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“Pay Your Dues”: Interview with Cameo Grad Laurie Cepkauskas

Laurie Cepkauskas loves Cameo Beauty Academy, and she wants you to know it.

 “I traveled 45 minutes each way every day for class because that’s how much I loved that school,” professes Laurie, a 2007 graduate who has been featured on BehindtheChair.com. Laurie is currently Head Designer at Jeffrey Lamorte Salon and Spa, where she’s worked ever since she graduated. (How’s that for stability?) Read on to learn more about  why she chose Cameo (and why she thinks others should), how she landed a job at a premier salon right out of school, how she handled a particularly awkward client situation, and more.

MK: Why did you choose Cameo?

LC: I interviewed at three different schools and just absolutely loved the personal feel of Cameo. It was very one-on-one, and it just felt right. Herman was very welcoming, he answered every question. I felt comfortable there. 

I can’t say enough how much Cameo supported me even after I graduated. That’s the biggest thing I want people to know: My relationship with the people there did not end when I graduated. I’ve been gone 8 years, and I still keep in touch with so many of them.

MK: What’s your favorite thing about your job now, day-to-day?

LC: I really love to do color. I do everything at the salon as far as hair goes: color, cuts, style, perms, everything; but I really have a passion for color.

MK: What’s your least favorite thing about your job?

LC: Getting too attached to clients. I develop relationships with them, and when they hurt, I hurt. You start to feel like they’re family. I get very emotionally attached to clients . . . It’s a double-edged sword. When I went on maternity leave, I unfortunately lost a few clients, and because I did feel that I had that relationship with them, it made it very hard.

MK: What is the least-expected thing about your job?

LC: That’s a tough one . . . How fun it is!  I always knew I wanted to do hair, but I didn’t expect to be excited to go to work like I am.

MK: That’s fantastic! Can you tell me about an unusual client or a strange situation that your experience at Cameo helped you to deal with?

LC: I had a client who shared a little too much information: She was having an affair with man who, as it turned out, was married to another one of my clients. Cameo really taught me to be as professional as you can, and to have that relationship and build that friendship with your clients without overstepping boundaries. I stayed out of it, and gave support as best as I could. Cameo really helped me with professionalism. Aside from doing hair, you’re kind of a counselor. You’re there to listen to listen to them and help them through things.

MK: What advice do you have for current cosmetology students, or anyone thinking about studying cosmetology?

LC: My biggest piece of advice is to pay your dues. I know that sounds harsh, but I feel that students graduating from beauty school think they know everything. They are ready to do hair, and they settle for a salon because that salon is going to put them on the floor right out of school. I am a firm, firm believer in finding a salon that offers or requires additional training. The salon I went to had a training program that lasted a year. As much as Cameo teaches you, it’s one thing to be in school and then it’s another to actually be in that salon environment. So when I say “paying your dues,” I mean sweeping and shampooing and observing and getting coffee and doing those sorts of things. I see so many people in our salon comment and say, “I’m too good for this, I’m not sweeping here, I’m gonna go somewhere else” and they end up at a low-cost, lower-end salon. But I also see people in my salon thriving because they paid their dues. You have to get that experience and that in-salon feel, and it’s different from school. Not that Cameo isn’t real life, but it’s very important to pay your dues.

MK: That’s fantastic advice, thank you so much. You told me why you, personally, chose Cameo. Why do you think other people should choose Cameo for their cosmetology education?

LC: For the same reason I did: You’re going to get a family-feel. To this day, I know that if I walked through those doors, I would be greeted with open arms and a big hug. I still keep in touch with the staff and my teachers. I have a two-year-old, and they’re always asking, “How’s your son doing? How’s business going?” It was more than a student-teacher experience. They shared real-life experiences, they were genuinely interested in and hopeful for my success. I know I could call Mr. Herman and say “I’m having a hard time with this task or technique,” and he would talk to me. He would walk me through it.

When I was featured on BehindtheChair.com, I was so excited that I called him. He was so proud of me, he put this thing up at school: “Cameo Mom Laurie Cepkauskas Featured,” and he posted the photo that was submitted . . . he was so proud of me and it made feel so good, almost like I was making my dad proud.  And I wanted to make him proud because he was such a big part of me doing what I’m doing now.

MK: Have you found that your career choice allows you to spend some additional time with your son?

LC: Absolutely. One-hundred percent. It’s very flexible. God forbid my son gets sick, I just call up the salon and they have been more than understanding. I think, in this industry, anybody who owns a salon and deals with women all day knows that we have children and things happen. When I had my son, I cut my hours down to four days a week, and it just works. It works for me.

When I applied at my salon, they asked me which school I came from. When I said Cameo, the interviewers opened their eyes really wide, and I said, “What?” And they said “No, that’s impressive!”  I think a lot of people choose a school based on popularity or location or who they know that went there before. I actually did my research, and Cameo wasn’t a big brand-name school, but I chose it based on their success rate, and my employer was impressed. They’d already had a few Cameo graduates who had been successful, and I was hired on the spot. I’d like to think Cameo had a lot to do with the fact that I was offered the job 15 minutes into the interview. Because of Cameo, I was prepared for the interview: I was dressed properly, my makeup was done, I knew how to answer questions, and Cameo prepared me for all of that. It wasn’t just hair, skin and nails, it was, “Okay, you’re gonna go get a job. Here’s what to do.” They go above and beyond, and they really helped me out.


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