Leah has been creating stunning work as both a freelance stylists and part of the Salon team in Connecticut. His impressive line-up includes working shows and events for designers like Oscar de la Renta and Diane Von Furstenberg while also snagging editorial, advertising and production opportunities. We asked the stylist about his career roots and advice for aspiring stylists still figuring out their path.
What attracted you to a career in hair?
My mother insisted that I take a trade, as well as college. It took me a few years to realize, thanks to her, I had a career in hair/ beauty industry.
Tell us more about your training experience. Where did you attend school?
I attended school through the vocational programs in New York while in high school. After graduating I trained in Sassoon cutting and color. That has continued to recently taking a color program with George Papanikolis (celebrity hairstylist/colorist). I enjoy training; it allows me the opportunity to grow, strengthen my skills and to connect with others in the industry who share my love of the industry and art. I’m taking a movie wig work program in the fall and an art program in January on color placement.
There are lots of cosmetology programs out there. Do you have any advice for a prospective student trying to decide where to go?
I have taught in 3 of the schools that are considered the best available today for cosmetology training. In my experience there are four things that make a school amazing:
1. Curriculum: Most take their cutting foundations from Sassoon. Schools are mandated by state education requirements. How far beyond does the school go? I’ve heard of schools offering a program that goes beyond the state requirements. Now this is truly the best a school can offer. Additional challenging projects to develop students skills [are also key]. Call the salons you want to work for, find out who they recommend. Each will be different. Don’t stop there; ask why they hire from those programs.
2. Teachers: What are their experiences, skills, accomplishments? What type of training do they get?
3. Environment: What does it look like? Clean, professional, fun, full of good energy?
4. Network: How many other schools [are in the network]? A large network can allow for opportunity all over the world.
Many hairstylists will share that your true learning begins behind the chair. Depending on the school you choose, I have to disagree. Your success is not only about doing hair. I know alot of talented hairstylists who lack communication skills and have failed to be successful because of it… “Talent wasted.” Where you go to school can definitely get you into a great “network” and offer some great opportunities for employment & growth. Like an Ivy League school, each network has its own style. Find the one that best fits your personality and goals. What you do with the skills you gain in school is what will get you further in your career.
What challenges did you face fresh out of school? How did you overcome them?
Like most of us starting off, I did not have the skills I needed to feel confident in my abilities. I went to college. The experienced allowed me the opportunity to mature and grow intellectually. This gave me more of an ability to relate and connect with the people around me.
I continued practicing haircutting and coloring techniques every chance I got. I still do the same today. I get models, either on line or through current clients, and do the haircuts and color on them, sometimes creating a collection.
Tell us more about what you’re up to currently.
I’m currently preparing for fashion week. Also working on a couple of hair cut & color collections for a winter & spring release.
You’ve created a strong online presence via social media, your online portfolio, and your blog. How do you use those tools to further your career?
I now have the help of a PR team. Its still the same formula: I rely on the photos, the stories and creating excitement one client at a time.
How else do you work to market yourself as a stylist?
Every chance I get, I put myself out there and let people know what I do. I rely heavily on my current clients. Posting photos of their after shots on social networks and tag them. I talk this over with them before doing it. Most are happy and excited to be part of this. With my current clients, I mock up technicals and pictures of potential “next” looks. My clients love this and it’s fun for me, too.
Blog seems like an over used word. Everyone has one, but most of us are not great at writing. I would say the best approach here, before a blog… Pictures & Stories. Post pictures of your work, or you working then write a couple lines describing the “who, what, where, when, how” of the picture.
Beauty tips blog- I started with a blog years ago writing articles as a guest writer for a trade magazine, then writing for an ad share site.
A few things I remain focused on for marketing as a hairstylist:
- *focus on current clients make their experience unique
- *blog or talk about what I do through pictures and stories
- *beauty tips
Trends and styles are always changing. How do you stay on top of what’s hot?
Over the years I’ve found certain sources to work for me. I do my research, sort out what my favorites are, and focus on those that work best on my clients. I have to be able to apply what is hot. If not it quickly is forgotten.
What keeps you motivated even on the worst days?
Doing hair. If I stay connected keep doing the work and sharing with others I stay excited about it.
Surround myself with similar people. I’ve worked with both people who work and people who truly have a good time and get paid for it. The energy is much more enjoyable around the second group.