View stories, photos and more
Member since 1961
Helene Alu became a licensed professional in 1939 and recalls that her first salon job paid 10 dollars weekly for a 6-day work week. She attended morning classes at the University of Missouri, and then went to work until 8 pm almost every evening. When World War II broke out in 1941, she went to Baltimore intending to help with the war effort and worked in a local salon until 1944, when she returned to Missouri. She remembers 1945 as the year when she first joined NCA.
A year later, Helene and her husband opened a salon in the DeSoto Hotel, sold it, and opened another in January 1947 in the Fairmont Hotel. She recalls that as the year her husband was elected president of the St. Louis Hairdressers Association. In May 1950, they opened the Thomas-Helene Salon and operated it successfully for more than two decades, acquiring other Missouri salon businesses along the way. Deciding it was time for a change, all the salons were sold. Helene remained an active professional working in other area salons for many years and, although she still does one color service a month, Helene retired at age 93.
When Helene started as a cosmetologist, there were no cold permanent waves; only machines that used heat. Finger waves and pin curls are things of the past, and stylists wore white uniforms. Renting space wasn't practiced, either.
Helene says that hairdressers did not have a great image in 1938, and she felt that it was important to join the association to support and encourage professionalism in the industry. Magazine subscriptions also represent a benefit that has helped her stay on top of current trends and products in her practice as a beauty professional. She also realized that getting your license was just the beginning and in order to be successful, education was important. Helene Alu welcomed the opportunity to work with top stylists in the country and was grateful for access to these professionals through her association membership.
Member since 1963
Dr. Benia Davis is the current president and founder of the Image Hair Colorists Council (IHCC), and has served as both stylist and judge for numerous high profile competitions and events. An established industry expert with many professional accomplishments, Dr. Davis is recognized in the Chicago Black Masters Hall of Fame  and has served as an educator, lecturer, board member and consultant. He is CEO and founder of Benia de la Coiffures International in Chicago, and is renowned for expertise related to his "Scientific Approach to Hair Design." In 1982, the Benia Davis Award was established and given annually by the Allied Cosmetologists of Illinois for outstanding achievement in the field. Dr. Davis has written many articles, taught many students and given back to the industry through many channels.
Dr. Davis holds both an MBA and a PhD from Stafford University. He has also received industry certifications from Lydia Adams Beauty College, Pivot Point International, Southern Illinois University Advanced School of Cosmetology, and Alexandre of Paris.
Dr. Davis joined NCA early in his career to ensure that he remained current in hair fashions and trends, and is proud to have been the first African American recognized as a Hair America educator. He credits his NCA and PBA memberships with providing an excellent education in these areas. He advises beauty professionals, "Have passion and love for your career first. Continuing education is the key to success."
Member since 1960
At 16 years old, Lisa Esposito was determined to become a cosmetologist and began hairdressing school in the evenings. At that time, the state required 1500 hours of education and Lisa was able to finish the program in two years. After that, Lisa says she was, "lucky enough to get into a really nice beauty salon; the bosses helped me quite a bit and were very happy with me." For nine years following, she worked in a salon before opening her own salon business. Lisa owned and operated this successful business for 25 years before deciding that she needed a change, and realized her desire to travel the world. To make this feasible, she sold the salon and began work as a consultant for Revlon's professional products division. Lisa enjoyed this role for many years, until Revlon changed its business model and discontinued field positions. She then went to work at a gambling casino, but maintained her cosmetology license and stayed involved with NCA and the industry.
Lisa says, "I put a lot of work into NCA and got a lot back; met people and went places I never would have otherwise." She began her involvement with the local association and quickly found support through NCA, receiving input and education she felt was needed. She even happily recalls serving as a model for Rhode Island in the Parade of States. Membership in the association kept her focused on her profession and she really enjoyed both the magazine and the shows. She says the salon environment is not as restrictive as it used to be - no more uniforms today - and not as much regulatory oversight as in the past. Still, Lisa firmly believes beauty professionals need to keep up or they are not going to make it, and she advises, "Work hard, stay with the program, attend shows and classes, and be as professional as you can. Keep up and seek training from the best in the business!"
Member since 1959
Farrel Griffin joined NCA in the summer of 1959 right after receiving his cosmetology license from Acme Beauty College – a school he later instructed at and eventually owned for 32 years from 1976 to 2008. Before becoming an instructor, Griffin worked as a stylist at Powder Box Salon and Farrel Flair Salon which he also owned from 1960 to 1964. He joined NCA to become more involved in the cosmetology profession on a national level and to advance his career. He has witnessed the beauty industry evolve into a much more elevated image with safer conditions, more opportunities, and an increase in trust between the stylist and client.
He values the education, fellowship, and competitions the association has provided for him to help him work harder and to excel in the industry.
Member Since 1951
Denise Miller began her career direction in cosmetology at age 16 and has been busy ever since. Today, she still works more than 70 hours a week operating a salon, and taking classes in massage therapy at night. Denise joined NCA at the urging of her employer, Gladys Fuller, and remembers her with gratitude. Denise says her membership helped her to learn about public speaking, fashion, technical work, politics - and she gained lifelong friends, too. She also acquired an appreciation for the value of education and realized the power of working with a team. Through her association experience, Denise has traveled to Europe several times, visited the Senate, dined with actresses and senators, created fantasies in hair and judged competitions. She has also appeared on television and written beauty articles for magazines and newspapers. Denise is also CIDESCO certified.
Denise feels that discipline requirements were much more demanding in all facets of the industry when she started her career, including styles of hair and dress. She advises newly qualified cosmetologists, "Learn to begin at the bottom and give 85% to learning and 15% to performance that first year; after that, practice what you learn, and learn every day. Be certain to connect with professionals in an organization of your peers and give, give, give of yourself and your talents."
Member since 1958
Working in an aircraft factory in 1943 wartime Germany was not what fourteen year old Hans Neumaier had in mind for his future. He longed for a job in cosmetology where his artistic and creative abilities would shine, and told his family of his desire to become a hairdresser. From a family of engineers and tool makers who wanted him to follow in their footsteps, they said, "Outrageous! No Neumaier has ever considered something so frivolous!" At the end of a long family meeting, Hans' mother issued the family's decision to allow him to apprentice with the mandate, "Just make sure you are the best hairdresser you can be."
Hans began his career in Germany, serving three years as a barber apprentice followed by ten years as a hairdresser. He immigrated to the United States in 1957, and joined the National Cosmetology Association in 1958. Hans opened his own salon in 1962, and nine years later became a school owner. In 1982, Hans entered the world of professional beauty product distribution and became the first Goldwell distributor in the USA: Goldwell of NY. Hans Erich Dotter, the founder of Goldwell, always believed in supporting both beauty schools and trade organizations like PBA as part of the company's mission. In fact, this mission was one of the eight original principles established by Mr. Dotter many years ago and Goldwell of NY carries on this admirable tradition as a co-sponsor of the PBA Lifetime Member Program.
Hans' career in hairdressing and the beauty business spans 70 successful years, with 55 years as a member of NCA and PBA. His story is one of a PBA Lifetime Member who has dedicated his life to the beauty industry he loves.
Member since 1963
When Roger Prince joined NCA, he felt in his heart "it was the professional thing to do" and has never doubted that decision. As the owner of The Patio Coiffure in Nashville, Tennessee for 37 years, Roger shares that his salon is located next to the world famous Blue Bird Cafe, and they have been involved in some of the filming of the new hit television show, Nashville. He says, "If you look closely, you can see our awning."
Roger has served his state and national associations in many leadership roles, including as trustee for the Joseph L Weir Trust. An Eagle Scout in his younger years, he has also given 12 years to America as a medic in the US Army in Vietnam. A newspaper article in The Tennessean describes Roger as "one of the nicest people in Green Hills," a truly accurate assessment of this PBA Lifetime Member.
Roger says that his NCA and PBA involvement has rewarded him with friendship, opportunity and challenges. He was greatly influenced by industry icons and mentors, naming in particular Joseph L. Weir, William J. Ware, William W. Scott, David Bagwell, Carol Roberts, Jim Leone and James Viar and others, expressing that, "to all these wonderful friends I owe my gratitude."
NCA and PBA have always promoted professional leadership, asserts Roger, and PBA continues to be a world leader in the industry's education arena. He advises any new person entering this career path to be a 'joiner' as well as a team player to open the doors on a lifetime of success and satisfaction. Roger says, "The things your head tells you and the things you feel in your heart don't always agree, but your heart will never tell you wrong."
Member since 1958
Ann Renfroe earned her cosmetology license at the age of 17, became a salon owner at the age of 20, and has been involved in the professional beauty industry ever since. She says she has "always been hungry for education" and gives NCA credit for much of what she's learned. Ann also recalls bringing home videos and posters from her education sessions and spending time teaching the new techniques to her stylists. An experienced educator and author, Ann believes in the value of self-improvement through a lifetime of education. She is a recognized expert in contour styling, defined as hair design to compliment an individual's specific bone structure.
The most important skills Ann felt she gained from the association were lessons in professionalism, including behavior, ethics and appearance; and training on how to build trust and confidence with clients.
A member of the Tennessee Hair Fashion committee, she also served on the board of directors for the Mid-South Beauty Show in the 1970s.
Member since 1961
Donald Stella began his career in a small salon outside of Chicago, and worked on Chicago’s North Shore for a dozen years before buying his own salon in Arlington Heights, Illinois in 1973. He still owns his salon with 10 designers, and works behind the chair three days per week and loves it.
Donald joined PBA/NCA for the education, and enjoyed the opportunity to meet and work with many other great and dedicated professionals. His association membership kept him ‘in the know’ in the industry, and provided many wonderful friendships over the years.
The techniques used in the salon have changed – from roller setting and teasing – to Sassoon, and on to blow drying and iron curling. Donald observes that we now encourage much healthier hair, and have better products along with more educated designers and clients.
Donald encourages new professionals to be humble and not to think of themselves as ‘the best’ because there is always someone better with new ideas and techniques. He says, “Listen to your clients, educate yourself, ask questions, practice your craft and take it to a higher level. Be the best you can be and give your all”!
Member since 1936
Lorna Tyson joined NCA in 1936 after attending beauty school. She remembers never missing a convention, and enjoyed the monthly magazine, which she always shared with the stylist who worked on her hair. Lorna also recalls that color wasn’t taught when she attended school, and she learned by sharing information with colleagues and participating in association education.
Lorna, 97 years old in 2013, still does hair for a local funeral service company whenever needed. She advises that anyone interested in working in the field should visit a salon to ask questions and learn how they work, and commit to keeping up to date with styles and techniques.
Member since 1960
Georgia Unthank began her cosmetology training at her high school's on-site program. When she graduated in 1960, she joined NCA, and by 1963 had completed cosmetology teaching certification. Georgia went on to open her own salon while continuing college classes, and was an instructor for adult education advanced cosmetology evening classes. In 1970, Georgia graduated college with her BS degree in education, and taught first grade by day and cosmetology by night. She moved up to assistant principal before transferring to the high school vocational program to teach cosmetology full time. She was very satisfied with this and considered herself to have the 'best of both worlds' - cosmetology and teaching - and continued until 1993, when she retired.
Georgia has maintained her PBA membership and connection with the world of cosmetology because she "believes in the Professional Beauty Association" and cites education as the most defining reason for joining the organization. A lifelong learner, Georgia went on during her working life to earn an MS degree in education. She credits her high school cosmetology instructor Elma Becker, who promoted association membership and served as an officer of the state executive board, as a major influence in her decision to join PBA / NCA. Georgia also supports the need for beauty professionals to join together to support legislative movement in a positive direction and help the industry.
During her professional life, Georgia served on local and state hair fashion committees and as a local affiliate board officer and president, which she found challenging and educational and gave her an opportunity to 'give back' to the profession. She was also proud to graduate from the Advanced School of Cosmetology at Southern Illinois University and subsequently returned to assist Margaret Vinci Heldt in teaching hair styling, and earned numerous other honors and awards during her career.
Georgia observes that during the past 50 years, emphasis seems to have transferred from the artistry of the cosmetologist to product promotion and sales, along with a major shift from line and design to comfort and speed in styling. Her words of wisdom for new professionals are to acquire as much education as possible; "Get twenty years of experience instead of one year's experience, twenty times"!
Member since 1948
Many cosmetologists recognize William J. Ware as a mentor and admire him as a shining example of the highest level of professionalism and competence one may achieve in the field. He has given a lifetime of service to the industry, and in 1992 was inducted into the Cosmetology Hall of Fame. Mr. Ware currently serves as a Trustee of the Joseph L. Weir Trust. Joining the NHCA (NCA) Board of Directors in 1968, he was elected President for the term of 1978-80. He has many notable titles and significant accomplishments, including chairmanships of OMC Hairworld and World Congress of the CIC (Confederation Internationale de la Coiffure), the OAI (Organisation Artistique Internationale de la Coiffure) and service as board member and president for many related professional beauty industry organizations, both domestic and international.
When William first began work in a salon, he was told that he needed to become a member of the National Hairdressers and Cosmetologists Association (NHCA). He has always been grateful for that advice and believes in the importance of supporting the association that represents your profession. He says, "When I became a salon owner, I saw to it that all of my employees were members of NHCA, NCA and PBA."
Along with the enduring friendships formed in his lifetime of membership, William says that through the association, he has been rewarded with "The opportunity to be a better hairdresser and cosmetologist, and a better salon owner and businessman."
As William reflects on the biggest changes he has seen in our industry, he observes that beauty practices of the past used to bring the client into the salon on a weekly or bi-weekly basis for service appointments - not so today. He advises newly qualified cosmetologists, "Become an active member of PBA, attend all possible shows and education events, and remember - even though you may not agree - that the client is always right."
Member since 1961
Josephine Zeppieri met her husband in cosmetology school and both went to work in a local Rockford, Illinois salon after graduation. The salon owner was an NCA member and mentored the pair, driving them to Chicago for education sessions. The couple soon moved to Chicago and opened a salon which they operated successfully for 42 years.
Starting with the Chicago Cosmetologists Association, Josephine wore many leadership hats and moved up through the volunteer ranks. She became a member of the Illinois state board, and then joined the NCA board, reaching the presidency in 2003.
Josephine says that other people have hobbies, but her focus was the association which immersed her in perpetual education. She greatly enjoyed the opportunities she was able to participate in and one of her favorites was selecting guest artists for the Midwest show. She was also able to visit places she may not otherwise have seen, including the NCA Hairworld championships in Europe. The professional friendships she built over the years through her involvement with the association helped her manage the salon business and gave her colleagues she could call upon.
Chuckling, Josephine recalls, "When I first joined the NCA board as a director, we used to travel to different states for our meetings and my first one was at Opryland in Nashville. It was the custom to introduce the new people and present them with a floral arrangement, but the meeting ran so long that year that the staff wasn't able to get the flowers! Ever creative, they picked the flowers from the hotel flower beds, wrapped them in tissue, and presented them to me!"
One of the things that have changed significantly since Josephine started her career is technology. For the busy professional, it is now so much easier to take classes online, and network with others.
Josephine states that she always encourages people to belong to PBA because, "You get so much more out than you put in! Beauty professionals should definitely join PBA. Association membership completes your career and supports professionalism and education - all to help you be successful. Membership is the key to getting access to thousands of professionals you would not otherwise have!"