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Black History Month Member Spotlight: Pamela Williams

Black History Month Member Spotlight: Pamela Williams

Assistant Campus Director, Studio Academy of Beauty

Pamela Williams
Assistant Campus Director, Studio Academy of Beauty

As part of our celebration of Black History Month, AACS is excited to feature Pam Williams, Assistant Campus Director at Studio Academy of Beauty. Williams is a cross-trained educator who has been in the beauty education industry since 2017. AACS Communications & Membership Manager, Jessica Bello, spoke with Williams about her background, how she came into the industry, her successes, and her challenges. 

“My aunt was a licensed beautician, and my mom was a kitchen beautician. Their influence definitely helped me get my feet wet in the industry.” When Williams realized she could supplement her income in a workplace she had been familiarized with by her family members, she decided to make a career move and attend cosmetology school. Williams had been in corporate coaching and training prior to cosmetology school, so her instructors encouraged her to combine her experience in training with her new skills in cosmetology, and become an educator in the beauty, barber, and wellness industry. 

“I got started with Studio Academy of Beauty when [AACS Board Chair] Cathy Koluch called me about an opening in their Phoenix office. Cathy’s enthusiasm and energy gave me hope, and she offered me a great opportunity. I accepted the position and started as the Night Education Manager in Esthetics. In 2023, I moved to the Chandler, Arizona office and became the Assistant Campus Director.” 

Williams’ reasons for being in the industry don’t just end at a source of income. Entering the beauty, barber, and wellness education industry helped her realize an overarching passion and career goal: to guide and mentor her students—both during their training, and afterward, as they continue into their careers.  

“One reason I love my workplace is that we really give opportunity to people of different walks of life. Our mission is to go above and beyond. I aim to guide our students after graduation to be successful, and I always encourage them to come back and share their stories with our current students. It makes me happy to be someone our students feel safe with and can trust and come back to. To be an educator and a mentor is important to me. The impact I’m able to have on my students is one thing I love most about my job.”  

Williams enjoys seeing her students transform during their time in her school. “When I see them come in, they’re really unsure and just don’t have the confidence. Even just not knowing how to hold their shears, for example. And then I see them grow from that stage, to walking out of the school feeling confident professionally. It’s the best part!” 

When asked who inspires her, Williams responded “My younger self inspires me! When I got licensed, I was 27 years old. When I think back and look at who I thought I was then, compared to who I am now, I realize all the work and sacrifices I had to make to get to where I am today. I did this for my younger self. And if I were to tell someone looking to get into my field anything, I’d tell them to take it seriously and bet on themself, because that’s what I did!”  

Williams recognizes that there is a common stereotype of cosmetologists as people that just “do hair” or “do nails” and she hopes to help stop that misconception. “There is a misunderstanding about what we do on a daily basis,” Williams notes. “Ultimately, cosmetologists are often the reason people have a life! There is a deeper reach to what we do, because we are there for our clients in more ways than one. We touch people, we are there for people emotionally and therapeutically, and we are a staple of people’s lives.” 

Williams’ dedication to her school, students, and the industry hasn’t gone unnoticed—she was the recipient of the 2023 Teacher Appreciation Award from Dermalogica, which she says is her biggest professional achievement. She didn’t do it alone, though—Williams cites her mentor Ms. Essie Mott for helping her find the confidence she needed to keep going in the beginning of her career. “She helped me overcome the fear of not having treatment room experience and being able to transfer my knowledge to succeed in my role.”  

There are other challenges to her career, some that Williams has overcome, and some that she still wrestles with daily. “It can be stressful. I go from being “Ms. Pam” to being Assistant Campus Director—and some days I’m all those things. It’s challenging to switch gears on my task list and still provide the best service to everyone I work with. But I always want to do things with integrity and at 100 percent.”  

Being a part of AACS as an educator in a member school has shed a lot of light on Williams’ knowledge about the industry. “I’ve come to realize that cosmetology school is bigger than all of us. And that is mostly because I’ve witnessed Cathy Koluch and all the legislative work that she and the AACS Board have done. They go to bat with Congress and the Department of Education to fight for the beauty industry. It’s so important to have an organization that works to protect the individuals that make cosmetology a billion-dollar industry.” 

When asked if she had encountered any challenges because of her race, Williams recalled, “When I was in school, one of my teachers told me ‘You won’t be the black girl that only does braids—you’ll know how to do it all.’ And that really stuck with me. As an African American teacher, one of my favorite things is changing the mindset of our clients and how they see us. Through my work, I get to show them that we will be taken seriously, regardless of the color of our skin.”  

“It’s so crazy that I get to be featured…years ago I was in a meeting and spoke up about needing to recognize different cultures and backgrounds, and I was basically shut down and told ‘you’re wrong.’ So now to be able to have my story told through AACS—the organization that is working so hard for our industry—is really amazing.” 

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