When Laura Kaszoni came to America from Romania in 2006 with her one-year-old daughter, all they brought with them was a small suitcase, $300 and big dreams for the future.
Initially she planned to stay in the U.S. for five years, but success in the beauty industry—fueled by her passion for hair styling—blossomed into a full-time career. “The reason I came to the states was to make sure that my daughter would have the opportunity to build a life in this country in the future. Five years later, I felt at home here and never left,” Laura Kaszoni says.
Today, Kaszoni is now the well-known bridal stylist behind Lala’s Updos with an Instagram following of more than 350,000. She is living her dream—and this is her story.
Kaszoni earned a cosmetology license in Romania, but when she came to the U.S., she discovered that it wasn’t valid here. So, she started back at square one at a beauty school in California. At first she applied to Paul Mitchell, but had no luck; a few weeks later, she was accepted into Elite Academy. Kaszoni began juggling a job as a property manager, which paid the bills and allowed her to take care of her daughter while attending classes from 4 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. six evenings a week. “Those were tough times, but I was determined to get my license and eventually build my clientele and make a living out of [doing] hair,” she says.
After graduating from Elite Academy in 2009, Kaszoni started renting a chair at a salon. However, she quickly grew discouraged because she wasn’t attract- ing enough clients to support herself. “Since I wasn’t in the salon full time, I wasn’t able to build my clientele, and my dream of making a living out of hair was kind of falling apart. I wasn’t able to quit my other job because it was paying my bills, and that was preventing me from being in the salon full time to build my clientele,” Kaszoni explains.
Kaszoni continued working as a full-time property manager and part-time stylist until 2014. In August of that year, a cli- ent asked Kaszoni to do her hair for her upcoming wedding. Kaszoni, a cut and color specialist, didn’t know upstyling techniques at the time, but booked the job and did a trial version of the hairstyle with the client.
On the day of the wedding, the client had a change of heart and requested a different look, which Kaszoni tried doing but encountered many issues. After the client agreed to go back to the original look, a curly updo, Kaszoni brushed her hair—but to her shock and dismay it turned powdery white because she had used a strong-hold hairspray. “To make the story short, we had to put her with her head down in the hotel room bathtub and wash her hair. We ruined her makeup and she was almost two hours late for her wedding. It was a complete disaster,” she says.
A downtrodden Kaszoni went home, canceled all her appointments for the following weeks and contemplated giv- ing up on the idea of being a hair stylist. It was then that she had an epiphany: she realized she was not a quitter.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
Kaszoni bought a mannequin doll and started practicing her upstyling skills until she mastered them. She watched YouTube videos religiously, recreating simple styles at first, like Dutch, French and fishtail braids, before trying her hand at more complicated ones. After about a week, she noticed that while trying to recreate styles, unique ideas and inspiration would come flowing in. So, Kaszoni turned off the tutorials. Instead, she created her own hairstyles and began posting her looks daily on Instagram under the name @lalasupdos.
After just three months, Kaszoni gained the attention of Modern Salon magazine, which posted one of her styles on their Instagram page. This helped grow her social media following exponentially. She also studied what her favorite successful Instagram hair accounts were doing and learned from them, investing in ring lighting, using the most effective hashtags, posting at peak times, improving her photography and using a clean background. “I started posting fewer pictures with my mannequin head and more pictures on a real model, trying to make my Instagram account look more professional. My account pretty much became my portfolio,” Kaszoni explains. She did everything she could to make use of the free marketing tool to improve her business, get more clients in her chair, build her brand and signature styles and get her name out there.
It didn’t take long before she started receiving an increasing number of inquiries about bridal appointments. Though her passion for beauty started when she was a teenager, it wasn’t until two years ago when Kaszoni switched from colors and cuts to the bridal industry that she found her true calling. “I remember cutting hair, styling and giving perms to all my family members. I loved making people feel and look beautiful. I never thought back then that I would make it a career in the hair industry,” she says.
Despite being a hair stylist for 11 years, Kaszoni says she never felt as inspired and passionate as when she began doing bridal looks. “That’s pretty much how my journey in the bridal indus- try started: with one failure, and the decision of not letting falsities decide my destiny or push me away from my dreams. Two years later, I’m counting my blessings and living my dream of making a living out of hair.”
STUDENT AND INSTRUCTOR
In December 2014, Kaszoni received her first request from a salon owner to teach a bridal updo class. Though she was only expecting around 10 people to show up, 47 attended the first class.
The following month, she posted online about holding a bridal workshop and got inundated with requests from salon owners all over the country to teach her upstyling techniques at salons. Everything was beginning to fall into place.
“I don’t even like to call myself an educator,” Kaszoni says. “I consider an educator to have an answer for everything and a solid teaching background. I do not have an answer for everyone, nor a background as an educator. I like to call myself a stylist who shares the knowl- edge and the passion for upstyling with fellow artists through my workshops, and I like to call myself a student. I will remain a student until the day I die—I still practice on my mannequin doll at least two hours every day.”
Kaszoni enjoys splitting her time between teaching workshops and styling hair for bridal parties. Though she loves styling hair for weddings, nothing beats sharing her techniques with fellow artists in the industry. “The fact that I can touch their lives through my story, and help them grow through the knowledge I share with them is worth every day I spend away from home and my family,” she says.
The role social media played in turning Kaszoni’s passion into a business can not be understated. Of course, starting an Instagram account two years ago gave her massive exposure in a very short amount of time, allowing her to build her clientele through an online portfolio that showed her versatility and range through a variety of inspirational images. But it also sparked numerous career- changing opportunities like participating in events such as The Butterfly Circus— a hair workshop created by a team of educators who show the latest cutting, coloring and styling techniques—and nurturing business relationships with companies like Pink Pewter, a hair acces- sories manufacturer. Behind the Chair, the popular hair styling magazine and website for industry professionals, also awarded her with the One Shot Award in 2015, which was followed by press mentions in other national magazines.
“I think social media allows artistic freedom to every artist out there,” she says. “The content is not controlled by the big companies anymore; we can create what we want and express our creativity in ways we never dreamed before. I aspire to inspire, as I am inspired by every artist that comes my way in this industry. My message is simple: vari- ety, consistency and originality are the key. The sky is the limit.”
Kaszoni’s advice to other aspiring hair stylists is to never close any doors. “You’ll never know what opportunities a good partnership could have led to. I think every person that we meet down the road knows someone that you don’t know and [some- one who] will benefit your career at one point. Collaborations are beneficial both ways—for the artist and the company; we both get exposure and get to create beautiful things together,” she enthuses.
In the future, Kaszoni plans to con- tinue to build the Lala’s Updos brand, open her own salon and eventually start her own education program. For now she is traveling, saving and working hard to turn those goals into a reality.
“I always share my story with every- one and encourage them to try one more time before they quit,” Kaszoni says. “My story is proof that prayers are still answered, that dreams do come true and hard work eventually pays off. If it was possible for me, being in this country only for 10 years and arriving here with a small child, a suitcase and poor English starting from scratch, it is possible for anyone else out there.”
Get styling tips from this pro in our January digital edition!
[Images: Roza Melende Photography]