From his early attempts at coloring hair to a whirlwind trip to New York that inspired his professional path, read on to learn what creatively inspires Curtis—and where he’s headed next.
His BackgroundLike so many, Curtis got his start coloring the hair of all his friends in his mom’s basement—and admittedly “ruined all of her towels” in the process. For Curtis, who had come out of the closet and was experimenting with makeup by middle school, hair was a welcome escape into a creative universe without bullies or judgment.
“Through the internet, I had started finding these hair videos, these beauty gurus, and I instantly connected with them. I was like, these are the people who actually get who I am,” he remembers.
As most of his high school classmates took off for weeklong college scouting trips, Curtis shifted his focus to cosmetology school. He enrolled in Douglas J. Aveda Institute in Royal Oak, MI. At age 17, he was on his way to a better quality of life.
“I barely remember, but the first day of school I was so relieved,” he says. “I found my tribe, I found people that understand me and get me. That’s how I got into the industry.”
In the years following his graduation, Curtis has only grown his passion for styling.
Like anyone who’s fought for a goal, Curtis has been strategic about his professional moves. When it came to choosing a cosmetology school, he wanted to set himself up for success.
“I wanted to prove everyone wrong that did not take this industry as a career,” he explains. “When people told me that you couldn’t be successful and make a great living, I wanted to find a school that would set me up to the highest elevation in the industry so that I was ready to hit the ground running.”
Hit the ground running he did. Curtis landed a role at Alex Emilio Salon, beginning work the day school ended. It was there he completed an assistant program and eventually enrolled in an in-salon styling contest hosted by a famous global hair brand.
“I unanimously won as an assistant, and I was able to go to New York,” he explains. “I was able to take classes at their university. That completely changed my entire world behind the chair and completely ignited this spark.”
For Curtis, who both cuts and colors behind the chair, a glimpse at the broader world of hair styling was enough to stoke a flame and drive him to take his career even further. At a L’Oréal Professionnel training, one of the team’s members suggested he audition for a platform artist role.
Only three years into his styling career, Curtis nabbed the opportunity of a lifetime as a L’Oréal Professionnel artist and educator.
When he’s not working with regulars at the salon, Curtis travels to teach L’Oréal Professionnel classes all over the state—40 in 2018 alone. He relishes the opportunity to work at the intersection of social media culture and the old guard of hair educators.
“The internet [is] what sparked my interest in this industry and I feel as though it was a great tool for my inspiration,” he says. “But without the knowledge and the fundamentals that can only be learned through education and hands-on experiences—I think it’s that that has helped shaped me into who I am today.”
Routinely teaching all kinds of stylists helps keep Curtis excited about his chosen career path. There’s nothing like being exposed to new styles, ideas, and tips practically every weekend.
“This company has done such a great job of holding me to a very high standard where I’m excited about staying on top of the trends, and I’m excited about all of the new techniques. I’m very fortunate that it’s done in a way where I never feel tired out,” he says.
Accomplishments aside, Curtis is at the very beginning of a career that could span decades. He’s in it for the long run.
His AdviceFor Curtis, working in beauty has meant finally feeling recognized, and valued for who he is as well as what he can do with a head of hair. He looks back on the misunderstood middle schooler all those years ago, bullied and sunk low, and is grateful for the journey that’s gotten him to this point.
As far as his advice goes, it’s as simple as not doubting your worth.
“Show up as your best self for yourself even when you don’t want to. Do it. You will thank yourself later," Curtis says. "You deserve every chance you get because it does get better and you owe it to yourself to get better."
Curtis has a long career in front of him, but he’s taking care not to carve any plans in concrete. The Detroit local won’t say no to relocating as stepping stone in building his business.
“The sky is limit, regardless if the sky is in the United States or if that sky is international,” Curtis says. “Being open to opportunity got me to where I am today.”
If you’re in Michigan, catch this rising star while you can.
Follow Curtis on Instagram @brandoncurtis. Book an appointment with him at Alex Emilio Salon in Royal Oak, MI, by visiting www.alexemiliosalon.com or calling 248-414-7600.