Our graduates come from all walks of life and their careers span a vast array of fields within the beauty industry. What they all have in common, is that their story started at the Aveda Institute. We sat down with some alumni to hear their story in their own words.
We’re excited to share their stories to inspire you to start your great story with us!
If you’re an alumni and want to tell your story, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Tell me your story, in your words.
Hair has been my life my entire life. I was the little girl sat on my grandmother’s floor playing with beads and stuff; putting them in my doll’s hair. Hair has always been there, it was just a matter figuring out the direction to get my career started.
I first went to another cosmetology school where there was a situation that happened, and I was expelled from the school.
I am 13-year marine corps veteran. I joined the marine corps when I was 17 and I got out when I was 30. I knew that hair was going to be my path, I just wasn’t sure how I was going to make that transition from the military, especially the marine corp. Going from a predominantly male career to one where I am dealing with primarily women on a day-to-day basis. That alone was a bit tricky, but I have always been a firm believer that you cannot talk about your success without talking about your failures. I first went to another cosmetology school where there was a situation that happened, and I was expelled from the school. I got out of the Marine corp in October 2016 I started at that school in November 2016.
Oh wow, very quick!
Exactly! After 13 years in the marine corps, jumping straight into my dream and not taking a moment to really get ready for it was probably my biggest mistake. Looking back on it, I should have handled a situation better than I did, but that’s neither here nor there.
I am in this group called Beauties and Boots that has a bunch of female vets in it. When I was still active duty military, I was doing makeup tutorials and hair bun tutorials in those groups to try help cross over from the military into the beauty industry. When the whole situation at my first cosmetology school happened, one of the veterans of that group, who was an Aveda Institute student, reached out to me. I didn’t really know much about Aveda. It wasn’t until she reached out to me that I started to research the school and found out that it actually fit who I was better than the other school. Literally 3 days later, after I was expelled, I was enrolled at the Aveda Institute and that is where I graduated from.
I started Porcelain Dolls Beauty, which is a custom wig line. I have my own hair extension line as well, but my brand mostly focuses on women with hair loss issues, like alopecia, hair loss from chemo, and things of that nature.
When I got out of the Marines in October 2016 and I started Porcelain Dolls Beauty, which is a custom wig line. I have my own hair extension line as well, but my brand mostly focuses on women with hair loss issues, like alopecia, hair loss from chemo, and things of that nature. My brand also focuses women in the military that have to pull their hair back a lot. With that, your hair line actually starts to recede. So, I was making wigs for women that wanted to stop putting so much tension on their natural hair. It kind of turned into a brand that really helps women with hair needs. I have a few women that just want to change their hair for the fun of it, but my focus is women that need help.
I love that I can say “No, I am not a black hairstylist. I am hairstylist.” If it grows out of your head, I can and will do your hair.
Now I am the lead stylist at Rain By Melodi in Charlotte, NC. I am the only multicultural stylist in the salon; I handle all hair types. I am the only stylist in the salon that has women of every ethnicity in my chair. It is very cool. Being an Aveda graduate, we didn’t get to pick and choose who is in our chair while in school. Because of that, as a student you are opened up to so many different ethnicities and so many different techniques and ways to handle hair. Even thought it was something that kind of came to me naturally, being a student at Aveda really, really helped me home in on that. Now that I am out and at the salon here, it’s really cool for me to have every ethnicity of women in my chair; everyone trusts me. Everybody loves the work that I do, and it’s really cool to bash those stereotypes. I love that I can say “No, I am not a black hairstylist. I am hairstylist.” If it grows out of your head, I can and will do your hair. It is a cool realm to be in now coming from the marine corps.
With your service in the military and also with the wigs and the people in your chair, it’s obvious that serving people is very important to you. That’s awesome and I think that is something very central to most people in the beauty. That is so cool!
Absolutely, thank you!
You talked about the technical skills and you talked about how the challenges at your first cosmetology school, what would you say are some of the non-technical skills that you learned throughout your career that have been essential?
Handling people! (laughs) Coming from my background, it’s like you have to be mean and tough every day in the military. That’s really not who I am as a person. I had to re-learn how to talk to people, how to really be personable again – to be able to have like a soft face and not such a stern look all the time like I did in the military. I had to do that for people to be able to talk to me and open up to me, to be a “hairapist.” Because, you know everybody who sits in your chair tells you their entire life.
You said you always wanted to do hair growing up. Is there something specific about hair that interested you?
It was the fun and creativity of it all. In my salon, everyone calls me a hair nerd. I am obsessed with hair! I have always loved the chemical make-up of color formulas and just how it can all look so different. I tell my clients “okay listen, I am gonna nerd out on you alright I am just letting you know that I really care about what I am doing.” And then they are like, “okay girl, go ahead and do what you need to do!” (laugh). I am just the biggest hair nerd, and I have always been that way.
When I was in school, every day was a fresh day for me because it really made me “me” again.
In my younger years though, it was something I sort of ran away from. In the military they give you a false sense of self. They break you down because they want you to forget everything you come, so they can build you and make you what they want you to be. The hardest part when I got out was just remembering that I love hair as much as I do. It was almost like I forgot all about that I love to. When I was in school, every day was a fresh day for me because it really made me “me” again.
What are your current dreams in the beauty industry? What do want for your future in the beauty industry or what do you want from the industry as a whole?
My dream is to break gaps, in every way, shape or form. If you were to go look at my social media right now, I love that fact that you can see I have all women on my page. There are instances where racism is real. I am the only African American stylist in my salon currently. I had a new client who when I walked up front and extended my hand for a shake and said “Hi my name is Savina Nichols, and I will be conducting your services today” pulled her hand away from me. I grabbed her hand and with both of my hands and I said again “Hi my name is Savina Nichols, and I will be conducting your services today.” It is those types of things right there – this women is now one of my regular guests and she told me to my “Savina, you are the first women of color to ever do my hair” And I said “I can see that,” and she followed up by saying “but you know what, it is also the first time I ever left the salon happy with my hair.”
There are instances where racism is real… I had a new client who when I walked up front and extended my hand for a shake and said “Hi my name is Savina Nichols, and I will be conducting your services today” pulled her hand away from me.
That is my goal, my goal is to bridge gaps. Just because I am woman of color does not mean that I cannot do your hair. That type of separation that I want to amend. If even 5% my guests are Caucasian, and they are comfortable coming to a women of color, then I am doing something right. That is my goal. That is what keeps me going every day. That is what I feed on. I tell everybody, “look I am going to just treat you good and I am going to operate with love. That’s what I am going to do. Treat you good and operate with love.” My goal is just to bridge gaps and make people happy.
I love that, that is awesome! Lastly, if you could start your career and or education over would you do anything differently and if so, what?
The military helped pay for my school and now I am not in any school debt.
No, I wouldn’t do anything differently. At all. I would do my past the same way that I did it, because that is what makes us who we are. I would not change one thing. My thirteen years of Marine service gave me experience in the world to be able to build relationships with everyone. The military helped pay for my school and now I am not in any school debt. I honestly wouldn’t change one thing because everything that I have been through, the good the bad the ugly, having to go to a different school, breaking down barriers – just everything that I had to go through got me to this point that I am sitting here talking to you. I wouldn’t change anything, it makes me, me.
That’s so cool! Is there anything else about your career that that you would like to add or think is maybe interesting or inspiring to future beauty professionals?
Do not let barriers keep you from doing what you want to do. I am firm believer that love conquers all. If you are operating from your heart and you are moving from your heart it doesn’t even matter the color of your skin.