Celebrity stylist Sally Hershberger, Meg Ryan’s stylist, once told Ben Mollin that Ben could charge hundreds of dollars for one of his haircuts. But after finishing as a runner-up on Bravo network’s hairstyling competition series “Shear Genius,” the ‘93 Cameo graduate decided against Hollywood’s high price tag and returned to the Midwest to style – and teach – his faithful clients back in Indiana. On a Thursday afternoon in March, immediately after finishing a haircut, Mollin carved out ten minutes to tell us what continues to make Cameo Beauty Academy unique.
MK: Was Cameo influential in helping you define your simplistic, edgy-punky style philosophy?
Ben Mollin: Cameo was influential in that it provided me the license. Beauty school, in many ways, is very similar to Driver’s Ed. You’re there for however many hours, you do this, you do that. The staff there, though – Miss Pat especially, was like, the coolest chick I’d ever met in my life – the teachers I had were awesome. My personal style came later after the basic education.
MK: What made your teachers so awesome?
BM: Miss Pat was a spitfire of a woman. She was this total, like, “classic” beauty school teacher . . . She was just a cool chick. She was like that art teacher who just sort of resonated with you, that you just enjoy. She didn’t necessarily make it feel like I was there as a student, she treated me as an individual. The instructors were all really cool . . . Obviously, the school in general did something right.
MK: And now you’re teaching classes of your own through your salon, Ben Mollin Hair Education in Griffith, Indiana. Was there any experience you had at Cameo that helped you become a better teacher?
BM: The experience I had at Cameo got me ready for anything that came my way. I left there very open-minded and not just expecting one thing.
MK: Do you recall a particular experience or positive memory from Cameo that made a big impression on you?
BM: There was this video we watched once in Miss Pat’s class . . it was a How-To video back when the VCRs were, like, the size of kitchen cabinets. It was all really creative, avant-garde hairdressing tutorials. That was probably what sparked my own creative ways of doing things later on. Like, “Oh my God, there’s more to life than just doing roller sets and handing people ashtrays and filling up their coffee cups.” I can even remember the haircut: it was this really short wedge haircut with these really long sides, and I remember thinking to myself, “Yeah, that’s pretty cool.”
MK: Do you have any tips or advice for current students who are planning for a career in the beauty industry?
BM: Find a really good part-time job that’s flexible.
MK: What were some of the most important things you learned during your time on Season One of “Shear Genius?”
The biggest thing that I took away – looking back on it years later – is that patience and kindness will get you very far in this field. And that ego and attitude are going to work against you.
MK: Have you been back to Cameo since you graduated over 20 years ago?
BM: Just once, I stopped by on my way to Midway. I still got that super old-school feeling, and that’s what’s cool about it. What’s cool about independent schools like Cameo is that they’re not corporately driven by a big product company. They actually teach the art of hairdressing as opposed to the art of selling one specific color or specific brand. In my opinion, privately-owned schools like Cameo are the way to go because they give you an unbiased approach to the industry so you don’t come out just knowing one product line or one company.