In the News
HAIR CARE PLUSby Tamara Ikenberg on 5/9/2008
Dale Jones is emphatic about eliminating the bad energy from life, and that includes a certain Mr. Springer.
"How much time do people spend listening to negative music, shows and people?" he asks, addressing a classroom of nearly 70 students.
"When you're watching Jerry Springer, and there's a fight, do you ever go, 'Get 'em! Get 'em! Get 'em!'? Kick Jerry out of your life!"
"You should've been a pastor," says Taquaja Johnson, 21, sitting in the front row.
The spirited speaker's vocation is director of Paul Mitchell The School – Nashville, and his combo of trash TV rehab and revival is actually part of a class at the new Paul Mitchell The School – Louisville.
Its temporary location is the former Donta School of Beauty on Oak Street in Old Louisville. All the previous Donta students and instructors are being absorbed into the new program. Later this spring, construction will begin on a state-of-the-art Paul Mitchell school near Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. It's scheduled to be finished in January 2009.
The Paul Mitchell program is highly structured and uniform throughout its 100 U.S. schools, mixing motivation and life lessons with cutting and dyeing. The company is also active in helping students get jobs following graduation, and offers financial-aid options and community-service projects.
Many of the students are here not only to start a new career, but also to take control of their lives.
Following Jones' presentation, several "Future Professionals," as their nametags say, wipe tears from their eyes and fan themselves with their hands.
Ashley Fuller, 21, cries freely, and her classmate Johnson slides her arm around Fuller's shoulder.
"He talked about struggles, and I've faced a lot of struggles coming back to school," says Fuller, an Okolona resident who took a hair-school hiatus last year to help loved ones.
"My family, they needed me. My mom, she was working, my stepfather was working, and my little sister is 9, and somebody had to be there for her. At the same time, my grandmother got real sick. She has a bad heart. I would watch my little sister, and my brother was into trouble. I was set back, and I thought, 'If this is what I really wanted to do, I'll go back to it,' " she says. "You always come back to what you love. . . . Now, I'm more in love with it than I was when I left."
Last September, Fuller returned. Soon after she did, it was announced that Donta, in business since 1986, had been sold to Paul Mitchell.
"At first I was kind of upset because it was going to be a big change, but then I'm like, 'You know what? Change isn't always bad. Change can be good. I can adapt.' "
She's pleased with the well-rounded teaching techniques of Paul Mitchell. "It's not just school, it's your whole life."
The change was initiated by Dawn Pajo, owner of Pure Image on Baxter Avenue, and her husband, Dan, who spearheaded the plan to bring Paul Mitchell to Louisville.
"When I found out about the Paul Mitchell school in Nashville, I was so blown away by what they offered and what they do for their students," Dawn Pajo said. "I thought, 'Gosh, Louisville needs this. Kentucky needs this.' "
It was a battle for the Pajos to bring the school here. They teamed up with Jones and other Mitchell honchos to help make it happen.
Kentucky has laws about how many cosmetology schools can exist in a particular area; eight schools per congressional district. Louisville's quota was already filled. Dawn Pajo appeared before the legislature in Frankfort to try and get a bill passed to open the market for more cosmetology schools. That didn't work, so the couple activated Plan B: buying out an already-established school and replacing it with Paul Mitchell.
When the Pajos and Jones initially offered to purchase Donta last June, they hit another wall.
"The first time they called, we were not interested," says Beverly McCauley, daughter of the school's founder, Jack Donta. "We were shocked."
After a few months of Donta family discussions, the clan decided to sell. Jack and his wife, Julia Donta, were ready to enjoy their retirement, and the proposition started to sound like a great idea.
In September, the school shifted ownership. McCauley and her sister, Denise Vitt, the school's financial-aid adviser, stayed on for the transition.
McCauley, known as "Miss Beverly" by the students, is one of six instructors or "learning leaders" as they're dubbed in Paul Mitchell lingo. For their first 300 hours of training, students spend all their hair education time in the classroom. After that, they spend a little over half their hours on the salon floor practicing their new skills on fellow students and walk-in clients.
On a recent Tuesday morning, the school's salon was humming as the students tried out their new skills on walk-in clients and their colleagues.
Melissa Loyless, 37, came in for a haircut, highlights and manicure. "The students are the ones who do the best job. Everyone helps out," she says. "Everyone's really nice. I'd come back."
On the other side of the salon, Terrilynn Hardy, 29, a downtown resident, is prepping fellow student Ashley Berry's mass of curly hair for some major straightening.
She opened her Paul Mitchell kit, a treasure chest of hair goodies that each student receives, filled with brushes, scissors, flat-irons, hair dryers and more. Hardy worked serum into Berry's hair to seal and protect it prior to flat-ironing.
Hardy has faced her own share of difficulties on the road to becoming a professional stylist, and dropped out for a few months last year when her family life started to go downhill in "one crazy spiral."
Her husband was arrested, her mother had a heart attack, and Hardy's car was stolen. She still has to rely on friends, family and cabs to get herself to work and her daughters to school.
When she collected herself and came back, she was initially denied readmission because of all the absences she'd racked up. She had been on financial aid, and had missed too many classes to maintain the assistance.
"I went nuts in there on Dawn. I went crazy on her, basically," Hardy says. "I plan on going out West and starting my life over. If I don't have school, I can't do that. School was all I had positive in my life, except for my kids."
Hardy eventually calmed down and returned to apologize, and McCauley and Pajo gave her a break.
"They blessed me. They absorbed my balance, and they told me I couldn't be late or miss a day for three weeks. They gave me a second chance. I owe them," she says, tears welling in her eyes. "I feel like such a professional when I go to school every day. I feel like an artist. I feel like I'm doing what I'm meant to do."