I am a Platform Artist
“Educators are independent contractors,” explains Bobbi Foster-Kelly, Redken’s national director of U.S. field training who oversees the Redken Artists’ Network. Typically, educators continue to work at a hair design salon and split the time between the salon and the platform in any way they choose. “Some educators work only three or four days in a salon and limit their educating to 20 weekends a year,” Foster-Kelly says.
Sam Villa works as one of the 500 Redken artists. He has been with Redken for 10 years and travels all over the world. Villa specializes in cut and design. This is his story.
Sam Villa : his words
I was going to college on a volleyball scholarship when I decided I wanted to be a hairdresser like my father, so in my junior year I dropped out of college and enrolled in what was then Ponce College of Beauty in San Mateo, California. By the second week of cosmetology school, I still couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t hold a comb or put in a roller to save my life. I thought, “Oh no, maybe I made a big mistake.”
Then my father took me to a hair show. I didn’t even know what a hair show was. It was 1976, and we saw Vidal Sassoon and his team. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. I told my dad, “I want to do that. I want to be on stage.” My dad answered, “You don’t want to do that! That’s all ego and no money!” I decided to prove my dad wrong.
Seeing Sassoon’s team perform gave me a purpose: to be an educator. Once I had that desire-and being an athlete and as competitive as I am-I pushed myself, and my skills began to improve. One of the owners of the cosmetology school Ponce College of Beauty was Peter Hantz, a well-known hair artist who did a lot of educating around the country. He noticed that I was really into this and took me under his wing. He got me into student hair competitions and offered to let me help him backstage.
After I graduated from cosmetology school, I began working at a salon but continued taking every cosmetology class I could get and going to every show I could. In this industry, you can learn from anyone and everyone. In 1980 I became associated with manufacturers and started teaching a lot. Redken is my third company, and I don’t want to switch again. Redken has given me the resources I need to be a teacher and to be “learner-centered” rather than “performer-centered.” In a way, my dad was right-being a platform artist can become all about you. It is important to have self-trust, but it’s also important to contain your ego. I’ve learned how to do that at Redken.
As a platform artist, I have to be concerned not only with what I say but how I say it. Body language and voice are more important than the words. Today’s audience is very intelligent, and education is interactive. A hair design teacher can’t just spit out information.
People ask whether I get butterflies before I go on. Yes! My palms get sweaty and my butterflies get going. The more difficult, serious or new the subject matter, the more butterflies. But I’ve learned how to manage the fear. I’m “present in the moment,” and then the fear doesn’t get in my way.
I love this industry. I think a lot of that is from being a teacher. I wouldn’t change my job for anything! My goal is to make people better hairdressers.