As a beginner in the industry, no doubt you’ve experienced a time where you felt unsure of yourself, uncertain of your talent and capabilities in the salon—what if I’m not good enough? What if I mess up? What if they leave unhappy?

The truth is, every successful stylist has experienced the fear, the uncertainty and the anxiety. Even the most successful stylists had challenges in cosmetology school, felt the anxiety of servicing their first client, and felt the fear when applying for their first salon job. But they persevered through the challenges.

The expression: ‘Success is a journey, not a destination’—this expression holds true as we talk to some the industry’s finest about their challenges, their successes and their first salon jobs.

“Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really: Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it—so go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that’s where you will find success.”

—Thomas J. Watson, President of IBM, who oversaw the company's growth from 1914 to 1956.

Michael Shaun Corby
Alterna's Global Creative Director, celebrity stylist


As a renowned international platform artist, styling and cutting genius and Hollywood insider, Michael Shaun Corby raises the bar on innovation daily at Alterna Professional Haircare, where he is the Global Creative Director. Prior to joining Alterna, Corby has created fabulous hair that has graced TV, chart-topping music videos, and A-list films. Corby trained under top stylists José Eber and Umberto of Beverly Hills, learning the techniques he would later take to the next level and offer to Alterna salons around the world through his state-of-the-art educational programs.

“After graduating high school, I had three choices: become a psychiatrist, a rock star or a hairdresser,” Corby says. “Not having the funds for an Ivy League education, nor the best voice on the planet, becoming a hairdresser was a logical choice for me!”

Michael Shaun Corby: My First Chair
Michael Shaun Corby in high school.

Michael Shaun Corby: My First Chair
Celebrity stylist, Michael Shaun Corby.

Corby began his beauty career at the age five, styling hair for his grandmother. “From that point on, I kept at it, styling cheerleaders and prom queens throughout high school. Beauty school followed, and I immediately loved it. I knew I was doing the right thing,” he says. “Besides, aren’t we all psychiatrists and rock stars anyway!?”

His first chair at a salon was in 1989 at José Eber in Beverly Hills, California. “The clientele was mostly wealthy women from the Beverly Hills area and also people from out of town wanting to experience the glamor of a Beverly Hills salon,” he says. “It was a big challenge trying to give everyone a personalized service while working with a huge amount of clients each day.”

Since beauty school, Corby says his greatest accomplishment is the relationships he has formed. “Some of these people from my past have remained clients to this day,” he says. Now, for more than five years, this “stylists’ stylist” has overseen and designed all of Alterna’s cutting-edge collections, unique styling and cutting techniques, and educational programs. Corby has been in demand by top celebrities including Rosario Dawson and Nicole Richie as well as world-renown stylists alike.

What’s his moral of the story? Always start working where you want to live! “Think about where you want to end up—clients will only follow you five to 10 miles. I built my life around West Hollywood/Beverly Hills and am still living there today. I couldn’t be happier with my choice.”

Check out more industry icons talking about their first salon jobs:
Beth Minardi: My First Chair
Faatemah Ampey: My First Chair
Michael Shaun Corby: My First Chair
Sherri Jessee: My First Chair
Kimberly Kimble: My First Chair
Patrick Mathes: My First Chair

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