Gina Paternostro works full-time as the Main Colorist and as an instructor at Cameo Beauty Academy. In between color consultations with clients in the school’s student salon, she teaches courses on hair color.
“I’m teaching more advanced techniques such as ombre, balayage and the punky, vibrant fashion colors that are getting really popular right now,” said Paternostro. “Workplace dress codes are getting more relaxed, and so more people are getting brave and coming in to ask for blue or jade-green hair, or whatever color Katy Perry and Kendall Jenner are wearing at the moment.”
Like many of the Academy’s teachers, Paternostro came to Cameo as a student in the late 1990s.
“I came to Cameo and got a great education. It just worked for me, and I’ve been very successful in this business. I’m a single mother, and I’ve made a very good living doing this.”
Here, she addresses some of the questions that are sure to be on the brains of incoming Cameo students -- swirling around underneath that pastel-pink hair color, perhaps.
What drew you to the cosmetology industry?
I’ve always liked to play with hair. I’ve always done my friends’ hair, my sister’s hair . . . Growing up, I experimented a lot with my own hair. I’ve been coloring my hair since the 5th grade with different box colors, always formulating, always playing with color, and then I discovered Sally’s Beauty Supply . . . I always knew I wanted to do hair. My whole life, I was always in to hair, makeup and nails, for as long as I can remember.
There’s probably a lot of people out there who are just like you were, experimenting with hair, makeup and nails at a young age. What do potential students need in addition to that creativity, that experimentation, to move forward into your level of work?
Well, obviously they have to start by getting licensed. You can’t just “do hair” and call yourself a stylist, you have to go out there and get the education you need to get the license to support it, and then work from there. There’s many different aspects of the job. Becoming an instructor was the best way for me to continue to express my creativity and help students without having to leave the area. Because of my children, brand representation, product demos and trade shows wouldn’t have worked for me because of all the traveling that type of work requires.
If a young person is genuinely interested in cosmetology, they need to come to beauty school and see what it’s all about.
When you were making the decision to go to cosmetology school, what drew you to Cameo Beauty Academy?
I didn’t want to go the beauty school that all my friends from high school attended. A cousin of mine had also gone there, and I knew it wasn’t what I wanted because my cousin never had any guidance or hands-on teaching. This was going to be my career and I took it seriously. The other school was closer to where I grew up, but I chose Cameo on the recommendation of another friend who had come here and said, “This is where you need to be if you’re serious about this.”
I came in here and did the interview with Herman 16 years ago, just like they still do it today. He gave me advice on me how I could juggle school full-time while raising my son. I think I finished a month early because I was that gung-ho about getting started with my career.
Did Cameo meet your expectations?
Oh, absolutely. I had individualized attention from all my teachers in a very structured, professional environment. The techniques I learned in 1999, I still use today, every day. Certain things never go out of style, and you have to learn them in a good, established school.
One of my former instructors is now my co-worker and colleague, and it’s fabulous getting to work beside someone I’ve admired and respected so much over the years. Cameo definitely shows you the potential of this business, the structure of salon atmosphere . . . really, just everything. I had such a positive experience here. I’ve truly never had anything negative to say. I loved it, I loved coming here every day.