[Note to readers: We're excited to have Voodoolady here as a guest-blogger today, and honored that she's decided to post her exposé on the salon industry on The Feminist Underground! These are her words...]
I entered the cosmetology world due to an interest in working with the public and being creative. Short hair, long hair, blue hair, black hair: I love the change, and I wanted to help others have that experience. Was I naive? Yes. I believed that hard work and study at a top school would provide me with the skills I needed for a career.
There were no warnings that this would not be the case as I entered cosmetology school. I was impressed by the faculty and the environment. Without hesitation, I made my plans to begin school and got my application and financial assistance completed. I could not wait to begin!
I soon found out that there was an all-black dress code, with dress shoes (no sneakers) required. On the first day of school, I was reprimanded for not having "complete" makeup. I'd worn some concealer, powder, and blush, but I was informed that I must wear foundation, mascara, full eye makeup, and style my hair as if I were 'going out on the town.' I thought this was sexist, but I decided to comply the next day. I wondered if some vanity simply came with this career.
The first week was terrifying. I was 10-12 years older than the majority of the students, and that old high school awkwardness returned. I didn't speak much during the first week of school, but I eventually adapted (in a way). During my entire cosmetology school experience, I was reprimanded constantly for my makeup, hair, and comfortable shoes. I noticed that the male students got away with wearing blue jeans, tennis shoes, and a hat to cover bed-head. Yet, whenever this dress code discrepancy between genders was discussed, the staff promised to enforce the same standards. It never happened.
I studied hard and made excellent progress. The top echelon of education was the honor's program, my goal. Joining every club and charity event, working hard, making clients happy, and becoming Student President gave me a feeling of belonging and confidence. I made excellent grades and finished my credits months before finishing my required hours.
Shortly after entering the honor's program, the director of the honor's students told me in private that I would have a much harder time finding work than the younger, slimmer, 'more attractive' students. I was shocked and angry. When I discussed this with other teachers, and they assured me that he was just "picking on me." Yet, he went on to make derogatory comments towards me in front of other students and, more importantly, clients during the duration of my education. I kept my head up, however, and my sights focused.
[Watch for Part II: After Graduation later this week...]