When five young stylists were brought together for serious mentoring, they hopped on the beauty ambassador train. Hear how they did it, why mentoring matters and their best advice to you.
When Kristin Bacaycay took a career turn from teaching to enter cosmetology school, her parents must have been puzzled. After all, there was all that college commitment. And those student loans to repay. But she took the plunge anyway, and at San Diego’s Bellus Academy met Wella Professionals Top Stylist Diego Raviglione, who as the academy’s artistic director was teaching a class on how to enter Wella’s Trend Vision competition.
Seeing the contest as a way to get her foot in the professional door, she entered not concerned if she won or lost. But she did win (gold!) and says the trophy came with a second prize: it opened her eyes big time. “I had no idea how big a career in beauty could be,” says Bacaycay. “I was so stoked, being on stage. Then I got to go to the International Trend Vision competition in New York. Seeing people from all over the country sharing the same passion for hair was mind blowing.”
The best was yet to come: she had brought her entire family to Trend Vision, and “They get it now; they are so proud.” Not to mention, today she’s one of the five members of Team I.C.A.N., who are steamrolling their way to success.
Yes You Can
The driving force behind the creation of Team I.C.A.N. (Integrity, Courage, Ambition, Next), Wella’s Creative Director Fabio Sementilli, wanted to prove that a career in hairdressing was amazing, and that young hairdressers can realize their dreams. Team members were selected based on possessing a great attitude and superior skills, being a recent beauty school graduate (within the last two years) and having been a finalist in and/ or having won a Wella competition in the past two years. They also had to be younger than 30.
Today, Team I.C.A.N is a dynamic mix of young, passionate hairdressers with drive and talent. Under the tutelage of Sementilli, Raviglione and Wella’s North America Education Director, Carole Protat, they have presented on stage at NAHA, participated in the corporation’s CONNECT event, taken part in an editorial photo shoot and now, appeared on the cover of this month’s FIRST CHAIR.
Who are they? Katie Ann Woods, who now works at Salinas Hair Design in Salinas, California; Katey-Bug Browne, who works five days a week at Oasis Hair Salon in Victorville, California, and trains every Monday at The Harlot in Venice, California; Brenton Lee, who now operates his own Brenton Lee Salon in South Pasadena, California; Kathryn Hornick who works at Root Salon in Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Kristin Bacaycay, who can be found at the Loft Hair Design and Skin Care in Escondido, California.
“I’ve entered a lot of competitions, but I never really thought about winning,” Browne says of her experience. “I was just doing it because I wanted to do something interesting to keep things fun and create a look I wouldn’t get the opportunity to do on a client.”
That’s another thing that all the Team I.C.A.N. members have in common: they were specific about beauty and about pursuing every opportunity it offered.
“I want to tell students that anybody can do it,” says Browne. “You don’t have to live in LA or New York City. I’m from Victorville, California—a place nobody knows but everyone passes through on their way to Las Vegas.”
The Competitor’s Edge
All the team members were chosen in part because they placed in competitions. However, as a former competitive cheerleader, Woods had the keenest sense of what being a contender meant and what it required. She says both beauty and cheerleading competitions demand that you study, research and observe what past competitors did.
“Take those observations and let them inspire you, but make them your own,” says Woods. “Both cheerleading and hair are all about movement. In cheerleading, when you stunt, you are forming a shape. Cheerleading is architecture, so is hair. You are using layers to build shapes and make something different than what it was when you started. I relate architecture to hair—you’re still building, but you need a strong base or foundation to build an even bigger structure. For me, my base—my foundation—is growing stronger because of competitions.”
Lee, a one-time beauty school dropout who returned to the fold, says, “There is no negative to entering competitions. When you enter, always think about how you can create the newest and latest trends to beat your competitors. I learned so much regarding how to build speed and do great technical work.”
To date, Lee has entered 26 competitions and placed in 21 of them. Fear is part and parcel to competing, of course, but overcoming it defines character, says Richelle Evans, a Master Colorist on the Sebastian Design Team who educates for Wella at The Studio in Woodland Hills, California.
“The stylists who have the ability to overcome fear and reach for their dreams are going to be our future leaders,” Evans says.
Words with Friends
No one makes it without a little help from someone along the way, but having a genuine, professional mentor to talk to makes all the difference between engaging in shop talk and getting useful, targeted guidance.
“This opportunity really made me understand the concept of mentorship,” says Raviglione. “A mentor doesn’t just teach skills. It’s about personifying the characteristics of a true professional and demonstrating what it is to be ethical. Integrity is number one in mentorship. Future leaders have to be able to look at the person who is guiding them and know they are an individual of character and substance. Everything a mentor does should be geared toward betterment of the team and the industry.”
You can’t walk into a beauty show and grab a mentor—at least without getting to know the person and making yourself known—but you have at least one great place to look that’s closer to home, says Lee. Start with your instructors. Find one you connect with and ask about mentoring you. Then, ask local salon owners and even stylists. If you manage to get a shampoo or reception gig before graduation, start observing the salon’s stylists and asking yourself, “Could that be the mentor for me?”
“No matter what avenue you pursue, there is always a mentor not too far away,” Lee says. “Someone will have information that you don’t have yet. As long as you’re willing to learn and be mentored, you’ll be able to take your career to the next level.”
Protat, who directs education at Wella by representing all its brands, developing the curriculum and training all the educators, says working with a mentor isn’t just for students or fledgling stylists. She became immersed in the industry at the age of 19 working for Team Sebastian, and says she always had mentors—they’re imperative at every stage of your career.
“Your mentors will change and evolve as you move through different stages of your career,” says Protat. “I learn from Team I.C.A.N. every day. Seeing the way they work, the way they process information, how they interpret a technique— that freshness and those wide eyes inspire me.”
Of course, to gain a mentor, you have to be mentor-worthy. Hornick, who choose beauty because she saw her sister Justine’s success after entering the Wella Trend Vision competition, says, “Take everything seriously and as professionally as possible; you never know who is watching you. Another thing is attendance: Don’t get lazy because salons look at it. Stick with your schedule, get to school on time and find a way to set yourself apart.”
Which doesn’t mean being eccentric or extreme. Hornick clarifies that students stand out either because of their winning personalities or the way they present themselves: professional, yet humble, and ready to learn. When she was in school, she went above and beyond by taking classes six days a week, so that she could move on to take a course at the Vidal Sassoon Academy.
“Finding your first mentor starts in the salon with the interview process,” says Protat. “When you interview at a salon, you need to interview them as intensely as they interview you. What will they have to offer you to help you grow as a stylist?”
If you just aren’t finding someone you click with in your own backyard, attending classes and shows is a great way to introduce yourself to other professionals. This route is particularly good if you want to specialize, because you can approach color educators or senior salon colorists, men’s hair cutters or hair extension specialists. Let them know how impressed you were with their presentations or how, you overhead them talking about a tough color-correction job in the salon and would love to ask a few questions.
“Seek out and surround yourself with greatness,” says Raviglione. “Surrender yourself to other influences. It takes a special person to recognize the need for a mentor. It’s an act of humility. I’ve been in this industry for 28 years and have seen the self-proclaimed rock stars. I don’t think we need that anymore. We need to strengthen one another.”
For the members of Team I.C.A.N., their education has just begun. Good thing they all have a “never stop learning” attitude.
“In beauty school, you learn the basics of building the foundation: how to pass tests, and the ins and outs of the industry,” says Evans. “Advanced education takes you through a strong foundation, especially in cutting, styling and coloring.”
Noting that often, graduates want to jump right to working on movie sets or doing the cover of Vogue magazine, she says that the path to what you want lies in pursuing continuing education every day. If you don’t think you’ll ever do barbering, perm setting, pin curls or serious color correction, think again—and look at the styles and color being created for Hollywood movies.
“Everything builds on what came before; becoming a well-rounded stylist opens doors to more opportunities,” says Evans. “The more you network and the more you educate yourself, the easier it becomes to learn and grow.”
“Education is the basis of everything, so keep an open mind,” says Lee. “Keep taking advanced education classes. As Fabio Sementilli told me, don’t just look at the latest trends as far as cut and color are concerned; follow business trends. If you don’t have a strong business foundation you’ll be lost.”
“Ultimately, your future is in your hands and the passion to succeed must be in your heart,” says Sementilli. “You have an opportunity to make a difference in this industry, travel the world, meet incredible people and earn a great salary while working in a positive, creative environment.
Even though Bacaycay says she’ll be “forever learning,” she’s already looking forward to the day she can be a mentor herself. Her best advice on taking chances and managing your own destiny is to make the most of your time in school and take advantage of every situation,” she says. “If your school doesn’t have competitions, seek them out on your own. It’s easy to get bored in school—I know. Competitions help you remember why you joined this industry in the first place; they force you to get out there and see what else the world has to offer. They’re where it all starts. Then, find a mentor or teacher who can help you. A mentorship forces you out of your comfort zone, which leads to creativity.”
It is also the surest route to success, which every member of Team I.C.A.N. is learning now. For them, the only question is, “What’s next?” And the answer is: whatever they want.
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