Primped and pampered, dyed and brushed, the dogs of Groom Expo West showed up in style
All eyes were on the very, very good dogs commanding the stage Feb. 20 at the Pasadena Convention Center, their fur dyed brightly in every hue under the sun — some adorned with sparkles, accessories and twinkling lights.
As the models worked it patiently in front of a buzzing crowd, it was the human handlers racing the clock to sculpt, snip and style their canine companions into tableaus from “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” Pac-Man, Monopoly, “Coraline,” recent Disney hit “Encanto” and more pop culture inspirations.
After all, only one contestant would be crowned top dog, taking home bragging rights and a $1,500 first-place prize.
Welcome to the 2022 Groom Expo West and its centerpiece event, the Andis Creative Styling Competition, where skilled groomers compete live to primp out their poodles into fantastical works of art.
Held on the final day of the annual confab billed as “the West Coast’s most illustrious grooming show,” the contest caps several days of panels, demonstrations and trade show booths. This year, veteran and rising stylists showed off designs inspired by movies, television and music.
Groomer Lakota Robinson of Washington, a first-time competitor, chose a David Bowie tribute for the preternaturally poised standard poodle named Gypsy while Suzanne Castleman of Benicia, Calif. paid colorful tribute to Mardi Gras with her model, River.
Mikhail Williams, a groomer of four years based in Westminster, gave model Cure a colorful Pac-Man theme complete with maze, ghosts and the eponymous eater.
Mesa, Ariz., groomer Madeline Rothwell nabbed the third-place prize with Walter the standard poodle, whose “Supernatural”-inspired entry boasted iconography from the series including a killer clown, werewolf and sharp-toothed Leviathan.
Taking cues from animated classics, Upland’s Erin Martin and standard poodle Taylor paid tribute to “The Nightmare Before Christmas” with Jack and Sally on one side and a dice-rolling Oogie Boogie on the other, while Milena Kon of Dunnellon, Fla., shared the personal connection to “Encanto” that inspired her vibrant, second-place-winning design.
In the end it was groomer Alyssa Kasiba of Elgin, Ill., and an endearingly excitable standard poodle named Bazooka who swept both judges’ and audience awards with an ode to Marvel’s Spider-Man, as he’s never been seen before.
Swinging his way through the poodle-fur multiverse, the webslinger appeared battling Doc Ock and Green Goblin, with Bazooka’s head and chest depicting the razor-toothed Venom and his gaping jaws. Voted on by the crowd, the People’s Choice Award win landed Kasiba an upcoming cover of “Groomer to Groomer” magazine.
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