Find out how this leading hair colour educator from Redlands, California got her start, and why she thinks ongoing learning is so important.
Tell us about how you got your start in the industry.
I’ve been doing hair for about 38 years, but I never saw it coming. I wanted to be a pilot in the Air Force, but my father didn’t want me to go to military school. I come from a family of hairdressers, so I landed into cosmetology school.
I figured I would do that while determining what I actually wanted to do, but I ended up absolutely loving it. I still remember falling in love with the chemistry part of it all: I would go to school during the day and work in the lab at night, where we would mix colour. I also remember the moment I fell in love with the industry as a whole: I had my first customer and as scared as I was touching, cutting and changing someone’s hair at the time, I knew it could change their life. Maybe just for an hour or even a day, but there’s this magic about the relationship hairstylists have with their clients and I thought, “I can really do this.”
You’ve become known for your education and it’s obvious that it’s something you’re passionate about. How and when did that start?
In 1988, my husband and I opened our salon, Julian August (which closed during the pandemic) and at the time, I couldn’t find education that was suitable for my team so I started teaching them myself and I really liked it—I could see how it was changing their lives. I didn’t just want to teach—there are many ways in which people learn so I wanted to study the different ways so I could properly communicate with them. When I was in school, my teachers taught me how to do a colour placement and a cut but I wasn’t taught what I needed in order to grow. There was no system or anything behind those techniques and that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to get into education— because I wanted to create that [system] for my team, and I ended up really enjoying it. To see someone grow in their craft is super rewarding. I became a trainer for Aveda, got some great stage opportunities, and was entrusted with being a mentor for their “Purefessionals” team of educators. I eventually started Hair Color Magic, an education program, after noticing there was a big hole in our industry. When a colour company goes into a salon and teaches their products, they teach how to use their products while cosmetology school teaches stylists how to pass [tests for licensing], but people are not learning the craft—they’re not understanding why products work the way they do and the chemistry behind them. Once you understand that, you can actually adjust a product yourself. I started realizing that people didn’t know how to formulate, and once I started [educating people], I couldn’t stop—I kept finding holes where we, as an industry, needed more education, and kept trying to find ways to fill those holes.
The pandemic has caused lots of changes in the industry and a big one has been the shift from live education to virtual. Do you think there will be a place for both in the future?
I had a feeling [with the rise of social media and since the start of the pandemic] that virtual education was something that would always be around, but I really believe we are still going to have both [live and virtual education]. When I was studying how people learn, I discovered there are different learner types. Some people are visual and audio learners that can actually see and hear and turn around and do the technique—they can understand the formulations really fast. Others learn by physically doing something, learn from their mistakes and adjust and then turn it on a dime—then they can watch it again and hear it. They just need to do it themselves first. Both platforms are important for our industry and cater to different types of learners. As long as we’re practicing our craft, I think there’s a place for any and all education!
You recently collaborated with Ray Civello and launched Color Space, a new colour line. Tell us a bit more about it and why education plays such a big role in the company’s story.
We knew we wanted to revolutionize our industry. We are coming out of such a bad period [due to the pandemic], and we want to give people more hope and help them reignite their passion. We want to give them something new and innovative, and Color Space is all about creating something new. It’s not just about teaching the products because anybody can do that, but what we want to teach is even deeper: The chemistry of colour, how it works and how we see colour. It’s not just about teaching product—it’s about teaching craft, which is why education plays such a large role in what we do. Ray has such a strong foundation in business and what’s really cool about him and all the people we work with is that they’re all in the industry, whether they’re managing or working behind the chair. Ray is very well-rounded and his intuition for business is super keen while I’m on the other side with education, growing a team and understanding chemistry. He relies on me for anything that has to do with product training and education, and I trust him completely on the business side. Our strengths really complement each other, we have a great balance of what we each do, and we have a lot of respect for one another.
What advice do you have for someone who’s just starting out in the industry and is hoping to make an impact?
Never stop learning. We’re only as good as our last hair colour, and you should get into the habit of critiquing your own work. Look at a colour you’re working on, take a step back—no matter how beautiful it is—and ask yourself what you can do next time to make it even better.
Why do you think continuing education is so important for stylists at all stages of their careers?
Our industry is full of craftspeople, and a craftsman has to practice and keep up with what’s new. Through the years, colour hasn’t changed much but now we’re getting all these new dye molecules and products. If we don’t stay current on the chemistry behind these changes and the innovations that are happening, we’re not going to grow as an industry. It’s a craft and we have to practice if we want to keep being inspired. There’s a difference between motivation and inspiration; you can be motivated to do something but if you get tired, you get tired—motivation means you have the momentum to do something. Being inspired changes you spiritually. There’s something that happens that will change a habit, that will shift how you see things, that will change a paradigm, that will take you to the next level. You can’t teach that to someone, though—they have to have it but continuing to learn throughout your career helps keep you inspired.
What else can we expect from you?
I want to do more photo work. I want to grow the company and I want to be innovative with our products. I love doing stage work. I will always teach— whether it be online or in a classroom.