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My original inspiration for this journal entry was to share practical strategies to enroll in beauty school. After hearing Allie’s story I knew her story needed to be shared from beginning to end. She has an inspiration and passion for this industry, coupled with the normal fears of taking the plunged into a new career. Her story will for sure leave you with goosebumps and hopefully encourage anyone to follow their dreams. Passion will never die. We hope that her journey in the hair industry starts and ends with Sorella Salon because she epitomizes our brand, pretty and hard-working. Congratulations Ashley, we are your #1 fans. -Jacquelynn Woodward


By Ashley “Allie” Young

I'll Never Be A Beauty School Dropout

When your parents asked you what you wanted to be when you “grow-up” I bet your answer was something extravagant and typically unrealistic. A doctor, a lawyer, astronauts & ballerina’s are all perfectly acceptable professions. I always had an answer like that, a lawyer most of my life, until I grew old enough to understand what ‘tuition’ meant. When my dreams of arguing for a living became real life, and I was nowhere near able to pursue that type of education, I turned to medicine. I never wanted to be a doctor or surgeon, I always knew those people were old and blood and guts were not as glamorous as I’d intended to be. Nursing became a real life option, a few years in community college taking math and science classes and then I’d obviously be immediately accepted into the nursing school of my choice.

Well… that wasn’t exactly as ‘realistic’ as I had assumed. Instead of community college and an education path, I bailed on SAT’s and took the ASVAB-a military placement test. I scored a 93/99, and was any recruiters dream enlistee. I left for boot camp less than 6 months after high school graduation. A fresh faced 18-year-old female, with a 4-year enlistment and a job with Military Police. This was not my plan. They made me dye my hair to its natural brown, and then proceeded to cut off 7-inches of my proudly grown locks. I walked into boot camp with a tote filled with MAC cosmetics, scented body wash, and manicured nails. I was the prettiest ugly duckling the Navy had ever seen. Truly the odd man out. After a few years, and weekly hysterical calls home, I was done. I was no longer the monotonous, uniform wearing pretty girl in ranks. I was headed back to real life… without a plan.

I found my calling in Nordstrom, a company filled with gorgeous fashionista’s in platform heels and hundred dollar denim. I didn’t break in easily though, I was still struggling with my lack of up to date style and one very ugly haircut. After a few years in the coffee department, I broke through. I found my niche in the designer denim department of the most popular department store in the country. I sold expensive, designer denim to every woman I could find. I quickly began to realize that women desire fashion, and glamour. No matter our economic state, we will budget for the things we discover that make us feel good about ourselves. I was building clientele faster than any of the seasoned sales staff, and they were coming back frequently. I earned Nordstrom’s prestigious MVP award every quarter for the following three years. I learned quickly, and became one of those trendy fashionista’s in platform heels myself.

Every day I would walk through the beauty department of my store; cosmetics, fragrance, skin care and see that there was always something new. Their products were always changing, improving, creating a cure for the newest beauty dilemma women were facing. This was the industry to be in! I eventually left Nordstrom and migrated into the salon environment. I managed several tanning salons around town, and as time passed so did the trends. Women weren’t interested in UV tanning; they wanted skin care options, and age defying techniques to stay beautiful. The machines changed, the skin care advanced, it was all advancing… quickly and expensively.

I’ve most recently ended up at the front desk of a high-end hair salon, owned by three of the most glamorous women I’ve ever met. I came into their company to answer phones, and utilize the customer service skills I’d polished perfectly with my time in the industry. It didn’t take me long to finally have an answer to that childhood question- “What do you want to be when you grow up, Ashley?” I want to make women feel glamorous, and be the one to introduce them to the trendiest styles, I want to put all of my lust and ambition for beauty into a career. I want to be a stylist.

Cosmetology is a wide-ranging profession. There are so many ways to approach the field, I felt overwhelmed at first. First off, can anyone just go to beauty school? Do I need to know more than how to style my own hair? Can they actually teach me to create fabulous hair styles, or should I already have this skill? Fear of the unknown aside, I started asking questions to the stylists in my salon. I’ve learned some of the commonly used terms; I know the difference between a Partial & a Full Highlight, I know that the formula of color is as important to a stylist, as any formula is to a true chemist. What I didn’t know was where to start… school obviously, but what school? Are there bad schools vs. good schools? Will I learn more, or differently at one than I will at another? Will my education be recognized in any salon? At this point in my search, I knew of three schools. I knew stylists that came from each, and I knew their clientele demographic and their expertise level. I wanted nothing but the best, my education needed to be recognized universally and with a reputation for excellence. I wasn’t about to jump into another venture unprepared.

Then, through a color training seminar held by my salon, I had the privilege of meeting Jason Backe. Although not yet a household name or honestly anyone I’d even heard of before I did some extensive googling, he is a powerhouse in the industry. Illegally gay married to celeb stylist Ted Gibson (the $1,200 a haircut New York stylist of Angelina Jolie), Jason is the voice and educator for all that is holy in color technique and trends. While sitting in as the only non-stylist in his outrageously educational seminar, I caught myself looking at my peers and thinking to myself- “this is it, this is what I need to do”. I felt myself engaged, and passionate about everything he said, although I really didn’t know much about the actually science itself. Jason had started his stylist route with Gary Manuel Aveda Institute (we’ll shorten that up to GMAI), an educational program that I knew a lot about! All of my top stylists in my salon had been trained with GMAI! This is where it starts…

Screen shot 2013-08-26 at 4.02.49 PMI’m a fiend for instant gratification. I decided on a career, chose a school, and I want to be a stylist yesterday. So taking the necessary steps to get me there was my first beauty school challenge. I have to think money. Nothing in life has ever been free for me, or honestly very financially convenient. I never really learned how to save money, or invest in anything other than my $6 daily coffee and my ability to shop for nothing and come home with everything. So a sudden decision to spend more of my time investing into a future, and less time working for a paycheck needed to be thoroughly executed. Considering my mediocre financial bracket as is, I knew I would more than likely be a candidate for federal aid. This meant paperwork, and paperwork is never as quick as I want. I applied online for a FAFSA, which is much different now that I’m over 25 years old and no longer considered a dependent of my parents. This time the state is going to assist me based on my income only, which isn’t enough to send me on any lavish vacations or actually own anything in my name. Applying for aid was the only time I’ve ever entered my income & hoped the number was small enough to be approved!

The cosmetology program at GMAI rounds out to a lovely $19,092.25. That is also the cost of a brand new Toyota Tacoma truck, am inclusive luxury vacation to Turtle Island, Fiji or a low-budget Seattle wedding. However, that large price includes all the ‘fees’ that come along with enrolling, and a $2,792.25 kit filled with hair design necessities. Knowing I’ll get some help through aid comforts me a little when I look at that number, it’s more than I’ve ever spent on anything in my life- not at one time at least! I scheduled a ‘campus tour’ and brief meeting with the woman in charge of admissions as soon as I got confirmation that my FAFSA had been submitted, during the tour she explained how many amazing options GMAI had to finance my education. I could potentially only pay $300 out of pocket if all my financial ducks are in a row and the federal aid considers me eligible. That first $300 is paid at the time I sign my contract for school, agreeing to my schedule and commitment to pay. Thankfully they gave me about four months to prepare myself for the next cycle of Cosmetology Classes to begin, so I’ll have time now to prepare myself for any unexpected financing mishaps. Those always seem to come at the best time, when you spend your last $100 on returnable cosmetics, and then a tire has to blow on your way to happy hour… I’m the ultimate victim of Murphy’s Law (and currently knocking on wood that this isn’t my jinx). If I keep thinking about the cost of this life excursion I may not make it to my start date, but I am constantly reminding myself that this is an investment in my future. I am taking the first steps into what finally feels like adulthood, creating a pillar to build my life on.

GMAI covers the every corner of salon success in their yearlong curriculum. I’ll attend 3 days a week for 13 months, breaking apart the instruction into six 10-week long courses, beginning in a classroom and ending with maximum time on the floor working with actual paying clientele.

The 1st phase they call “Earth”- foundation building course, and introduction to cosmetology, hair cutting, and styling.

The 2nd phase “Water” – focusing on technical skills, and chemical services.

The 3rd phase “Fire”- increasing proficiency & confidence in skills and abilities, as well as a dip into esthetics.

The 4th phase “Air”- learning successful career advancing skills, business development, salary & compensation options. Also exploring the industry by meeting industry professionals and potential employers.

The 5th phase “Infinity”- Demonstrating competency and passing skill certifications, and state board preparation.

The 6th phase “Salon Life”- in-depth training in client services, time management, self-promotion, goal setting and entrepreneurship. Focusing on fine tuning all salon skills.

GMAI has a 94.9% recruitment rate for future professionals still in school, and I am fortunate enough to have the support and leadership of the owners of Sorella Salon. Being behind their front desk, monotonously scheduling clients seems to be exactly what I needed to set myself up for my future in the fast paced world of high-end hair. February 2015 can’t come soon enough, and from now until then I have a lot to absorb. I am thankful and motivated for this venture, promising myself that I will never be a Beauty School Drop-Out.

Photo credit to Life’s Lens by Melissa Carlson

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thank so much!!!

    August 27, 2013
  2. Anonymous #

    Ashley Young, I cant say I’ve ever been more proud of you. You go kid!!

    August 26, 2013

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