Zealand’s thriving film industry seemed like a good place to try out her freshly honed skills. Her first break on the set of The Tribe in 2001 marked the beginning of a 15-year career in performance make-up and hair styling. “I loved the buzz of the make-up trailer, the actors coming and going and getting into costume. It’s a tight timeframe, so the adrenaline would be rushing as we were bringing characters to life with make-up and hair. There were some serious technical colours going on! Bleaching, greens and blues…. so interesting to then see the effect on camera”.
Working on local productions such as Black Sheep, Peter Jackson’s King Kong and a co-production with the BBC called Kidnapped, Hayley gained valuable exposure to different production styles and period styling. The highlight of her time working in NZ was styling Anthony Hopkins’ character Burt Munro in the film The Worlds Fastest Indian and traveling to incredible locations across the country.
Hayley moved Australia in 2007 looking for a new adventure and fresh territory. She based herself in Perth and gained several HOD positions on feature films and TV productions. “I loved working with the beautiful Teresa Palma, and had lots of fun with the hilarious Simon Peg. It was an amazing time full of interesting people and places”.
The interesting places stretched out to the wild far north and south of Western Australia, where she worked on both international and local productions. “The most meaningful work I did around this time was helping to tell some true-blue Australian stories, such as Three Acts of Murder, The Circuit and Blue Dog.”
In 2009, now in a committed relationship, Hayley focused on finding projects in the eastern states of Australia. “I was lucky enough to work with some of the courtiers most well-known make-up artists. Kirsten Veysey, Paul Patterson and Fiona Reese Jones. In this industry,” she says, “…people skills are arguably as important as technical skills, and I have been so fortunate to be able to refine my craft by working with some of the best and most gracious professionals in the business”.
By 2012 Hayley was regularly working cross-Tasman, and was asked to be a part of the huge production team on Spartacus. “A fantastic role!” She remembers, “Every day had a new creative challenge. Making up gory wounded gladiators to exquisite upper class roman women each day was a real treat”.
Back in Western Australia, Hayley had a string of designing positions for I Met a Girl, RAMS, The Heights, Go Karts, Naked Wanderer, and Hounds of Love. Working with Richard Roxburgh, Miranda Richardson Benton Thwaites and Sam Neill. During this time Hayley was nominated for an AACTA award for best hair and make up for Hounds of Love.
“It was incredible to have our work recognised. The transformation we did for Emma Booth was subtle but caught the eye of my professional peers, which I am so grateful for. It was a wonderful experience to be at the ACCTA event in a room of very talented technicians. A career highlight!”
Whether working on contemporary television shows, developing characters from diverse ethnic backgrounds or futuristic worlds, or recreating lavish styles from historical periods, Hayley Atherton lives and breathes her work. “I have always thoroughly enjoyed being part of this fascinating industry. The creative outlet and the sense of completion is so rewarding, and being a small element in what becomes an epic story on the big screen will always be a huge thrill for me.”