A flair for hair

Alumna hairstylist shares her journey

Vandegrift+alumna+and+hairstylist+Julie+Latimer+poses+in+front+of+Urban+Betty.

Submitted by Julie Latimer

Vandegrift alumna and hairstylist Julie Latimer poses in front of Urban Betty.

Katie McClellan, Co-editor

Vandegrift alumna Julie Latimer spent her childhood parked before her family’s TV taking in musical after musical. But for Julie, it wasn’t the singing or acting that caught her attention most, it was the makeup and hairstyles sported by each character that came to life in front of her.

Now, Julie fulfills her childhood dreams working as a hairstylist at locally-renowned Austin salon, Urban Betty, located downtown. 

“I just love the sense of community that I feel when I’m at work, and I get to do what I love, and be super creative,” Julie said. “I’m at work, but I’m also with my friends and my guests who are in my chair, but I also feel like they’re my friends.”

Instead of going the traditional college route after graduating high school in 2013, Julie went to cosmetology school in 2014 at Avenue Five in Austin and landed an apprenticeship in the city later that year. She is an advocate for staying true to yourself, especially when it comes to life after high school.

“I felt judged or lesser because I wasn’t going to college, but now looking back I’m so thankful that I didn’t,” Julie said. “My advice to anybody who wants to do something like hair, or wants to do something different than college is follow your heart and do what makes you happy because you will be so much better off in the long run.”

Julie knew college wasn’t for her and was undeterred from her interest in the beauty industry. She recalls receiving A’s on science tests for the first time in cosmetology school and being shocked.

“I loved school, and I was a great student at cosmetology school because I was super interested in it, [for the first time] I liked what I was learning,” Julie said.

Her interest in beauty and hair, though it began at a young age, was solidified in high school when Julie was a member of Vandegrift’s theatre program. Originally, her interest was in makeup, not hair, but she attributes her theatre stage makeup days to getting her foot in the door when it comes to the beauty industry.

“I felt very inspired by the hair styles and the makeup and I was like wow this is something that makes me really happy and I’m interested in doing this,” Julie said. “I think in high school [theatre] gave me this sort of confidence to be who I am and I think that bled into who I am now.”

Since discovering her hairstyling talent, Julie briefly worked at a salon in Seattle, but returned home to Austin to become one of the Betty’s after she saw a friend from cosmetology school raving about working at the salon.

“I was always like ‘I have to work there,’” Julie said. “I think when I lived in Seattle I was struggling because I didn’t know anybody, and being a hairstylist you have to hustle to get people in your chair and it was really tough for me to build a clientele.”

This is also a huge concern when it comes to the ongoing global pandemic. Due to being a service provider, Julie and the rest of Urban Betty’s stylists, work on commission, meaning when they don’t have clients, they don’t make money.

“[We’re] trying to still have people in the salon, but also be really understanding of what people feel comfortable with because some people just aren’t ready to come back yet, which is totally fine,” Julie said. “I think just finding a new normal and balance in that as a service provider [is hard].”

Many might believe being a hairstylist is a pretty simple job, but Julie says that it’s a lot more than just doing hair.

“The hardest thing [about being a stylist] is that I deal with a lot of people in my chair, a lot of different people, and so a lot of times I have to wear a lot of hats,” Julie said. “You have to be a people person and you have to know how to talk to people, handle people.”

For Julie though, this is also a huge plus of being a hairstylist. She’s always been a positive person, and she makes a point to create a safe space for all her clients, whether they talk her ear off or don’t talk at all. This has allowed her to form close bonds with a lot of her clients.

“I always say this to my close clients: ‘You just sat in my chair and we just had an instant connection,’” Julie said. “You don’t get that with everybody, but people still come back to you who you don’t have that connection with so you have to kind of learn how to navigate through that service.”

When it comes to high school, college and everything beyond, Julie believes it’s crucial to do what you’re interested in. She says what’s important is what you love, and it’ll take you much further than doing something because it means a stereotypically “good” career.

“Whether it’s going to school or being a hairstylist or doing something nontraditional, I think I will always go back and think about something I live by,” Julie said. “Always follow your heart, always.”