Courtesy Aliyah Kilpatrick

Pictured left, Kambria Lockett '21 styles a clients hair in her room on West Campus. Pictured right, Matthew Dressa's collection of styling tools.

October 10, 2019

Life of the Dorm Room DIY Beauticians at Cornell

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At home, everyone has their go-to hair stylist, barber, manicurist, etc. Yet, when students come to Cornell, they lose their favorite hometown beauty specialists, and have to find new people. That is where self-taught, enterprising students like Alayna Earl ’23 come in.

“Three years ago I watched a YouTube video on [eyebrow] threading,” said Earl. “I would practice on my friends and sometimes they would give me money. I decided, why not bring it to Cornell?”

Although this is her first semester on campus, word spread fast of Earl’s talents. She has already received positive reviews and returning clients. Through social media and word-of-mouth, she continues to attract new student clients every week.

Beauty hobbyists like Earl primarily learned and perfected their craft through watching tutorials online. The satisfaction, friendships and funds that these amateur artists receive from their services make the effort worth the while.

“I like seeing it all come together,” said Skyla Carmon ’22, who learned how to style hair when she was 14 years old. After doing research on YouTube and practicing on her mom and sister, she started to branch out and braid her friends’ hair.

“My first real client was my mom’s friend… and after that I started doing my sister’s hair, and her friend’s hair, then my friends started asking; it just started getting around,” Carmon said.

She admitted that he sometimes struggles with juggling hair appointments,15 credits, working two jobs and being a residential advisor on campus. Still, she makes it work and plans to continue seeking clients through ads on her Instagram account. She hopes to continue hairdressing after college, and maybe somehow combine her skills with her Human Development degree.

“It’s in one of my business plans, I want to be a counseling psychologist so I’ve thought about mixing the two in some way,” Carmon said.

Also switching between multiple responsibilities is hairstylist Kambria Lockett ’21, who is a manager for the Cornell football team while being a full-time student. She found her passion after playing with dolls and practicing on her older and younger sister’s hair. Her appointments can take lots of time and energy, but, she says, doing someone else’s hair is a relaxing activity after a stressful day.

“Hair is a language, it’s a style, it’s part of your personality,” Lockett said. “Like if you walk around with blue hair that says a lot about you. If you walk around with short hair, that’s fierceness!”

Lockett is considering getting her cosmetology license and is looking to expand her business. She already does braids, trims, hair-coloring, hair straightening and nails. “I am never going to tell somebody I can do something I am not confident doing,”  she said. “I want you to be the most satisfied as possible.”

Another student, however, takes a new style as a challenge and becomes a beauty lobbyist solely because he doesn’t want others to mess with his hair.

“If I try something new, and I’m not 100 percent sure it’s gonna turn out right, it makes it even more fun and special. It adds thrill to it,” said Matthew Dressa ’21.

Dressa used to shell out tons of cash for haircuts. He eventually decided that enough was enough. The solution? It was time to learn how to cut his own hair. After watching hours of Instagram and Youtube video tutorials, Dressa has been successfully cutting hair for five years.

“I started when I was a sophomore in high school … I was just playing around with it, but eventually I got good and I started cutting hair at Cornell,” said Dressa.

After his freshman year, he decided to advertise more and he became more established. He started to get so many clients that he created a public spreadsheet where people could sign up, and at some weekends, he would be cutting hair for 16 people.

After the deluge of new clients became too overwhelming, Dressa decided to take this semester off. He wanted to make sure to preserve his original intention — that being a barber is a fun hobby and a passion. He has not given up hair for good, however.

“For me … the reason why I like it is because it’s really relaxing, it’s satisfying to see some of these before and afters of people being cleaned up,” Dressa said.