Well hello there, what brings you here?… I know, it’s me!! ????
I wanted to write about my experience of beauty school today as I feel that the beauty industry and what it takes to become a beauty therapist is unknown territory for a lot of people.
I attended the Yorkshire College of Beauty Therapy aged 16 straight out of high school and to say I was a little naive is an understatement. Firstly I thought I’d be doing hair too (which thankfully wasn’t in the course in the end, I had little interest in hair at the time) I also thought being a beauty therapist would generally entail painting nails and applying make up, little did I know the intensity of the course and how difficult it was going to be.
The pressure started when I first applied to my College prior to sitting my GCSE’s and I needed to secure my place with an interview. It was there I was then told in order to attend the college I needed a minimum of 5 GCSE’s, grades C or above, even though I was estimated to achieve this I was still pooing my pants! What if I didn’t get the grades and then couldn’t get into my choice of college and then couldn’t do my dream job and then ultimately fail at life???!! haha (I’ve always been a drama queen)
So the pressure was well and truly on! As I was a good student academically I shouldn’t have been afraid but for the first time in my little existence I had something tangible, something that was at risk of being lost and I knew it was only myself who could make it happen. I knuckled down harder than ever before and the class clown became a pretty serious student!… I actually impressed my teachers and parents with how determined and serious I was taking things.
Now I don’t want to fool you, being a beauty therapist hasn’t always been my life long dream, oh no, I actually wanted to be an Olympic athlete haha, or failing that a PE teacher. Having always been a sporty girl and competing in athletics throughout my school years it seemed the obvious choice for me to pursue. The change of direction came when I paid a visit to the schools careers advisor, I remember it was mandatory, we were sent one by one to sit down with this guy and chat to him about our goals and aspirations so he could point us into the smart direction of our future careers…. I walked in at 14 years old wanting to be a gold medalist Olympian and walked out dreaming of painting nails!! Much to my parents dismay I think ???? The conversation went a little something like this –
Careers advisor – “So Melissa, what do you like to do in your spare time”?
Me – “Well I like to do my hair and make up and paint my nails”
CA – “Do you know you can do that as a job and get paid for doing the things you enjoy”!
Me – “What, are you serious”?!
CA – “Yes, I would suggest looking into The Yorkshire college of beauty therapy at next weeks careers fair”
Me – “Oh my gosh I want to be a beauty therapist so bad, I’m doing it”!
And as they say, the rest is history. I attended the careers fair with my school at the Royal Armouries in Leeds and only approached one station, that was the YCOB, I was handed the prospectus by two ladies, Mrs Gardiner & Mrs O’Farrell. I scurried away fast, far too embarrassed to talk to those power women in their pristine outfits with flawless makeup and perfectly done hair… I was in awe and from that moment something in me had changed, I was going to be the best damned therapist I could be! Little did I know that those two women would still be championing me on throughout my career today, a mere 14 years later!
Upon returning from my summer holiday to Ibiza I walked through the door to that dreaded letter… My results!… Would I be the next superstar beauty therapist or would I be joining the dole queue? Well as you guessed I got the grades and my place at the YCOB was secured. The long list of kit I needed to attend was purchased and on the first day of collage I stood proudly in my college tracksuit posing for pictures in our living room. It was my little sisters first day of high school too so she joined in the obligatory first day photo shoot orchestrated by our parents ????
I had already done a dummy run to the college as it was miles away from my home and took 2 long bus journeys so I needed to be prepared, I had 2 great big bags one of which contained my therapy uniform which I was to wear during the day, we had to travel in our emblazoned College tracksuit, those were the rules.
The college itself was originally based within a health club where the ladies that lunch go to mingle and work out. The college was small but perfect, really only consisting of an office, a theory room, 2 practical rooms and our locker room. I will never forget that first day sitting in the classroom that would shape my career. I wanted more than anything to impress my tutor Mrs Khoshkoo and be her favourite student, to be honest I think I was ????
It was at that college that my eyes were opened to the reality of the beauty industry and all that my world could become. The theory side of it was intense having to learn anatomy and physiology. My nana used to ask me all the bones and muscles in the body and I would proudly reel them off to her like a puppy showing off it’s tricks. I will admit that the journey and the workload at times got the better of me, I had a few teary moments wondering if I could do it but after a pep talk I was always back on track with more determination than before. My strongest ability was performing the treatments themselves, I excelled and was able to perform all aspects of therapy to a high standard. I was a confident student and not a lot phased me, I would always jump at any challenge until it came to doing electrolysis, that was my one stumbling block… I have always had the most crippling fear of needles and the thought of having a needle inserted into one of my hair follicles and then electricity producing a current to heat it up literally put the fear of god into me! Thankfully with lots of practice and encouragement I overcame the fear and passed my electrolysis assessment.
I practiced my treatments a lot, mostly on family to begin with, one funny story comes from practicing my nail polishing skills on my dad, we had to be able to paint a perfect french polish and a dark red for our assessment showing we were neat and that the colour didn’t flood the cuticles or touch the surrounding skin. My dad seemed like the perfect model since he had the biggest nail plates so one night when he was watching ‘Match Of The Day’ he reluctantly let me practice on him, I did a good job and was confident I would pass my test the following day. After I had finished my paint job I went to bed leaving dad to finish watching his programme, the next morning he woke to an empty house and all his digits painted a lovely red or french style! With no one around to help him he walked to the local shop in gloves (in the height of summer) to buy a bottle of nail polish remover!… He still recalls the odd look the cashier gave him as he made his purchase wearing fluffy winter gloves a t-shirt and sunglasses! Alas he has never let me paint his nails since haha
College wasn’t the only aspect of my training, as I was on a modern apprenticeship I had a work based placement which meant I would also work in a salon several days a week to learn the skills of the trade in a real life setting. To the student it meant we could put into practice all the skills we had been taught at college and strengthen our skills, to the salon owner it meant they got a damn good cleaner and practically free labour! As a trainee I worked bloody hard in the salon all the while knowing I was making a pretty penny for the owners and only getting £10 a day in return. Regardless of that fact I didn’t really mind as I was doing something I loved and I was good at it, the more treatments I did and the more interaction I had with clients the better a therapist I would become. It was in my salon placement that I gained the skills I would need to secure a full time position once I had qualified. I knew that upon completing my course I didn’t want to stay in a small salon, I wanted bigger things for myself and I had my heart set on being a spa therapist! Before I had even completed my exams I began applying for spa therapist jobs, the first interview I was offered was at a large hotel chain and unfortunately I didn’t get the position but the 2nd I applied for offered me the job on the spot, my then spa manager is now a client of mine all these years later!
I owe everything I learned at the Yorkshire college of Beauty Therapy for making me the therapist I am today, I could have gone to any other local community college but I knew that I would get the best training at the YCOB and I did! Not only were we taught the treatments and the theory behind it all we were also taught etiquette, professionalism, high standards, client care and simply how to be the best. One of the first rules I learned was that preparation is the key to success and that simple rule has helped me these last 14 years in all aspects of my career.
In the beauty industry you can work in salons, spas, clinics, on airlines and cruise ships! You can go mobile or specialise in one service like massage or make up artistry. You can advance like I did and learn the art of laser hair removal, facial peels or go into management. The world is your oyster in the beauty industry and if you are prepared to work hard and give it all you’ve got you will go far!
I can’t imagine what my life would be now had I not taken that leap of faith and applied to the YCOB, I have been very fortunate to work for some of the biggest companies in the world, I have educated and managed some of the finest therapists the industry has to offer and above all else I have met some of the most wonderful clients along the way. I am proud to be a beauty therapist, I take my job very seriously whilst having a giggle along the way.
Tune into my next blog coming soon where I tell you about my first TV debut I starred in aged 17 which aired on SkyOne!
Lots of love, snuggles & smooches… Melissa x