Whether she’s teaching in a classroom to styling celebrities for red carpet events, Wendy Bélanger is always learning.
With more than 25 years of experience as a hairstylist Wendy Bélanger has been teaching in some format for two decades. “I love learning myself, teaching others and really the biggest reward is seeing someone really understand a technique, or anything you are teaching, it’s very moving” says Bélanger.
Now as an international artist with Redken, she has taken on a new role that continues keep her focused on elevating her craft. “I want hairstylists to see what they are doing as a real career, with the ability to create a life from it,” she says.
SM: Why are you so passionate about education?
Wendy Bélanger: My whole salon is based on that. I have a staff of 12 and the whole idea is to train them to work in our salon after they complete their education. I feel very lucky to get paid to make women feel beautiful, this is a dream. We are also teaching our clients how to do and be anything they want in their lives, through the vehicle of doing hair.
Every month when I do professional development meetings with my team, I ask “What’s your freedom? Are you working because you want to buy a house, for your family or because you want to travel?” Each meeting I ask, how much closer to their freedom. This is what good education helps to build, it helps to show them that they need to be firing on all cylinders to be successful. We have a lot of conversations about who they are as a person.
SM: What does education mean to you, is there a type that is more important?
WB: Education isn’t only about learning a balayage technique. When I teach in salons, I take a tea, through the experience of having a guest in their salon. We talk about the obstacles within that salon and then I walk a client through the experience from the greeting to the shampoo to a full consultation and then I give them a haircut. Through this, the hairstylists see exactly what a proper conversation looks like. They also learn a specific cutting technique, based on a look that clients will actually want and the team can use in the salon.
SM: Is there something specific that hairstylists need additional, or even ongoing education in?
WB: Overall, it’s the service experience that is missing. If you don’t how to present the cut and your client doesn’t understand how to maintain it when she goes home, your work in the salon doesn’t matter. When people leave the salon, they want to feel sexy and beautiful which is why my younger staff need to practice their finishing techniques. If a woman isn’t set up for success when she leaves, she is not coming back. Hairstylists need to give them that help. You need to be able to make a woman feel amazing and then give her what she needs to be able to do that when she goes home, that’s my only agenda.
SM: What do you think is a hairstylist’s biggest stumbling block?
WB: People have a hard time admitting they aren’t good at something. Many times hairstylists will say they don’t like something but really it’s because they are bad at it. When you look at athletes, they always look at what they aren’t good at and that’s what they need to work on. That’s what we don’t do.
SM: Where are the learning opportunities at this stage in your career?
WB: I was at an event with a young because I waned to work on my fades which I didn’t learn in hair school. The barber told me he was shaking because I was standing next to him, but I said, that’s what I need to learn. The funny thing was, when he got to the top, he said he couldn’t cut it very well, so I took the shears and showed him. We had this really cool exchange. That’s what we should be doing!
SM: Why do you think it’s so important to be live?
WB: The one thing with digital and video is you don’t get the why behind what the educator is doing. My assistant is excellent, and she had watched a video I had done but when I saw her cutting, I asked her to tell me why she was doing it that way. When she told me it was because I did it and that she liked the haircut, I thought, but you don’t know why, which is the difference between a good and a great haircut. I walked her through what I was doing explaining why. You don’t have the opportunity to ask questions, with digital and younger hairstylist don’t realize this is dangerous. As a salon owner, I have an obligation to them and my company to set them up for success. I’ll tell them, watch the video, but we do education every other week so they can ask questions.