We got to speak with Zoë Hefter-Smith, kickass hairdresser and a personal friend, to talk about her experience working in a creative field. After moving to Bozeman, Montana, Zoë is finding her style as a young hair guru, all while supporting herself financially for the first time in her life.
Can you tell me about the process of deciding to choose your career path as a hairdresser?
I’ve always loved playing with hair, even though I’ve never done my own, really ever. I always loved playing with everyone else’s. In high school everyone was asking me to curl their hair for dances. And I was always braiding everyone’s hair, and I think that in the back of my mind it was something fun for me to do.
In high school my friend’s mom was in night school to get her cosmetology license. So I started asking myself, “Could I go to night school and get my cosmetology license while I was still in school? That could be something really cool to do”. But me being the type of person to always leave things until the last minute (laughs) it sort of slipped away.
Then towards the end of high school it felt like everyone was applying and getting into colleges, but that’s not something I have ever really been interested in. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I went to community college for a semester. Since I wasn’t that into it, the next semester I signed up for classes late and there wasn’t anything I wanted to take. So that’s when I asked myself, “What else can I do with my time?” Then I felt a spark ignite, inspiring me to get my cosmetology license, but it still felt like my plan B. I thought that I was going to go back to college. Three years later, almost four, I’m still doing hair.
I’m really happy with my decision and that I went for it, but I was always a little embarrassed that I went to hair school because to be honest it definitely wasn’t the norm. It wasn’t something that people did unless they weren’t good at anything else (laughs).
I definitely have felt more secure in my decision over the last year or two, though. I’m completely self-sufficient, I’m paying all of my own bills, and my job is giving me money to live my life away from home and my parents. Everything that I’m doing right now, I’m paying for by doing this career. I’m really proud of myself for that. I guess it really hasn’t been until I’ve been taking care of myself and that I’ve been proud of what I do. Not that I’m saying I haven’t been proud before, but it feels really good to be so independent.
What role does creativity play in your job?
I mean, my entire family are artists. I felt like I was lacking that artistic side. I felt disconnected in a way, from my parents and my sister because they all have that in common. That’s all they do, is art. I think that lately, though, I’ve kind of realized that my job is an art form, too. The hair world is turning more into an artistic thing. I get to take classes from people who inspire me. I get to push boundaries where I can tell myself, “Oh, I am an artist, and I can use my mind in this way”. It’s not easy, but the resources I have and the environment that I’m in is all about the artistry of doing hair and the creativity behind it. So lately I’ve been finding more of that within myself and within my industry and it’s been very inspiring and positive. Lots of creativity flowing.
What are some of your greatest challenges that you’ve faced, and what is something people should know about your profession?
My biggest challenge is that I question every decision I make. Especially with color, because color is all chemistry. I know what I’m doing but I question everything, and then second guess myself, and I think that confidence in general within my work is something that’s really challenging to me. Once I’m finished with a client I’m always like, “Wow! That looks really good! I can do that!” But the process of getting there is such a struggle for me. I’m getting better at it because I’m going with my gut. I’m really taking it step by step. The confidence in the process, and my process, is definitely my biggest challenge.
It’s cool though because in my workplace it’s really showing that I’m becoming more comfortable making decisions on my own, because I’m figuring things out by myself. I know what I’m doing but sometimes I feel like I need to ask someone if it’s okay. I have amazing mentors and my boss always tells me that she believes in me, she knows I can do it, she tells me to just go for it. She’ll give me a direction but tells me she knows I’ll figure it out and it’s going to turn out perfect, and she trusts me that I’ll make the right decision. I’ve been telling myself “I’m going to figure this out on my own.” And it has been working out amazing! I think it’s just needing that push of “you can do it”. It’s a really cool time in my life right now.
I want people to know that the energy that you put out into the world is what you’ll receive back. I did not seek out certain opportunities that came to me, they sought me out because I put out a certain energy. Just put yourself out there and good things will come to you. Also, the cool thing about my industry is that you can do it anywhere in the world. Anywhere you go people need their hair done. I love that stability and freedom.
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