My enrollment in beauty school came by the way of encouragement from friends and family. I was cutting hair in kitchens and working at any salon or barbershop that would give me a job, but I had no credentials or professional training.
I had fell in love with the energy of a busy barbershop, the music and the interactions with people, and most of all, the cash. So I decided to enroll.
Up to that point I had learned a lot from the places I had worked. My fades, Afro cuts, speed and clipper knowledge came from that first shop, King Kuts in Brooklyn in 1990. I met my first millionaire in Harlem, the man who owned Gerry's Den in 1991, and also learned my first sew in weave. A barbershop in Boston called Derek B's gave me some insight on employee management, or should I say non-management.
I went to Rob Roy Beauty Academy In Worcester Massachusetts. They had a requirement of 1000 of training for the barber/stylist certifications with theory and practical applications, and a GPA system that kept me li in good graces with financial aid and graduation.
After completing about 200 hours of theory, I was stationed on the clinic floor to start taking clients. It was exciting to start doing some of the things I was learning in books and practicing on the manniquin heads. I Almost immediately I noticed the challenge of interpreting what people wanted based on their dialect and perspective. I realized that I had to talk and think like they did in order to navigate the proper techniques. Sometimes people ask for looks that won't work for their hair type of lifestyle, but at that time I hadn't figured that out.
One day I noticed that I was cutting almost every black person that came to the clinic or I would be called over to help someone cut a black persons hair. This came easy and natural for me, but I understood that it wouldn't help me in the long term if I was going to be serious about the career.
I confronted my instructors and expressed dissatisfaction with cutting only black customers hair.
If I'm going to be able to make a good living in this profession , I will to need to cut all types of hair. I'm not paying to work for the school.
My instructor Mrs. G agreed and said that she would do her best to help accommodate what I was asking. And did she ever. I was given every challenging client that walked in the door. Senior women that wanted perms, homeless men who hadn't cut their hair in a year, screaming children, people who were new in the country with ESL and struggling to communicate just to name a few. I still had African American clients as well as some regulars, but I was not allowed to avoid any clients, something that I noticed people would do on the clinic floor.
Reaching for the lowest hanging fruit will get you fed, but climbing the tree gives a person a better view.
Mrs. G also gave me video tapes ( it was the 90's) of different advanced haircutting techniques, business management videos and also let me visit the other classrooms of Cosmetology and Estetics when it was slow on the clinic floor.
I am forever grateful for my instructors for facilitating more than what was required and I made the most of my time in beauty school.
If you are just starting off in the beauty business, try to keep expanding your knowledge and experience with all kinds of people, hair textures, and techniques. You never know when a cultural trend might shift, your demographic might change, or if you just want to move to a different part of the world.