Amanda Ebokosia: When did you first fall in love with hair?
Suzette Audia: “Back in the days of the hot comb, In the mid-seventies I fell in love with hair. It (hair) was so frizzy because the weather was so humid in New York. I would find ways to get out the frizziness from my hair by using the hot comb. Back then we didn’t even use blow dryers or brushes. No one really cared about their hair back in the seventies-- especially when you were a little girl.
I wanted to use my hands. I was right brain and creative-- and thought I’d be a hairdresser. So, I went to beauty school in 1979.”
Amanda Ebokosia: Was this in New York? What beauty school did you attend?
Suzette Audia: “Yes, Wilfred Academy in New York.”
Amanda Ebokosia: Great. How was that experience like for you and how long were you in training?
Suzette Audia: “Training took about 9 months and back then it was very inexpensive. I believe it was $3,000 dollars, now it’s $17,000 for the school. I went with one of my best girlfriends, which made it easier to get through. You know what, it was really tough. This is tough business when you’re dealing with people’s looks daily.”
Amanda Ebokosia: What made you to moved to Texas from New York?
Suzette Audia: “I left New York (January 25, 1984) because the drug scene was getting so big in my neighborhood. I had held out throughout my teens and didn’t want to do the drug of choice, which was cocaine back then. I said, "I got to get out of here." I drove my car out of 10 feet of snow to get here. I only came to Texas for what I thought would just be a couple of days. Now, I have been here for 25 years.”
Amanda Ebokosia: How did this industry compare with New York?
Suzette Audia: “You would think living in New York and Los Angeles, I lived in both places---Texas would be easier to break in. Texas is the toughest industry because New York and Los Angeles are very “niche market.” You have your Beverly Hills and then your Manhattan-- that is wear the beauty is found. In Dallas, it’s the WHOLE city. They're very much into beauty.”
Amanda Ebokosia: As a health and beauty coach, you’ve led numerous workshops to really empower women, create their own look, and fully embrace themselves. I find that interesting. Most people may not want to give up the “tools of the trade,” yet you have and still do-- why?
Suzette Audia: “You’re absolutely right. But guess what? That’s how you build a clientele. That’s how I built my clientele of 500 women (mostly), but I have a lot of men too. The industry is so big right now that you have to share your secrets. You can’t give someone a tool like the flat iron, which goes up to 400 degrees and say, “knock yourself out.” There is so much misinformation about the flat iron that you really need to be trained on how exactly the product works.”
Amanda Ebokosia: Being an educator for 14 years at Matrix -- while in Texas, you’ve taught many workshops dealing with hair and coloring. Has that helped you when launching your own workshop series?
Suzette Audia: “Absolutely. Yes. They drilled the chemicals and colors into my head, which is why I am such a good colorist. Matrix did not only show you how to mix A and B, but they told you why A and B worked on each hair type. I worked for them while working behind the chair -- seven days a week.”
Amanda Ebokosia: In the 30 years of your professional life within this industry, what were some key challenges you overcame?
Suzette Audia: “The biggest challenge I overcame was leaving the salon that I was working for to start my own business. With the handful of clients I had, it was the scariest thing that I’ve ever done.”
Amanda Ebokosia: What do you love about this industry now?
Suzette Audia: “We often ask ourselves what our purpose in life is. I asked myself, is my purpose to just be a hairdresser? Digging deeper than that, I found that I was touching the lives of at least 15 people a day. Some would just come in (to the salon) feeling bad about themselves -- the hour or two that I’d spend with them, they would walk out with the biggest smile on their face.”
Amanda Ebokosia: What do you want aspiring stylists to know?
Suzette Audia: “It’s so much harder to build a clientele in this industry today. There is so many of us out there and so many salons. If it is your passion, you really have to stick to it. It is no different than becoming a doctor and having to build your clientele in the medical industry. This is the beauty industry and it takes a very long time today to build your clientele and reputation. Between your reputation and your education, that’s the most important thing. You must also keep up with the trend and the tools of the trade-- not just going to school for 1500 hours-- and leaving and never ever taking another class again. That is the biggest mistake you can ever make.”
Amanda Ebokosia: You launched a luxury hair care line in 2009 called, Suzette Audia’s Luxury Hair Care Line. How important is it for you to embrace your entrepreneurial spirit?
Suzette Audia: “Very important. It was when I was turning 50 that I thought, “I have to do something that was going to make me money without me physically working. That was when I started to work on my hair care line. It took over a year to develop and it skyrocketed because of the ingredients that are in the line. Aging hair has taken over and people are calling me to get my products because I use emu oil, which is one of the known ingredients to help grow hair back. ”
Amanda Ebokosia: How was that whole process for you like in selecting ingredients?
Suzette Audia: “Because I didn’t have a business background, it was no different from researching online through the internet. I had fun doing it. I don’t know how I did it. I just ordered and worked with labs from Georgia, Canada, and to California-- I kept playing. All of a sudden -- there it was. It was God’s timing -- there it was, my product."
Amanda Ebokosia: Where do you see yourself in the future?
Suzette Audia: “I want to continue to blend my motivational speaking and teaching with what I do as a stylist-- just on a larger scale.”