Today we’d like to introduce you to Jael Pettigrew.
Jael, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I started doing hair to make extra money, I never thought that it would become my passion. I was raised by a single mother who worked day and night to keep a roof over our heads and food on our table. I worked to be able to contribute. When I was 13 years old, I received my worker’s permit and began working as the receptionist at a day spa in the heart of Downtown Atlanta. Between the ages of 13-19, I worked in a plethora of different salons, spas and barbershops, mainly as the receptionist, broom girl and/or shampoo assistant.
The beauty industry is infectious, so like many of my fellow long-time stylists working in salons for all those years, the veteran would teach me little things about hair and makeup, sparking my interest. By the time I was in high school, I began a work study program, working at 71 Barbershop in the city as the lead receptionist, and turned my bedroom into a beauty salon for my friends and myself. At 21, I was working as the receptionist at Meldora’s Hair Salon in Downtown Decatur, GA. One day, the owner was double booked and getting behind schedule, so she asked if I knew how to shampoo. I confidently replied yes, rolled up my sleeves, clipped the phone to my hip and started shampooing. By the end of the day, she remarked that I had a God-given talent that I needed to explore. I liked the idea but having just moved out on my own, I could not afford to go to cosmetology school. She soon offered to make me her apprentice, allowing me to continue to work for her and also make enough money to take care of myself while completing the state board requirements to take my cosmetology exam. And with the encouragement of my clients, shop owners, and coworkers, I decided to give it a try. I applied for my cosmetology apprenticeship license and was approved.
Unfortunately, as I came close to completing my 2-year requirement as an apprentice, the owner decided she wanted to turn the salon into a clothing boutique, and I could no longer train with her. With just months of my apprenticeship remaining, I came to a fork in the road. Should I start this journey all over and go to hair school (Apprentice hours don’t transfer to school hours. You can only transfer hours from one school to another school in most states.) or find a new career path? At this point, I had fallen in love with all things hair and was not ready to give up just yet. So, in the summer of 2016 I enrolled at Paul Mitchell The School Atlanta. After graduating and earning my license, I worked in a studio in the heart of Midtown. In August of 2018, I decided I was ready for a change and moved with my best friend here to Houston and began working as a colorist at Bishops Cut and Color in January 2019. Within a year, I advanced into the role of Salon Manager, building a loyal and diverse clientele here in Houston and managing a very talented group including three stylists and one barber.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
As with anything that is of high value, this journey has come with many bumps in the road. I think the most recent challenge has been building a name for myself here in Houston. While in Atlanta, a good portion of my clients had been with me since the beginning of my journey. Many clients stayed with me after Meldora’s Hairsalon closed. When I moved to Houston, I only knew three people. While I was waiting for my cosmetology license to transfer, I worked at Superica as a hostess, Ulta Beauty as a prestige beauty advisor, and drove for Lyft, Uber and Postmates. When I was able to get back behind my chair, I started working at Bishops Cut and Color while still working my hostess job. At the time, Bishops was still new to Houston and did not have a large following here yet. It also predominantly serviced men, which had not previously made up a large amount of my clientele. Regardless, I loved the salon and connected well with the other stylists.
One of the things that I pride myself on is being able to service anyone who sits in my chair. So, as I had done in the past, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. To begin, I brushed up on my barbering skills. I created a men’s grooming experience in my chair. As a curly-haired colorist, I am my own walking billboard. So I made sure that every time I walked out of the door, I made sure my hair was an eye-catching color and style. My plan worked, women would stop me left and right asking who my stylist was. Between traveling back and forth to Atlanta to service my clients there and building a clientele in Houston my plate was full. I blasted my social media with pictures of blonding, color correction transformations, and vivid colors. I spoke to anyone and everyone, passing out cards and offering discounts. Within six months, I became the assistant manager and had a schedule that was booked out by the week. Now, after a year and a half in Houston, I am thankful to have a full book of clients in both Atlanta and Houston, allowing me to be booked out for 1-2 weeks at a time in Houston and booked out by the month in Atlanta.
Cut, Colored + Crowned – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
As a master cosmetologist, I do a little bit of everything cutting, coloring, styling, facials, facial waxing, threading and a whole lot more. Though I love every bit of the beauty industry, I am classified as a colorist meaning I specialize in coloring hair of all lengths and textures. While in beauty school my mentor, Dallas Christopher, introduced me to celebrity stylist Stephen Webster the creator of the Black Girl Blonde Official brand. I had the privilege of working in his studio for three years. Under the direction and training of both Dallas and Stephen, I perfected my coloring techniques like hair painting and color melting. One of the things that I am most proud of is my ability to drastically color naturally curly hair without damaging the curl pattern. I think the main thing that sets me apart from other stylists is educating my clients. I believe that your salon experience should not end when you get out of my chair. That being said whether you are one of my male clients suffering from thinning or one of my female clients interested is doing a complete blonding transformation, it is my responsibility to break down all the chemical processes and cosmetology jargon in a way that is easy for my client to understand. I then make sure my clients are equipped with the proper products for their at-home care. Educating my clients solidifies their confidence in me as their stylist, resulting in a rainbow of clients all with flourishing strands!
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
For me success means elevation, setting goals for yourself, big or small, then stretching past what you believe your limitations are to achieve those goals. No two success looks the same. Where some people measure success by money, for others it is measured in experiences. In my opinion it is a healthy balance of both. I come from very modest means so being financially stable enough to own a salon instead of renting a chair is a large marker of success for me and the goal that I am currently working towards. Experiences like the first time I was selected as an artist in an Atlanta hair show, working with celebrity stylists at fashion shows, weddings and photoshoots, having clients travel from many different states here to Houston just so they can sit in my chair, getting licensed in two states as a Master Cosmetologist and having a loyal following in both have all been measures of success for me. One of the things that I enjoy most about the beauty industry is that it is constantly evolving, allowing stylists like myself to never become stagnant but instead to dream bigger than we’ve ever imagined and bring to reality whatever our creative minds can dream up!
- Short Haircut – $30
- Long Haircut – $45
- Silk Press – $55
- Microlink & I-tip Extensions – $500+
- Crochet – $150+
- Sew-In – $250
- Hair Painting – $155+
- Highlights – $100+
- Vivid Coloration – $190+
- Root Color Touch Up – $85
- Website: https://www.styleseat.com/m/v/jaelpettigrew2?utm_campaign=vanity
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: brighteyes_bushyhair
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BrighteyesBushyhair/
Photos 1,2,3,4 Photographer: Jael Pettigrew; Photo 5 Photographer: Steve Kim