After learning about the Vidal Sassoon Basic Scholarship with less than 48 hours to apply, Kamilah Gerestant took a chance and won! We are excited to share her inspiring story.

BCL: How did winning the Beauty Changes Lives scholarship change your life and your career?

KG: The Beauty Changes Lives scholarship changed my life because it gave me hope. So many times in my life I didn’t want to accept that I could never pursue a childhood dream because of finances and bad timing. However, once I put all of my energy into something that felt right with me and FOR me, it’s like the universe put an invisible hand on my shoulder and said, come on, let’s explore what would happen if you just trust your own journey. I almost lost hope, but winning the scholarship relit the flame of my passion. My career completely changed because I was in a totally unrelated field waking up longing for something else. Year after year I was trying to find something I liked in an industry I didn’t love. Now, I wake up and do what I love every day in a great industry. There’s  no better feeling.

BCL: You found out about the scholarship with only 48 hours to apply — and you made it happen and won! What advice would you give people who are thinking about applying, even if it’s last minute?

KG: My advice would be a combination of what my mother and my husband told me the night I started brainstorming: Believe in yourself, tell YOUR story and forget what everyone else is doing and take a chance on yourself.

BCL: What was it like speaking at the Beauty Changes Lives Experience? What was your experience at the event?

KG: Speaking at the Beauty Changes Lives Experience was one of the highlights of my entire year. Not only because I felt like it was the best initiation party into the coolest “club” aka the beauty industry, but because I got to literally be the face and voice of creative hopefuls who are just like me and say to the people who make donations, THANK YOU. It was an honor that I did not take for granted. The room was filled with industry vets and influencers that I only read about and admired from afar. Yet I was surprised that they took the time to come to ME to shake my hand and congratulate me, welcoming me to the industry. To be greeted by so many smiling faces was another sign that I was on the right path.

BCL: When did you decide to become a hairdresser? What obstacles were in your path to achieving your dream?

KG: The decision to become a hairdresser was made in my childhood lol. However, little did I know it would become a dream deferred. When a plant isn’t watered and nurtured it dies, and that is basically what happened with my dream. I downplayed it as a hobby, put it off to the side as something unattainable and felt inadequate. I also thought maybe I am not good enough. The industry is filled with enough talent, who would pay me any mind. In retrospect, I was in my own way. Convincing myself of every reason why being a hairdresser wouldn’t be a good long-term career choice for me. As I got older and felt more and more unfulfilled in my jewelry career, I started to yearn for meaningful work. I wondered what would have happened if I listened to the whispers. What if I did take a chance on me? Once my mind shifted, my world shifted and the blessings came pouring in.

BCL: Why did you choose Gemology instead of Cosmetology early in my career?

KG: My Gemology career came out of necessity. After I graduated with my Marketing degree it was hard to find a job because every employer wanted marketing experience and of course I could not get experience without a job. I felt like a hamster in a wheel. I would have loved to explore Cosmetology at that time but all I could think about was that I just finished my degree, I owed student loans there is no way I can sign up for more debt. In another exhausting attempt to find work, I went to a job fair and the recruiter for GIA called me over (he must have seen the look of defeat on my face) and told me to drop off my resume. I told him I have no jewelry background and he said this was the type of career they train from the ground up. A week later I was interviewed and hired. It was an exciting moment for me because it was my first job out school. Although I liked it, and it felt good to make my own money and learned a lot, I wasn’t connected to the work. It was during these years when I started to truly understand that it is more important for me to live for purpose and passion.

BCL: What are you up to right now?

KG: It’s funny because I called2016 my year of transition and in the beginning of 2017 I said it was my year of growth. That’s exactly what I am up to today: Growing! Right now I still freelance but I am also exploring salon life at Hair Rules Salon in Manhattan and work on independent projects. With so many avenues to explore in the industry, I am trying to balance growth as a stylist with inner peace and happiness. The possibilities are endless!

You can find Kamilah and see her work on Instagram or Facebook @MsHairandHumor.