“Yoo-hoooooo,” sings Carol as she meets with Leigh at 7 a.m. As the two welcome students into the room before class starts, they sit and talk about personal stuff before the work day begins.
“Working with a friend in a situation where both families know each other, the discipline is taken differently,” says Leigh. “When she’d correct me, I felt as if she was taking care of me. I didn’t feel as if I was getting scolded. I felt as if she was teaching me. She was the coordinator and I was under her. When a dean or someone says something to me, the first thing I think is, ‘uh oh, I’m in trouble.’ But with Carol, it was different.”
It’s different now for Leigh, because her mentor has retired. But the fashion industry has taught both women to embrace change and differences.
“This department is a work in progress — it always has and will be, because that’s the nature of the fashion industry,” says Carol. “Trends in fashion change. Makeup, hair and nails all change and that’s all a part of cosmetology. Now, we’re opening up a barbering program here and that’ll be another dynamic. That’s something Leigh can definitely help out with, but it speaks to how the industry and department are always evolving.”
How people wear their hair and how they cut it may be different, but Leigh says the techniques are timeless. Carol recalls her early days of hair dressing and her rudimentary tool set was composed of a pair of scissors, capes, rollers and something to do with dyes called a “roux fanci full rinse.”
“I remember being in the beauty salon with my mom, I think she’d experiment on me, and they’d plug me into the wall to give me a perm,” says Leigh. “They’d clip these electrodes to your head and dose your hair in solutions. That was just one of the old-type ways. It didn’t curl your hair. It fried it.”
It’s the art rather than the time period that attracts these two bubbly beauticians to their craft, and that same art form has kept Carol and Leigh forever intertwined. For them, beauty is all about making people feel good about themselves and that attitude permeates the hearts of the students who have learned from them.
“Hair dressers march to a different drum, and I really mean that,” says Carol. “We don’t care what people think about us. We’re going to do our own thing and you’ll see the student take on that attribute. They’ll express reservations at first about touching customers. Then, down the line, they’ll get right in there and just love that customer and do everything they can to give them a good experience and boost their confidence.”
Leigh says she got in trouble once with Carol for letting a student leave class early, a practice that has been redacted from her philosophy. We care and want the students to graduate and do great things, says Leigh.
“We stick our necks out there, we have to encourage people and we have to see the good in people,” says Leigh. “In this industry, you can’t be judgmental. Everyone’s got to be equal and that’s something we firmly believe in. Come as you are, because there’s a lot of diversity in here.”
The two women agree that Leigh is the queen of casual, something she says is in direct response to wearing suits daily at Regis and attending a blur of formal events. Carol, on the other-hand, enjoys formal wear.
The two women talk at least once every two weeks, says Leigh. And with what may have been their biggest friendship challenge a few years ago, one that required two hearts to handle, they have even more to talk about in their updates once Leigh had finally gotten the news she was anxiously awaiting.
Leigh had decided she wouldn’t put up a single Christmas item the year. Carol cautioned that she shouldn’t do that.
“Then one day she got the news that she was getting two children,” says Carol. “She had to go to Atlanta numerous times for all of the FBI background checks and other hoops. When she finally got her children, ooh, I've got chills running all over me... I feel like they’re my children.”
Leigh was only expecting one child and she had waited anxiously for a reply from the South Korean government.
“I got a phone call and the woman said well there are two — will you take two?” says Leigh. “I said, are you kidding? God doesn’t give many gifts. But when he does, you take them all. It was girl and a boy. I got the call here at school on Valentine’s Day that they’d be in the U.S. on Feb. 21.”
Carol has had some rough times, too, and Leigh says Carol’s fidgety ring adjustments are always a good indicator that there’s conflict brewing inside of her bestie. The two are sisters, mother and daughter, best friends.
“I’ve tried to mentor her because I knew that she could take over and do anything that I did,” says Carol. “I always kind of felt as if she was my child.”