What I Wish I Knew in Beauty School: Janell Geason

A high school “glamour” shot of Geason (left) and today’s Geason demonstrating her skills on the Aveda Mid-America Show stage (right).

Janell Geason, (@jgeason) Aveda Global Artistic Director for Makeup, thinks back to when she just started studying hairdressing at the Aveda Institute in Minneapolis. In this letter to her former self, Geason recalls how she had to prove to her family that a career in beauty was more than just a “second income.” And, she reminisces on how Horst Rechelbacher, legendary Aveda founder, changed the trajectory of her career.

Dear “Beauty School Janell,”

I write this letter to you as a married woman with a twenty-one-year-old daughter. A lot has changed over the years, but I’m still you—only a little wiser and a lot more confident.


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As you embark on cosmetology school, I am so excited and proud that you're following your heart and passion; but I know that it’s not without its challenges and roadblocks. Please listen to your Dad when he tells you that your career in beauty will be a good “second income” for your family. This will become a great motivator for proving to him that your passion will be way more than an income, let alone a second income. 

As you study hairdressing at the Aveda Institute in Minneapolis, you’re going to feel intimidated by the school’s owner, Horst Rechelbacher. Watching him, it’ll become clear that he is a visionary; a master and a hairdresser that is like no one else you've ever met. Don’t let fear of his mastery get in your way, push forward and let your courage drive you. You won’t regret taking every opportunity to work with Horst and learn from him. 

At a certain point, Horst is going to take notice of you, show you kindness and encourage you to change your beauty path from being a hairdresser to being a makeup artist. This is going to be a pivotal life moment. Hallelujah! He’s going to tap into your talents, allowing you to shine.

Yes, you’re going to feel confused, exhausted and nervous, and sometimes you’ll even have moments when you wonder if maybe your family was right. It’s only natural to have those moments, but no matter what, always dust yourself off when the going gets tough, and move forward, following your dreams and learning from everyone around you. 

After school, you’re going to get another lucky break, working at Juut with David Wagner. David, who literally wrote the book on making people’s day, is going to push you to pursue your European travel dreams. At just 19 years old, relying on your independent nature, you’ll land at Heathrow airport in London with a one-way ticket in your hand. You’ll get completely lost in Pairs without speaking a word of French. You’ll travel to Italy and learn what beauty and aging is truly all about—those mature Italian women really know how to carry themselves. And, after working in Europe for nine years, you’ll realize that getting out of Minneapolis was exactly what you needed to grow into the successful professional that you always wanted to become. 

After you return from Italy, your Aveda roots will come calling. This amazing brand that you’ve always loved, never really left the back of your mind. Because of those European travels in your early days—where you picked up some language skills here and there—one day as Aveda Global Artistic Director for Makeup, you’re going to return to Italy and teach Aveda Makeup techniques while speaking fluent Italian. Pretty cool! It’ll be a far cry from your painfully bad first stage presentation. But that’s the point—if you want to get better, you have to pick yourself up each time you fall.

Your journey that started at 18 years old is really all about finding and believing in yourself. Don’t limit your life and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish. With that, “Beauty School Janell,” remember that life doesn't happen to you, it happens for you. 

All my love,

“Future Janell”

Have some invaluable advice that you wish you knew in beauty school? Share it with others in a “What I wish I knew in beauty school” online letter. To be considered, please email your “Dear Beauty School self” letter to our Executive Editor, Andrea Dawn Clark, at: [email protected]. And, send a “vintage” and current photo of yourself via Wetransfer, Dropbox or Google Drive. Use “What I wish I knew in beauty school” as your email subject. Students, and even seasoned pros, will appreciate your perspective and salon experiences.