Great Lengths Educators are some of the best in the game. With all the tricks of the trade in their repertoire, these seasoned stylists teach the Great Lengths hands-on certification classes for extension application across the country. We sat down to chat with the educators at America’s Beauty Show earlier this year and we will be sharing their stories over the next few weeks. Up first is Nanci Lee (@nancileehair), a senior stylist at B2V Salon in Los Angeles, California.
GL Beauty: Tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been doing hair.
Nanci Lee: [laughs] Oh my god, I don’t want to say how long I’ve been doing hair. That’s embarrassing! I’ve been doing hair for about thirty years. I started off in Memphis, Tennessee at a little beauty school, like a lot of people, called the Academy of Cosmetology. I just worked my way up. I moved on to New Mexico and I worked with a really great stylist there. Then I moved out to Los Angeles where I’ve been for almost twenty years.
GL Beauty: What made you want to start doing hair?
Nanci Lee: I had gone to college—my father is a professor so I was expected to go to college. I was studying art and I loved it but I didn’t really want to go on and be a professor, I just wasn’t interested—which is funny because I’m an educator now. I was working in an office on campus, just to have a little job on the side, and a woman in my office looked at me one day and said, “Nanci, have you ever thought about being a hairdresser? You would make a really good hairstylist.” So I thought about it for a little while, interviewed a couple of people I knew that might like my hairstyles, and I decided I wanted to drop out of college and go to beauty school, which my dad was not happy about [laughs].
GL Beauty: What made you want to start dabbling in extensions?
Nanci Lee: I was working at a salon in Beverly Hills. My boss was one of those people who was always wanting to learn the new “thing.” Do you guys remember when lash perms came out? [We didn’t – sounds like a bad idea]. They used to perm lashes! Isn’t that crazy? He was like, “go take this class and learn how to perm lashes” so we learned how to do that. He wanted to do tattooing on the eyebrows and we were all like, “yeah, no. That’s too scary.” He did that. He finally decided that since everybody is coming in with extensions, we need to learn how to use them. I got really lucky; I went to a show, just like the one we’re at now [America’s Beauty Show 2016], and my friend Danielle and I walked around to check all the extension lines out and Great Lengths was there. Lori, an old educator of ours, put a few in my hair, in fact, they were green like I have in my hair right now, and I just fell in love with them so we went and took a class.
GL Beauty: Is there an extension line you worked with before Great Lengths?
Nanci Lee: No, I’m a Great Lengths purist [laughs].
GL Beauty: Have you ever noticed any major differences between Great Lengths and other lines?
Nanci Lee: You know, I have to say, we always try at Great Lengths to make sure that we don’t put down our competitors. There’s something for everybody. There are all kinds of products, everybody needs something different, and some people are going to really believe in something else. We believe in our company and we know that the quality of our hair is exceptional because we know how it’s processed. We’re really proud. I feel very honored to be educating for Great Lengths.
GL Beauty: What do you do as an educator?
Nanci Lee: I teach classes all over the country and we actually do a detailed, three day class on how to put our extensions in. It’s a little overwhelming for hairdressers so we try to keep it entertaining. My main thing that I think I love is that I’m able to really reach out and meet a lot of hairdressers all over the country and now with Instagram, we can keep in touch.
GL Beauty: How did you become an Educator?
I moved to Kim Vo’s salon, the celebrity hairstylist. We started doing Extreme Makeover [the 2002-2007 ABC show] and I was doing Great Lengths. I have to give myself credit; I brought Great Lengths into his salon. We called up Brett, that’s my boss at Great Lengths [he’s our boss too], and we asked him if he would donate the hair to us for the show and then they could be the official extensions of Extreme Makeover. So we started doing that and I developed a relationship with Brett. Kim opened up a big salon in Vegas and he wanted to have an extension bar where you could just walk in, buy hair right there, and not wait overnight. He wanted all the stylists in the salon to be trained with Great Lengths so he asked me to come over and educate everyone, but I wasn’t an educator. I called up Brett and I was like, “I know this is kind of crazy but he [Kim] wants me to teach everyone how to do this. Do you guys need another educator or can I be a baby educator and just teach these people?” It just so happened, and I got lucky, that they were looking for new educators. They sent me out to meet Darren and we just hit it off and I’ve been here for nine years now. I still really love it, I really do. I love going to these shows. I really love teaching. It’s a great way for me to get out of the salon. It’s something for me to talk to my stylists about—I get to meet other people out there and then when you come back in the salon, it’s more exciting ’cause I’ve gone out and done something fun.
GL Beauty: What would be your dream head to do hair on?
Nanci Lee: Do you guys know who Dog the Bounty Hunter is? For some reason, I want to get a hold of his hair because it’s so bad, it’s good! I know this sounds crazy but I just want to meet him! I do pretty girls all the time! I want to do someone really different and I think he would be so much fun. This is really nuts but actually, he and Beth [Dog’s wife] were in the grocery store by where I work. They were standing there and they were arguing over their shopping cart. I guess they were in town because they live in Hawaii and I wanted so badly to go over and say something but I was so intimidated! I was like, oh my god, it’s The Dog! I was freaking out.
GL Beauty: What’s a hairstyle you wish would go out of style?
Nanci Lee: I know this is weird but I don’t know if I have anything in particular ’cause I think that if you’re a really talented hairdresser, you can even make the bi-level look cool—like the mullet. I mean, I’m even wondering if after Bowie died, his old look, if that’s going to come back in. I think every hairstyle can be really beautiful if it is done right. I’m gonna say no; I don’t think there is a thing I can think of right now that I’m like, ugh. To me it’s always just like, that version of it isn’t done quite right.
GL Beauty: What’s a hair horror story you’ve experienced?
Nanci Lee: Oh, I have a good one. It wasn’t my client but this is such a funny, kind of LA story. My boss’ assistant was always really shy, and I was doing my client, and she walks in and literally her eyes are giant looking at me. She never comes over and says anything so I ask if she’s okay and she asks me to come over to my boss’ station. So I walk over to his station and she stands over this client, and the client looks like she has this long, beautiful hair. She lifts up the back of her hair and she had had nine or ten bundles of Great Lengths put in and they were all one giant mat. This girl was some Brazilian singer and she had gone to the beach and had tied it up. It was the grossest thing I had ever seen in my entire life. I mean there were practically fish and seaweed in there. So it took three people six hours to get all that out of her hair. I had to show them how to do it. It was terrifying. I was so mad at her ’cause she’s disrespecting our product. How could you not take care of this beautiful hair?
GL Beauty: Was her natural hair okay after?
Nanci Lee: She was Brazilian so she has thick hair. The mats were so tight, they were almost like rocks. I had to go in and just cut it. So I just cut places but by the end, and they finally got it all out, her hair was okay. It was at her shoulders by the time it was all out. I would say that’s the nightmare because we were all involved in that. You know, I got pulled into it. I came over and helped them. I had breaks. Everybody in the salon just came by and helped get that out of her head. I think they should have just shaved it.
If you are interested in getting certified in Great Lengths like Nanci Lee, check out the Great Lengths site for more info.