Natalie McCombs’ journey to follow her dreams.Dressed in scrubs and toting a full salon’s worth of hair products in her hands, Natalie McCombs walked into her new client’s house to do an at-home haircut and highlight. Natalie is a cosmetology student at Southern Union and is putting her skills to use through doing hair and makeup for students in the Auburn area. Her Instagram page that displays before and after posts of her clients has a following of over 600 people. Today, her client is Reagan Rutter. As Natalie preps Reagan for her new look, she goes through every step of the process with her. First, she will lightly strip Reagan’s already light hair of color to create an even more blonde tone. Then, she will wash out the chemicals in Reagan’s hair in the most convenient place in her house- Reagan’s bathtub. After, she will cut and style Reagan’s hair. The whole process will take no more than two hours. During the haircut, Natalie opens up about herself. When she graduated high school in May 2014, Natalie spent her summer as a student at the Body Logic School of Esthetics not far from her home in Birmingham. Natalie always had an interest in hair and makeup, and decided to learn more about it before she entered college in the fall. At that time, cosmetology was nothing more than a hobby. Natalie entered college that August on a full scholarship to Auburn University. She knew she wanted to be in a profession where she could help others. She started with a major in social work, and decided to move to a major in special education. Natalie was diagnosed with dyslexia at a young age and wanted to help others with her own disability. During her first few years at Auburn, Natalie was berated with health challenges that changed her perspective on life. “Throughout my time at Auburn, I had a few setbacks with illness,” said Natalie as she paints a strong-smelling bleach on her client’s hair. “Going through that made me realize that life is flying by and that I need to follow my dreams.” Her path to deciding to make the jump to cosmetology school was not an easy one. Her diagnosis with dyslexia makes it difficult for Natalie to even cut a piece of paper with a pair of scissors. In addition, she is left-handed which makes her dyslexia even more difficult to work around. The fear that she would never get the hang of cutting hair prevented her from making the move to cosmetology school sooner. The incident that gave her the courage to make the jump happened this spring. Natalie was attending a wedding when she noticed a group of girls there that were having problems styling their hair. Natalie volunteered to do their updos and received strong praise. “It was that event gave me the confidence that I should do hair for my career,” said Natalie. She then went to Columbus to learn more about beauty school from her own hair stylist. After that conversation, Natalie became serious about changing her career. While she now knew that she wanted to be a cosmetologist, it was still very important to Natalie when choosing a school that she would ultimately graduate with a college degree as well as a certificate in cosmetology. She did research into cosmetology schools near Auburn and found the perfect fit for her, Southern Union State Community College. At SUSCC, students can get an Associates in Business Degree along with a certificate in cosmetology. Natalie already had the necessary courses from her time at Auburn that she needed for the Associate’s Degree. Already completing this portion of her degree would enable Natalie to have a very light and flexible cosmetology schedule. Once she made her decision, Natalie knew that she had to talk to her parents about the life change she was making. Natalie’s parents were already aware of her love for cosmetology, and she says that they were receptive and supportive of her decision. However, they wanted to make sure that she was going to finish her courses in special education at Auburn as well.
“Once I explained to my parents that I can do five colors a week and make the same as a teacher, I pretty much had everyone’s support as long as I finished my degree at Auburn,” said Natalie. “Everything has fallen into place perfectly, and my family knows that this is where I am meant to be.”Natalie explained many parallels of her experience in cosmetology school and at Auburn. Students take midterms and finals in the courses. They also have lab classes where they practice what they learn in their theory classes. On Thursdays, they have client days. This is where people come to the salon at Southern Union and students do their hair. “To me, cosmetology school is so much harder than Auburn,” said Natalie. “We learn about diseases, anatomy, chemistry, sanitation, colors, chemicals, skin, makeup, nails, products, etc. We spend about 6 hours a week doing theory and taking tests in order for us to pass the class.” Natalie is grateful for her time at Auburn before her cosmetology school experience. She graduates both beauty school and Auburn University with honors in May 2018. When Natalie graduates, she hopes to open her own salon that caters to college students. Since she will also have a teaching degree from Auburn, she may teach cosmetology at Southern Union as well.