Scrolling through social media can be somewhat predictable sometimes…there is the typical selection of memes, pictures of friends’ cute kids and grandchildren, and lots of fun pet images. But if you happen to follow Anaïs Hayden, “The Goddess of Color,” from Atlanta, GA, on Facebook or Instagram, you will find your media peppered with frequent images of brilliant art—gasp-worthy colors and designs, all created on the improbable “canvas” of fur.
“I wanted to work with dogs since I was eight years old,” Hayden shared. “I wanted to be a veterinarian, but I am horrible at math, so I looked into pursuing my second dream, which was art. Luckily for me, God pointed me in the direction where I was able to combine both of my true loves together and make a career out of it. It’s hard work, extremely time-consuming, and the pressure is enormous, but it is so worth it.
“When I first started, I had no idea people would want it and would buy it, and that I would become a canine colorist,” she said about creative grooming.
Hayden’s unique colorwork differs from most of what we see in the creative competitions at grooming trade shows in that she specializes in working on small dogs with flat coats. In contrast, the dogs in the creative ring are almost exclusively standard Poodles.
“I first started working for The Queen of Color, Dawn Omboy, at her pet grooming shop called Klippers in Columbus, GA when I was 15 years old. Dawn taught me how to groom dogs and introduced me to the wonderful world of creative grooming,” Hayden said.
That first introduction has taken Hayden to levels of national recognition. Her work has been seen on ABC’S 20/20, The Anderson Cooper Show, HBO’s Haute Dog, CBS News and in the movies The Hunger Games and Triple 9. Her work has also been featured in multiple magazines, including Southern Living, Jezebel and Groomer to Groomer.
In a recent interview on the grooming podcast Sh*t on the Table, Hayden said that after her appearance on Anderson Cooper, she received lots of negative criticism about her work. Not only do I admire Hayden’s abilities to design and create the images she does, but I also applaud her attitude when it comes to dealing with the harsh criticism she receives.
“People say horrible things about me and the color,” Hayden continued. “I spoke to my grandmother about it, and she said, ‘They are going to talk about you whether you do bad or good, so you might as well just keep doing what you like.’ I go on hate groups now just so they will talk about my work because hate groups spread it faster than the love groups.”
It isn’t easy to comprehend how anyone can so vehemently despise creative grooms. Hayden shared her theory: “Most people who strongly dislike creative grooming just cannot imagine ever having it done to their dogs. They prefer their dogs’ natural coats and feel very passionately that other people should feel the same way.”
I asked what it is she likes best about creative grooming, and she replied, “How a creative groom looks extraordinary. I love that it consists of different bright and vivid colors, and how much thought and creativity goes behind the work. I love most of all how the dogs get the extra attention they deserve after they receive a creative grooming.”
Working from her home studio, Hayden’s work consists of a mix of traditional pet grooming and more colorful creations for her customers. Because her creative grooms are so time-consuming, she maintains a non-refundable deposit in order to schedule with her.
“The deposit is between 20 and 40% for creative and regular grooming, depending on the expected grooming charge. Due to my customer appreciation policy, all grandfathered clients have this deposit fee waived,” she said.
Hayden is also the proud mother of a five-year-old daughter, whom she refers to as her “greatest creative.” I asked her what her daughter thinks of her work, to which she replied: “She thinks all dogs are supposed to look colorful. Seeing other dogs without color makes her wonder why they aren’t colorful yet. She always compliments any groom I do, with or without color. She literally thinks everything I do is magic.”
Happily, her daughter’s opinion is shared by many! ✂️