I’m the owner of Brentwood’s Inspiration Cutz, which has the tagline “Your time. Your hair. We know! We care!” I really am passionate about hair care and commit myself to serving my customers in a timely, efficient, and effective manner. My salon has been at the 1280 Central Boulevard Suite J location since 2014. Some clients remember me from my previous location in a small venue in the Salon Suites on Balfour.
“Inspiration” really is the right word for the way I approach the challenge of styling a person’s hair. Each time a client comes in I feel that I have been blessed. I approach the challenge of tossed or tangled hair like an artist might approach a blank canvas. It’s an opportunity to do something creative and fresh — a chance to bring forth something particularly fine and to change the person’s appearance in an unexpected and altogether gratifying manner. At that point I really do feel I’m opening my mind and heart to receive some inspiration that will direct my heart and my hands. Another person might think of it as connecting with my muse. However, I’m a woman of faith, a humble handmaid of the Lord, and feel that to the extent the work I do in my salon is inspired. He is the source of inspiration.
I actually filed my official “Inspirational Cutz” DBA in 1998, long before opening my own business. At the time, I was relatively new to the industry but was building a reputation and a following of clients who appreciated the dependable improvement I made in their appearance. I became known, in particular, as a short hair stylist. Nobody ever got a cookie-cutter haircut from me. Sometimes a client would go out of my salon feeling beautiful. The next week they would return and would say, “Do my hair just like you did it last week.” The problem is, I had no idea what I had actually done the week before. After all, I’m “Inspirational Cutz” and not “Same Ol’ Same Ol’ Cuts.”
My heart goes out to clients who come into my salon with negative and hopeless feelings about themselves. Someone has betrayed them in some way perhaps, or criticized them. They feel they have messed up or have some discouraging health issue. But I often am able work some Heaven-inspired transformation on their hair. I then turn the chair to face the mirror and show them the change in appearance that their short time with me has accomplished. They always smile broadly at that point. Sometimes they laugh with delight. On occasion their eyes will even fill with tears of joy.
I’m a firm believer that we should always remain in learning mode. My goal is to stay at the top of my game, finding good balance, and learning everything possible about such topics as advanced color techniques and emerging styles. I’m ready to learn anything I can from every experienced stylist or barber that I run across.
Part of the “inspiration” referred to in the title has to do with my impact on the profession. While I was still in school some things came to my attention about the hairdressing industry and I began collecting some content for a book and documenting the things that I was observing while they were still fresh in my mind. The book would fill a gaping hole that is being left in the training offered by the standard hairdressing curriculums. The schools were making the mistake of “teaching to the test” and only providing enough instruction to prepare their students to pass state boards.
Even though people were graduating and becoming licensed to go into business, they were still unprepared for salon life and were suddenly faced with issues and choices involving matters that the teachers never told them about. The book ended up being called Brains & Beauty: 4 Things They Didn’t Teach us in Beauty School.
One problem I noticed in particular in the standard education curriculum was the insufficient knowledge that students were given about the nature, effectiveness, and limitations of the beauty products in our retail racks. Graduates would enter the workplace with no idea of what products should be used in what situations and for what purposes.
Things changed for me personally when I encountered a product representative from the Influence Hair Care product line. Since I wouldn’t use or recommend any product that I wasn’t familiar with, only a few products were available at my station. A Facebook friend told the rep about me and said he should make a presentation to me and recommended to me that I should listen and consider including Influence products in my work.
I appreciated the Influence products as soon as I became familiar with them. I also liked the presentation. It turned out that the man had put together an educational team of professionals teaching advanced style methods and techniques in general, and promoting the use of the Influence product line, in particular. When the man discovered my passion to learn more about products, he offered me a position on the team. It was like a dream come true because I always wanted to do product training with a reputable company. For a dozen years I conducted training and presented classes and seminars in beauty schools, barbershops, and salons across the Western United States.
Things changed again in 2013 when I signed up for a membership in a series sponsored by Hair Gym, which was hosted by Daniel Moses, owner of the League of Extraordinary Stylists. The Hair Gym classes offered information on the latest emerging industry trends and introduced master level techniques and cutting edge technologies. I faithfully attended classes and made a big leap forward in my skill set. After six months of faithful attendance and passionate engagement in learning, the league owner Daniel himself invited me to join his team and become a Hair Gym instructor, teaching classes on textured hair, which I still continue to do. Daniel Moses became influential in my life. He is an amazing mentor and the first male stylist I ever met who can do everything.
Some hair care professionals are struggling in their business and even failing because they lack sufficient drive and knowhow to get out there and learn what they need to know. I realized that such people seriously desire to become more rounded in the things they know and the services they wish to provide.
Training academies were opening up to help leverage hair care professionals into success, so I decided to put my training and teaching experience to work. Last year I opened Inspiration Cutz Academy with the tagline, “The place where excellence and professionalism work in harmony with your destiny.” At first I feared that I wouldn’t be able to compete, but one of my clients made the observation, “Many people have training academies, but there is only one Wanda.” Then she added, “You need to do it.”
People have been hunting me down. For example, I did a class with Daniel at Paul Mitchell, Modesto. One attendee tracked me down and emailed me. “You were such an inspiration. I felt stuck and wanted to make a change. When can I start training?”
I always wanted to go to church as a child and grew up feeling that God was an important part of my life. I have been intrigued by hair since I was in elementary school and took the first steps in hair management by braiding the hair on my dolls. My mom would care for the long thick hair that I had in those days. My uncle’s girlfriend was combing my hair one day. She hurt me really bad and all my hair fell out and broke off. Mom was furious with her and declared she wouldn’t touch my hair again. I was in fourth grade at the time and began doing my own hair as it started to grow back. It took a long time growing, and never grew back as long as it was before. By the eighth grade, I knew how to handle combs, brushes, and products.
When I was 16 years old, Mom had a heart attack and went into a coma from which she never recovered. She ended up on life-support and the medical staff said that we had to decide whether or not to pull the plug. Dad left the decision up to me, which was a lot of responsibility for a teenager. I didn’t think Mom should just exist on the machine. I tried to exercise my faith and told Dad to let them disconnect her. “Pull the plug,” I told him. “And if God wants her to live, she will.” On December 6, 1984 I was by Mom’s side when she took her last breath.
I had made the decision that effectively ended my mother’s life, which proved to be more stressful than my teenage mind could deal with. I wasn’t able to grieve in a normal manner or let go of my mom in a healthy fashion. Her death, funeral, and burial passed without my shedding a tear. This was not because I was strong but because I was emotionally closed up. My relationship with my father deteriorated, I fell into a severe depression, and dropped out of school. My faith in God and my connection with the people at Harmony Missionary Baptist Church, who gathered around me during those dark days, were the only things that enabled me to preserve my sanity. Life had an aimless quality for the next nine years as I drifted from one unsatisfying minimum wage job to another. Two older ladies, friends of mine, were hair stylists. Theresa McCrady worked at home and became like a second mom to me. Sheryl Howard worked at a salon. I knew her from church. I would hang around with them. Sheryl taught me my first shear overcomb technique. Theresa taught me how to use Marcel Irons. They thought I should go to beauty school, but I didn’t want to read the books and do the studies.
Finally, when I was 25 years old I came to a crisis. I had to decide what I should do with my life. I was sitting on my bed praying and asking God for direction. I heard the voice of God speaking to me and telling me to go to beauty school. I looked up Hayward Beauty College in the phone book.
Right from the beginning, I enjoyed the studies and loved working on hair. I discovered that I had a genuine talent. Students usually have to log 200 hours before beginning to work on a real client. A long time before that, however, they let me begin to work on customers who would come to the school.
My salon is my happy place. A person can tell when they have found their passion and purpose in life when they are spending hours each day on an activity they would gladly have done for free. That’s me! My heart is sometimes filled so full with delight at my work and love for my clients that I feel I should pay them for giving me the privilege of having that kind of impact on their lives.