Jamaica Starr’s background is one of those against-the-odds stories that imparts hope. Now a successful salon owner and instructor for Sindy Mark’s Nail Art Academy, Starr overcame a life once rife with drugs, prison, and hardship. We caught up with Starr to find out how she left her old life behind to attain her dreams.
Q: What was going on in your life before you became a successful salon owner/instructor?
A: I was addicted to drugs for 15 years. That’s almost half of my life. Not only was I an addict, but I also went to prison for 22 months on federal drug charges. I came out and didn’t have a clue how I was going to pick up the pieces of my life. I knew I wanted a better life, but my reputation was something that held me back. My probation officer told me I would have to find a job, do something. But what were the chances that someone was going to hire a felon?
Q: How did you end up in nail school?
A: After being out of prison not even a month, I was driving in my mom’s Durango, not knowing where to go or where could I apply for work, and I just began praying. Somehow, I felt the voice of God telling me to go to Razzle Dazzle cosmetology school [in Nampa, Idaho]. I was scared because it had never crossed my mind that an addict like me would go to college, but all I had was my faith in God, so I went to the school, not knowing what was in store for me.The people there were all really nice. By the time I walked out of there, I was enrolled and going to start cosmetology school in 15 days! I was so happy and very excited. I remember I had to shop at the Salvation Army because I didn’t have professional clothes or money to buy any. I started school and it seemed like within a blink of an eye that I was graduating! Not only did I graduate school, but I also found my passion for doing nails. I was so happy that finally I was good at something — something that people were willing to pay me for.
Q: What happened after you graduated?
A: After graduating, I started doing nails out of my house, and finally was blessed with a job. I say blessed, because at the time I graduated, employers still didn’t want to hire me. I guess they thought I was still the same person. This was until I met Patty Bell of The Executive Spa in Nampa. She saw more in me and was willing to give me that one chance to prove to everyone that I was not the same person I had been. I thrived at The Executive Spa, and two years later I opened my own nail salon in Nampa called Candy Nails by Jamaica. For the first time I can say I am proud of myself. Business is great, and I have close to 5,000 likes on my nail page. My life is great and I’m still sober.
Q: How long were you a nail tech before you became an instructor/educator?
A: I began doing nails two-and-a half years ago, and last month was when I first began instructing.
Q: Where and how did you become an instructor?
A: A relative of a friend of mine lives in San Rafael, Calif. That relative happens to know Sindy Mark, who ended up contacting me over the phone to see if I would be interested in becoming an instructor for her Nail Art Academy. She ended up flying up to Idaho to meet with me and we really hit it off. She gave me a lot of information about her company, and I jumped on the opportunity to collaborate with her. She mentored me to become an educator for nail techs.
Q: Why did you decide to become an instructor?
A: I hadn’t planned it, but a great opportunity came along for me with Sindy, so I took it. I’m interested in opening new doors for myself to see where they lead me.
Q: Where are you teaching now? Do you teach online? Do you travel?
A: The only place I am teaching at this time is in my shop, Candy Nails by Jamaica, in my hometown of Nampa. I do not teach online because I like to get to know the students and their individual techniques, and everyone can learn from each other. At this point in time, I do not do any traveling.
Q: What’s unique about your teaching style?
A: I like to teach in a very laid-back way. I want to teach, but I want everyone to have fun while learning. I just do my best to be as helpful as I can to everyone and make sure they get what they need out of my instruction.
Q: What’s your favorite lesson to teach and why?
A: I love to teach about applying art. Without nail art, I feel that nails would be boring. When the technician applies nail art, it brings out the individuality of the nails and the artist. It’s like a painter with a blank canvas.
Q: What is your least favorite aspect of teaching?
A: As of yet, I haven’t really had anything negative to say about it. I love everything that has to do with nails, and I want to share that passion with others who feel the same way.
Q: How much time do you spend outside of the classroom preparing lessons?
A: I work full time at my shop, so I don’t have much time to prepare lessons. However, I do feel that with every set of nails I complete, I constantly get new ideas and I incorporate those ideas into classes.
Q: What are some of your specific teaching tips for other instructors?
A: I’d just like to remind everyone that we all started at the same place, and that no question is a stupid question. Be a good listener. Be hands-on. Be willing to accept new ideas from others, whether it’s from other instructors or your students. We are all learning new things every day! Also, having patience is extremely important!
Q: How do you keep students’ attention if you feel they are tiring or losing focus?
A: I try to stay involved and continually give feedback. I ask a lot of questions to make sure the students understand what they are doing and keep interactions flowing.
Q: What do you find most rewarding about being an instructor?
A: The most rewarding feeling to me is the expressions of gratitude from my students. They send me messages thanking me for my help and tell me about how they are improving since the class. I love seeing them with more confidence.
Last, I want to say that I’m happy to share my story because I want people to be inspired and know that no matter what situation you’re in, you can change your life by asking for help. A lot of felons or drug addicts believe once you’re a felon, there’s no hope, but there is, and I am proof of that. I want to share my story so maybe one person out there who has lost hope in themselves can see that there’s always a way to change. I remember someone saying that God had bigger plans for me that I could ever imagine, and boy they were right!
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NAILS Career Handbook
Nail School News