by Megan Sarnacki | photography by Kevin Huver
It was love at first braid for Theresa Mosley, who started doing her mother’s hair at the age of five. As the owner of Mosley School of Cosmetology, she credits her mother’s warm response as the main reason she loves working in beauty — the confidence it provides herself and clients.
“My mom would look in the mirror and say, ‘Oh my god, I’m so beautiful,’” Mosley said. “Even though as an adult, I now noticed that she never left the house with her hair like that, it made me feel so confident and empowered.”
Because the environment of beauty involves an intimate setting, Mosley says this job not only makes her feel good, but it also gives her the opportunity to build up other people’s self-esteem.
“As a cosmetologist, I love when people look in the mirror and smile,” Mosley said. “Somebody could be having the worst day, but as a hairstylist, you can make somebody feel so confident. Doing hair is like a form of therapy.”
Even though Mosley knows some people feel anxious about strutting their stuff, she says feeling good about yourself is not a crime.
“For us to express and really show love, we have to love ourselves,” Mosley said. “When we take the time to cater to ourselves, it makes us feel good. If I look in the mirror and feel like a mess, I will be trying to hide and hope no one sees me, but if you take time for self-care, such as getting your nails done or getting a massage, you feel confident and beautiful.”
While attending cosmetology school, Mosley noticed that not all types of hair were being taught in her classes. Because she wanted to open a school that catered to all hair types, Mosley took it upon herself to further her education by taking classes all over West Michigan that certified her in styling and serving all people — from kinky and curly hair to silky or coarse hair.
Because she wanted to be a door for everyone, Mosley stopped promoting herself as the only African-American owned cosmetology school in the Grand Rapids area.
“When I first opened, that was my storyline,” Mosley said. “But it doesn’t mean that only African-American people can come in. Everybody deserves to be loved, to be included and to be celebrated so we don’t count people out, we count them in.”
With a mission to help other people overcome past hardships, Mosley School of Cosmetology not only offers various programs in nail tech, hair and instructor training, but also mentorship for entrepreneurs.
“Everybody needs somebody to believe in them,” Mosley expressed. “I want this to be a place where you walk in and feel like you belong. You’re not just another number in a seat — you’re family. I want my students to feel like all things are possible for them. If you want to start your own salon or product line, I want to help you reach those goals.”
“I learned so much about different cultures and different ways to do hair than I would at a normal school,” said Sydney Ladere, a former student of Mosley. “Theresa helped me get out of my comfort zone and helped us bring our visions and goals to life.”
Whether your career goals include cosmetology, Mosley wants the community to know it is possible to turn a dream job into a sustainable career.
“It’s a misconception to think that only dropouts want to be a hairstylist or nail technician,” Mosley said. “The beauty industry is a billion-dollar industry. If you work hard, you can make good money. You are not limited. I never thought I’d be doing hair for a living, but I overcame obstacles and so can you.”