We asked Cindy to share the struggles that we all sometimes feel when trying to find our path in this industry. We find her vulnerability and honesty, refreshing. The following is an account of where she has come from…

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Have you ever felt like you don’t fit in?  Or felt that weird feeling when your surroundings are not vibing with you at all?

It is really hard to put into words the journey of finding what you are good at, identifying what you vibe with and holding on to what makes your heart sing. It is a struggle for every creative out there but specially for hairdressers. If you think about it ,most of the career plans in college have some sort of guide or a pattern of what you should probably do. However in this day and age being a hairdresser is still considered a hobby or a little trade people do when they are not good at anything else. Therefore we are meant to just be lucky to have someone give us a job. I believe our industry is actually the opposite of what 90%of the people believe. While some, yes, may have the luck to have this be their first pick and succeed at it cheers to you, however, most of us don’t.  Many of our stories are stories of struggle, fight and passion. Most of us come from a place of NOs. For example: No you shouldn’t have pink hair. No, you cant make a living as an artist. No you can’t wear that to school. No you can’t do math so take 5 successful careers out of your future. No you cant be successful you are too young. No you will never make money doing hair.

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If you know me , you know I love a challenge so ,early in my journey I learned that a NO didn’t mean the end.  I was raised by a power house of a woman, that had life challenges facing her on a daily basis and guess what? She never backed down. In my house it was never said but it was understood that we don’t give up. We don’t back down, we don’t let people label us and we work hard for what we want.  We all knew, except my dad who I’d like to call, the challenger.

The challenger taught me a lot of stuff, not from holding my hand but by denying me the power to do things. Like when I was learning to drive, he would say,  “ give me the keys, ill park the car for you or else you’ll crash into the house”   He said this twice and the third time I didn’t allow him to come near the car to grab the keys. I just successfully parked. He said with a smirk in his face “ I guess you know how to park” (#tinyvictory).  Later, When I first moved out to go away to college ( which he was opposed to) , he said “ You can go ahead and do your thing, you wont even last a month away from home. You’ll see”  So I suffered that first month with no friends and so lost. I just wanted to give up but my desire to prove to my challenger I was stronger than what he expected got me through it and actually.. I haven’t given up yet!  He was the BEST teacher, because he taught me how to navigate a life with the abundance of NOs.

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Funny thing, Years later I decide to go to beauty school.  Without me knowing it can be one of the most challenging industries in the world when you don’t know how to deal with a NO.  First of all, when I decided to go to beauty school after leaving my first high paying job. Everyone was like “but why?” “Why do you want to do that?” “Isn’t that for like people that drop out of high school?”  Which I was so frustrated by but I knew in my heart I could prove to them it was more than a stereotype.

I went into the beauty world knowing I wasn’t great at hair but I wasn’t going to be shyed away from possibly finding what I loved to do.  I grew up around hairdressers and to me the happiest people on earth. I grew up around people that would geek out in front of a stage with a man doing a strange haircut. I grew up talking to myself in the mirror and around people that sold confidence for a living.  When I started beauty school, I felt like finally I had arrived to a place where things were possible. I graduated Paul Mitchell School Austin, with the confidence  I could be whom ever I wanted to be and mainly…I never had to deal with challengers.

WRONG. In the beginning like every beauty school graduate I searched and researched for all the salons In my area, I narrowed down by looks, by skills, by yelp reviews, and finally by recommendation. However, if I could tell you one thing right now before I go any further.. DON’T pick a work place because a friend is having a great time there or is the top performer in America. Honestly NONE of that matters if  your values, vision, creativity and career gets compromised. Anyway, I ended up choosing a place to work that did the things I wanted to do, because well…the closer you get the better chance no?  I chose an employer with hopes and dreams of becoming the stylist I had dreamt of being. However little did I know I was about to sign a contract with my biggest challengers as of now.

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In my first year of work I was an intern not the kind that sits behind a mentor to assist. I was the kind of intern that swept, cleaned, did colorist shampoos, blowouts, toners, hand massages and basically did everything the stylist schedule didn’t allow them to do. I went so hard at that internship that I would pass out on the ground some nights after the late night shifts at 11 pm and morning call times of 6 am. Pay was not great and I wasn’t allowed to take tips so the struggle started to get VERY and HEAV ILY real. I didn’t have a choice, at that time I had to keep going, I kept seeing stylist and interns give up and quit but I couldn’t allow myself to give up. I had hopes that maybe if I worked my butt off I could stand out and maybe get an opportunity to touch that NYFW week dream.

It was all happening again, except this time the challenger did not care if I knew how to park or if I left and never made it.  I was invisible. After a year of interning I felt like well, I needed to work on my career. I had gone to Beacon Before and I knew NAHA could possibly allow me a chance. Like every good intern I asked for the opportunity to assist a shoot to gain some knowledge, which I was told the first time I asked “ sorry, we don’t have room for extra people” Second time around,  I offered to pay my flight to NYC to go assist in another shoot which I was told “ no, we already have assistants from a school coming to help. There’s no room for you”  to which my reaction was automatic tears as I walked to my car , followed  by me screaming at the heavens “ but why not meee! I sweep and do all this stuff here every day! What am I doing wronggg!?!” Third time , months later I asked “Hey how about now? Could I assist in this collaborative shoot? When can I be part of one?”  Which the answer was, yeah, you guessed it, “ Be part of it? Oh no honey, maybe next year… you can assist if there’s room but we have a lot of people already going” I was was so frustrated , I convinced myself everything was wrong with me and I did’t fit in! Somehow I wasn’t good enough and now I’m SO glad I didn’t fit the mold.

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My dad only got to tell me twice I wasn’t allowed. I gave them three chances. That night I went home, plugged in my computer and spent 3 hours on pintrest. It was clear to me no one was interested in helping me, no one was going to guide me where I wanted to go. The journey I was about to go into was by myself.  I just needed to do it, do something, anything.

I decided that night I was going to do my first NAHA shoot.  I had previous experience coordinating people and hosting shoots from my previous job. I approached it the only way I knew how, asking. I found a photographer, a make up artist (who I still work with), models, who were mainly girls I knew and found pretty and well…sacrificing a couple of my little checks to pay for this production.  Somehow things came together. When it came down to my concept. After a million NOs from concept to wardrobe from everyone I thought would mentor me. The shoot was done submitted and who knew that come around may 2015 …This little beast was nominated and about to embark in the journey of a lifetime!

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Things were looking up for me I was finally recognized for my work, I was doing things no other hairdresser I knew was doing in my network and I truly felt I was finding my way. This is where things get interesting. This nudges life gives you are not just speed bumps they are signs of the universe to follow your path.  I felt a little unsupported and I remember clearly the day reality hit me in the face. I was told by a challenger “ Don’t think because you got nominated for some award you will be doing other things or seen differently. Everything will be the same”  As a blogger, writer, entrepreneur and all of the above my mind just couldn’t wrap around that thought. I was doing something for my career but I wasn’t. It was like writing an essay on your final but only being graded on the multiple choice.  It just didn’t make sense to me.

As a woman, a dreamer and as someone that came into this career to show the world , hairdressers are more than average, I couldn’t just take NO for an answer.  Simply because I never had.

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The abundance of NO’s has given me absolutely everything I have today.  I have not let others define me or label me. I have made a commitment to myself to never let the guard down and to fight for what makes your heart burn. I am STILL on my journey and there is a lot of work to be done but I am now confident I am on my way.

Don’t let people find a place for you in the world, because they will and thay place may be sweeping hair all your life. Be your own hero, take risks,  go out there and find what makes you get your butt up in the morning. What makes you go against all the odds. We all have that something, to me it might be to break the rules for hairdressers and change the perspective people have of us. For you it might be to create a beautiful piece of art, have your own store, be a mom/dad.  We all have a path but knowing how to navigate and have those NOs work in your favor is where the success lies.  Love your challengers because by them blocking a path, it makes you find the one you were always supposed to be in.

I am a hairdresser, I am a woman, I am a fighter!