"Cosmetology school was the first educational experience where I felt celebrated for who I was & empowered to become more"
January 30th, 2013 was the first day of the rest of my life. I had just moved to Boston and took a giant leap of faith, enrolling in the cosmetology program at Empire Beauty School in Downtown Boston. I have known that being a hairstylist was my destiny since I was old enough to brush my mom’s hair. Nothing ignited a fire inside me the way creating “beauty” did.
I grew up in Arkansas and having an interest in hair and makeup were not things you openly shared with others. Nearly every day after school I would curl, tease, and spray my mom’s blonde hair before giving her a total make over with blue eye shadow and bright red lipstick. Nothing excited me more than getting that time with my mom. Her teaching me how to properly hold a curling iron (mostly so I did not burn her) and explaining to me what makeups went where and how to apply them. I was very fortunate to have a mother who encouraged me, but I still felt shameful for loving something so much that was for “girls”.
As an teen I began to cut my mom’s hair. She allowed me to be as creative as I wanted. During this time, my mom was a single mother. She worked two jobs to keep our family “above water”, so family time was limited. Looking back, the only way to get me to stay in one place long enough was to ask for a haircut, and, I believe, she was genuinely excited to get some one-on-one time with me.
Growing up in an economically depressed area with very little financial support from home and limited resources, I beieved I was destined to be another “statistic”. A high school dropout, working a minimum wage job, with 2 kids by 21. I one hundred percent believe that my high school teachers would have (and maybe did) place bets that I would be that person. After high school, I met someone, fell in love, and came out as gay. I tried a community college. I worked jobs and chose career paths that I thought would make my parents proud of me. In my heart “being a hairstylist” was always there. But I kept telling myself: “You can’t be gay AND a hairstylist.
You’ll kill your dad”. Ultimately, I wanted to distance myself from anything that made me appear “gay” because I believed that my family would be ashamed of me for being “too gay”. They loved me and supported me, but would they be afraid to tell their friends about me if I was a “gay hairstylist”?
A few years passed and my partner and I moved to Boston for new opportunities. Unable to find a job, I knew it was time to choose a real career and go “back to school”. I decided that I couldn’t let the fear of others being “ashamed of me” hold me back from living a life that I was going to love. I enrolled in the cosmetology program at Empire Beauty School Boston.
Cosmetology school was the first educational experience where I felt celebrated for who I was & empowered to become more. While in school I was surrounded with a group of people who were just as passionate about the beauty industry as I was. It was the very first time I felt like my interests were valid. I was celebrated for who I was. Upon graduation I secured an apprenticeship with a Best of Boston stylist who nurtured my craft and creativity.
Through the years I have met clients who have been with me through salon changes, the birth of my son, family deaths, the opening of my own salon, a divorce, and more. This industry has given me a life, relationships, and opportunities that I never knew were possible. I truly believe this industry has saved my life in so many ways. I am continually inspired by industry leaders, fellow stylists, new stylists, & the people I provide services to. Being a stylist has given me a way to financially support myself and my son. Being a stylist has empowered me to be the truest form of myself. It has shown me that people will love you for your talents and your real self. Following my dreams have shown me that my family & friends can be proud of me no matter what I’m doing. I have learned that following your passion and making a commitment to your career can lead your life in directions you never knew possible. When you find your passion, it doesn’t feel like “work”.
I have been lucky enough to build an incredible team that celebrates and empowers their LGBTQ+ coworkers and community. Our team at The Elsewhere Salon is proud to announce we will annually offer a $2000 cosmetology scholarship to a member of the LGBTQ+ community each June during PRIDE. Each of our stylists believe that following their dreams in the beauty industry has changed their lives for the better and are passionate about empowering others to do so. The recipient of The Elsewhere Equality Scholarship will also be offered a position as an apprentice in our salon upon completion of their cosmetology program.
Gregory Chase, Owner
THE ELSEWHERE SALON
The Elsewhere Equality Scholarship
- Applications can be submitted at any time throughout the year.
- Applications submitted on or after June 1 will be considered for the following year.
- Applicants must reside in Massachusetts and be enrolled in a cosmetology program.
- Applicants do NOT need to be newly registered students, you can apply at any point in your education.
- Scholarship winners will be chosen on June 10th every year.
- Scholarship winners will be contacted via email and funds will be paid directly to the institution you are attending or applied directly to your student loan account.
- Write an essay explaining why you are choosing a career in the beauty industry and how this scholarship could help you follow your passions.
Submit the form below and email your essay to:
The Elsewhere Equality Scholarship
The Elsewhere Salon will award $2000 to an LGBTQ+ individual attending beauty school and offer an apprenticeship upon completion of the cosmetology program. Any donations will be added to our already pledged $2000.