21-year-old Tyler Gray, from Hair at The Academy the training salon in Exeter, is a manager and assessor supporting young people from all walks of life.
1. What did you want to be when you were little?
When I was young, I always dreamt of working in mental health and helping people.
2. You started at the Hair At The Academy aged 15, what led you there? How did you hear about academy and what was the appeal for you?
I was referred to the academy by virtual school due to me not being able to attend a mainstream profession because of my mental health issues.
3. Can you tell us a little bit about the journey of your career – from enrolling at the academy you are now training others to becoming hairdressers? (perhaps include experience and qualifications here)
The first few sessions at the salon were incredibly challenging and my anxiety made it impossible to even be able to walk through the door of the salon. Mary Pugsley and her team came out to sit with me and chat and made me feel comfortable enough to finally go in. After attending the course for three months my mental health improved massively, and my confidence grew. For the first time I felt there was truly something to fight for. There were some low points, but I was aways made to feel supported by the tutors and that ‘I COULD DO IT’! When I got my Level Two Diploma and qualified in hairdressing and barbering, I was so excited. I am proud to say that I now also have my assessor qualifications too.
4. You’ve spoken about your mental health before and the struggles that you’ve had – how has the Hair At The Academy supported you?
Hair At The academy has supported me by providing a mentally healthy environment to learn in, and by showing empathy and by giving time in the teaching model provided. Every student is treated as an individual and it has been a unique learning journey which ensures you never feel as if you’re falling behind others. It gives you an opportunity to take charge of your qualification and learning experience.
5. Your incredible journey shows that there Is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to education – everyone’s journey is different. Do you have any advice or support for anyone that is perhaps struggling at school?
It’s not always easy to find a place in a mainstream environment. I strongly believe that if you have a tutor that shows support and empathy it really helps. I think my advice to young people would be: ‘Always speak up if you are struggling and fight for the support you deserve.’
6. For someone wanting to start a career in hairdressing what advice would you give?
To remember that it’s not as easy as stereotypically believed, but is truly an art form, so stick with it as it will all be worth it in the long run. The hair and beauty industry in the UK is massive and there is definitely money to be made in this profession, and an opportunity to go self-employed and offer mobile hairdressing in people’s homes.
7. What qualities do you think a person needs to be a good hairdresser?
Being a good listener and showing empathy. Clients often discuss issues that have arisen in their life, and it takes a kind and caring individual to really take time to listen to them and be mindful.
8. For someone embarking on a career in hairdressing, what should they expect? Can you paint a picture of what there will be lots of – the good, the bad and everything in between!
The hairdressing and beauty industry is a great profession. I believe that listening to clients about their lives, whether it’s good or bad, is rewarding as it gives them an opportunity to open up and talk to someone. I would also say that in the hairdressing industry there is always room for improvement, creativity, and new talent. It’s a very practical job that involves lots of organisational skills to ensure you organise your busy day and client bookings.
9. In terms of the journey to becoming a hairdresser, how inclusive do you think the current sector is? How easy/difficult is it for someone to get onto a traineeship for example?
I think it is quite easy for people to get into the hairdressing and beauty sector as long as you are dedicated to being the best you can be and focus on achieving your dreams.
10. What have been the biggest challenges in your career?
Cutting a bald patch on a client’s head and having to attempt to blend this out!
11. Professionally, what have been the things you are most proud of?
Winning ‘Against the Odds’ in The Collective Pride Awards, launched by mental health campaigner and barber Tom Chapman. And it was a double celebration as Mary Pugsley MBE, owner of Hair At The Academy, also won the category for ‘Excellent Educator’ and we are both very excited to be going to the glittering ceremony in London in April at the Barber Surgeon’s Hall in London together with some of the academy team.
12. And personally?
Supporting young people that have had the most difficult start in life, to help them achieve their dreams and then watching them turn into professional young adults.
13. When you’re not working, what do you like to get up to?
In my spare time I currently work in a supported living environment supporting adults with additional needs and complex mental health needs. I find it really rewarding.
14. What is the most surprising thing about you?
I’m allergic to most hairdressing products (bleach, colour, perm solution)!