What I Wish I Knew in Beauty School: Karie Bennett

Young Bennett, “beauty professional in training” (left) and today’s Bennett (right).

Karie Bennett, (@kariezbennett) NAHA winner, Aveda artist and Founder Atelier Salons in San Jose, CA, only had one dream when she was a little girl, becoming a hairdresser. At just three years old, Bennett performed her first haircut—on herself. At age seven, she moved on to Barbie dolls and as a preteen she practiced her skills on her Great-Uncle Arnold. After years of cutting friends' hair in community college, she enrolled at Ponce Cosmetology College, and now she looks back on the journey.

Dear “Beauty School Karie,”

Believe it or not, some of the best “training” you’re going to receive will be the practicing you did on friends, family and even yourself before you entered cosmetology school. Your first “real person” haircut—thanks Great-Uncle Arnold—will give you confidence and propel you forward. And all those choir friends in community college, letting you “test out” your skills, will make your career choice all the more obvious. And, although your instructors will do their best to break you of bad comb grips and weird finger angles, you’ll always teach yourself along the way—and that’s okay.

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In beauty school you’re not really learning how to cut or color hair in the specialized way that’ll serve you once you graduate. In reality, what you’re learning is how to connect with people. In beauty school you’ll learn how to talk to anyone, even a perfect stranger. This never came easy to you, but it’s a skill you’re going to need throughout your career. It’s those “soft skills” that are going to be your biggest takeaway from beauty school. Realize that the technical education—cutting and coloring—is going to come later when you assist a really experienced stylist in your first salon job after school. 

Understand that there’s a lot about hairdressing that’s hard: The hours are going to be long. Your feet are going to get tired. You’re going to struggle cutting that first straight line and fixing that color job that’s gone wrong. But even with all the technical and physical trials, it’s going to be the “people part” that gives you the biggest challenge. There’s an art to deciphering an expectation, understanding the color in someone’s imagination or finding common ground and connection. That’s the real tough part to hairdressing. But it’s all worth it. You’ll find joy in meeting new people, learning from them, helping them and seeing the joy come over their face when you’ve created a beautiful result. 

You don’t know it now “Beauty School Karie,” but you’re going to go a long way in this career you dreamed of as a child. You’re going to own three Aveda salons, and without a business degree or business background you’re going to receive a NAHA Master of Business Award and Jaclyn Smith from Charlie’s Angels (one of your favorite shows as a kid!) will hand you a Global Salon Business Award. 

Thank you “Beauty School Karie” for never giving up on your dreams. And never forget those “pre-beauty school” experiences that led you in the right direction.

With love,

“Future Karie”

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. 

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