From Unemployed Hairstylist to Salon Owner: Vilsen Restrepo Interview
We chatted with Vidal Sassoon Advanced Fall 2016 Winner Vilsen Restrepo to find out how receiving his scholarship impacted his life and career.
BCL: Hi Vilsen! Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions.
VR: Thank you for such an honor, I want to start by saying thank you for believing in me, and for giving me an opportunity to experience hair education at that level.
BCL: What drew you to become a hairstylist?
VR: I started doing hair when I was 13 years old back in Colombia (where I’m originally from). Hair has always been the door for me to express myself and I think the desire for doing hair comes from the elements and necessities around me at the time. When I came to the USA, hair really became my gift to produce income and survive and until now is the backbone of my life. I do really love making great hair experiences for anybody.
BCL: What was it like going to Vidal Sassoon?
VR: Going to Vidal was a dream come true. For years it was my obsession, I have been following Sassoon artists since 1998 when I saw the first new york Fashion Week, and at the time if you ever wanted to be a great stylist you really needed to follow Sassoon technique, but it was very difficult to get in, and very expensive at the time. When i found out I was going, it was a mix of emotions. It really had been my dream to train there and Sassoon never disappoints. I really became not only a better haircutter but a better person. They really cover the whole spectrum of hair, not just as a hairdo, but more as a hair experience where you can find all the elements on a person’s face and body to bring the best for them. So going to Sassoon was like being a kid at Disneyland for me. It was always my dream to train with Ms. Tracy and to get to know Allyson; they both got me to think how great I am and can be.
BCL: How did receiving the Beauty Changes Lives scholarship change your life and career?
VR: It changed the whole game. Becoming a winner was a decisive moment, it came when I thought nothing else would come my way. Winning this changed my whole mindset. I am a better haircutter today and most importantly, a better person, a more focused artist, a more gentle soul when it comes to thinking about hair. It makes me think i can achieve anything I want as a hair professional if keep educating myself and others. It gave me opportunities I never saw coming. Being a scholarship winner helps improve your results with your clients–they really believe in you and your capacity. One thing is people liking your work and another believing in your work. Because of this opportunity I opened my own salon. All these great things wouldn’t be here without the Beauty Changes Lives scholarship. This experience makes me think about what is next for me, where I want to be as an artist, and all these nice things are here because this great opportunity.
BCL: Tell us about your new salon!
The salon came after a very negative experience from my last employment. Sometimes winning something is not a great thing for others. Ever since I got the scholarship, some people really felt some type of way, I guess because I did everything on my own, as far as doing the video and submitting it for consideration. I asked for help but I didn’t get it, so winning this was a very good thing for my career. Unfortunately, last month they let me go unexpectedly. I wasn’t ready and they left me with no client list and nowhere to go, thank GOD i have really great people close to me and someone had an opportunity for me and helped me to open my own salon, which has been a blessing of all kinds. I opened 3 weeks ago; I’ve never owned a business before but I’m 100% invested in learning and getting my name out there. It is a 6 chair salon, and is located in Westwood, NJ. I’m by myself now until I find other artists that want to come and join me. I am nervous, but extremely happy to take my career to next level. This is the next level I was looking for.
BCL: How has beauty changed your life?
VR: Beauty Changes Lives changed my whole life for the better. It helped me to get the most amazing education I have ever had in my whole life, it helped me meet people I admire and to learn from them–it was a dream come true. The most important thing I took from this opportunity was to make me a better human being. No matter who you are, or where you come from, if you work hard with integrity you can really become successful.
Because somebody showed me compassion, granted me this beautiful experience and dedicated 5 days of their life to improve mine is just a speechless act. It makes me want to be a better person everyday. Through this beautiful hair profession, it is my duty to keep giving this information to any hairstylist that needs my help on how to create beautiful art.
Thank you for everything, if it wasn’t for this I would never have discovered my real potential.