Melea Blakely, manager of Advance Beauty College in Warrenton, recently was recognized as the National Cosmetology Educator of the Year by Milady and the Cosmetology Educators of America.
Blakely, a Truxton resident, was recognized before 800 cosmetology professionals at a convention in Orlando, Fla.
She was nominated for the award by Gina Kinion, owner of the local cosmetology school. Kinion also owns the Advance Beauty Colleges in Wentzville and Hannibal, in addition to Elaine Steven Beauty College in St. Louis.
Blakely was the first graduate of the local beauty school at 202 E. Main St. in 2004 and has taught at the school for seven years. She hopes that others will benefit as much as she has from the experience.
Married at 17 while in high school, she was teased a lot about her weight and being married so young. She says she didn’t know how to do her hair or makeup. She worked with her husband, but decided to get a fresh start by enrolling in beauty school.
“I got to start fresh as an adult. I liked that,” she says. Her confidence bloomed and she gradually lost more than 135 pounds.
“I found a direction and I found a purpose,” she says.
Blakely says her experience is not unique and she’s happy to watch students as they gain skills and confidence. She says students look entirely different physically and they are confident and strong when they graduate, and she’s thankful to be part of that process.
The school gives them an opportunity to be financially independent in a profession that is demand everywhere, she says. The 1,500-hour program offers a flexible curriculum, with classes offered from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday.
Blakely leads the students in learning to give back to others.
“It’s using your skill to better other people’s lives,” she says. Local students are involved in many community outreach programs, including shelters for battered women and children.
Blakely says she enjoys teaching more than being a practicing cosmetologist.
“Teaching hair is much more difficult than being behind the chair. But it’s also 10 times more rewarding,” she says.
Blakely’s husband, Jamie, remains her best friend. He works as a corrections officer at the St. Charles County Jail. They have a 6-year-old daughter, Emma, and a 4-year-old son, Owen. She is the daughter of Curt and Judy Cogdill of Truxton.