When Emma Romans Speaks, We ALL Need to Listen!

 When I was 15 I decided I wanted to work in the theatre. I was driven and artistic and the overriding passion coursing through my veins was the desire to be creative and to enjoy myself. I wasn’t driving by money or status, I just wanted to follow my dreams.


Twenty years on and I’m still following my dreams, still learning and still working hard and if you get those things right early on, financial reward comes through a combination of hard work, perennial optimism, professional and personal support, sharing and understanding. Blind faith, self-belief and a real and lasting willingness to learn got me through and it can for you.


Knowing I wanted to work in the theatre is very different to knowing how. My experience of the theatre was as a paying guest but I knew I wanted to be a part of it. At 14 I had a Saturday job in a hairdressing salon and I was constantly being given advice and support not just about the craft but about running the business, meeting and talking to clients and training. If you are offered free training, even if it’s early or late, take it. This experience opened my eyes to life beyond school.

I still wanted to be in the theatre. I spoke to a fellow hairdresser who asked me what my goals are and I told him. They hadn’t changed. He was a carefree type without rigid ideas and he said words to the effect of ‘if you go to London, go to Greasepaint and study there.’

From Yorkshire to London


I took him at his word and looked into what was involved. As a 15-year old from Yorkshire, London seemed quite the leap of faith. As it turns out, the course was, if memory serves, about £7,000 for three-month intensive course and I couldn’t square how my £1 wages would get me there. Throw in the cost of living in London compared to the cost of living in Yorkshire and we’re taking about an astronomical amount. An amount I didn’t feel I could ask my parents for.


The Wig Mistress


I ploughed on undeterred and I decided to ask the people at the Grand Theatre in Leeds how they made it into the theatre. A wig mistress agreed to speak to me and I went along, delighted with the opportunity. When I arrived, I was taken backstage into the wig room, a thrill in itself to be behind the scenes for the first time! It was a scruffy little place but to me it was an Aladdin’s Cave, full of treats! There was a lady inside casually knotting a wig and she was surrounded by shelves full of amazing things I’d never seen before and it stirred an instant excitement!


I said to the wig mistress ‘how do I get to where you are now. What do I need to do to be able to work with hair, make-up and wigs in the theatre?’


Her answer was deceptively simple.


‘Forget the theatre for now. Go and be a hairdresser and come back to this later, the work will come easier later on.’


I can still see that wig room in my mind’s eye. Today it’s different, newer, but it’s still full of energy and creativity and everything is still as magical as it was when I went in for the very first time.

I did what she told me to do. I didn’t question it once. If that’s the way to get to where she was, that’s what I was going to do.

Hair, Hair Everywhere…


I left school and went into hairdressing full-time. I loved the training days and after every cut or blow-dry I got that feeling of instant gratification. Job satisfaction every 30 minutes! In what other job does that happen?! I was hooked! I trained for three years and I was a qualified, junior-level hairdresser.


And to top it all off, I was pregnant! It wasn’t planned and life had thrown me a new dimension so I had to work out where I was headed. I needed shop-floor clients and repetition so that everything I’d learned was solid. I worked hard, took my statutory three months off for maternity leave and then I was back working four days a week.


There was quite a few of us who qualified at the same time so I figured that I needed to leave to develop a client base. I looked at franchises which had the best training facilities and settled on Saks. They had a training academy and took working, competing and developing new ideas seriously with an artistic team that travelled the world.


I loved working at Saks. I made lifelong friendships and we grew together and supported each other. My son was five. I loved the fashion shows and the photoshoots and the competitions and if I’m honest, I’d forgotten about the theatre.


One day, a make-up artist didn’t show up to a photoshoot I’d organised with a photographer and it was the last straw. I wasn’t happy so I decided that I could learn to do it myself. At the time we were working a lot with MAC in their Harvey Nichols concession during show time and I could see they had a real interest in training staff. I went for a part-time job but didn’t get it. Make-up wasn’t my background.


Back to School


Now what? I got wind that women from Yorkshire Television were teaching courses in York but it wasn’t a transient thing, It was a two-year commitment with an interview and everything but it involved wigs, hair, prosthetics and make-up. What wasn’t to be excited about. I worked part-time at the hairdressers and volunteered at the theatre to gain experience. I got my place on the course!


During the course, I fell back in love with learning and remembered what I’d initially set out to do. The magic returned and there was no turning back! As well as volunteering at the theatre I also volunteered at the film school, made new friends and found myself thinking about what was next…


Into the Unknown


By now I was older and wiser with actual industry experience and I figured I have a much better chance of developing my career but there were obstacles in the way (aren’t there always…?) After two years of training in make-up for film, TV and theatre and a working knowledge of hairdressing, what would I do next? I was a single parent, I had a mortgage and a car to pay for so should I just give up my job and hope for the best?


I did. I was put forward for a three-month job on a children’s programme and I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. Looking back, my effort, ability, age and experience made me the perfect candidate. Was it luck? Possibly, but I am a believer that people make their own luck. Nothing is served up on a plate in this, or indeed any other industry but if you work hard and are conscientious with it, people will notice, I promise.


I left my job and in blind faith I knew I could make it work. I didn’t have any choice.


The End…


Sort of. If you’ve read this far you’ll know I’m still here to tell the (rather long) tale! I’m still loving what I do. I’m still living the dream and I’m still being creative. That was the aim a generation ago and it’s still the aim today.


My son is now 20 and living his own dreams and I’m happy to share this story of my hopes and dreams in the hope that you can realise yours.


My advice? Be happy, work hard, know your self-worth, always be kind to others and follow your dreams.

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Posted: 15th Sep 17

When Emma Romans Speaks, We ALL Need to Listen!