Deaf Life13th October 2013

Jean West A Positive Role Model

A young Deaf woman, Jean has set herself up with a hairdressing business and has greater ambitions

by Sarah Lawrence

Jean West in actionSL First is always on the look out for positive young role models. Jean West, a young hairdresser, doesn’t see herself like that, but we do.

Jean was born in Manchester, but moved abroad during her formative years. Born Deaf, she attended a hearing school in the Pacific until the age of 14 when her parents thought she would be best served by attending a school in England. Jean attended St John’s Catholic School for the Deaf in Boston Spa.

Growing up, Jean had what she considers to be a fantastic childhood. She could lip-read and her friends were supportive, taking time to make sure she understood what people were talking about.

When considering her future Jean was unsure what she wanted to do. She saw a course on hairdressing, and whilst unconvinced that this is what she wanted to do longer term, she enrolled. Within weeks, Jean knew she had made a great choice, “I realised it was the perfect career for me,” explained Jean, “hairdressing is visual, it combines colour, working in 3D and working with people. I love being able to make my clients happy and seeing them leave with the haircut or colour they wanted, gives me a lot of satisfaction.”

Jean has been studying at the City College Brighton, and she is about to complete the City and Guilds Level 3 in hairdressing, which looks at salon management and advanced skills. The fact that Jean is still studying though, has not stopped her getting out there and making a name for herself.

Jean has already set up her own hairdressing business, and she has generated great interest and secured some interesting work. She is a young lady who understands the power of social media and today’s technology, using her own Apple and Android App to allow customers to make home visit bookings. She is making a name for herself through her ambition as well as her skills and has already secured glamour commissions in London.

For Jean, this is still very much the start of her journey, “I want to continue with my business and mentor other Deaf hairdressers”, she said. “I would also like to own my own salon in the future, where I could teach and mentor other Deaf hairdressers.”

As well as having her own ambitions, Jean is a natural carer, and she supports other people in their endeavours. She is the co-founder of the ‘Hair Sprit’, a community group which aims to break down barriers between Deaf and hearing professionals, helping Deaf hairdressers into the profession. ‘Hair Spirit’ hosts a lot of events and promotes opportunities. To find out more about Hair Spirit you can go to the Hair Spirit Facebook page or follow Jean on Twitter @HairSpiritevent

We asked Jean about her most interesting commission. “I was asked to do some hair styling back stage, during the London Fashion Week”, she explained. “It was a new experience for me, and it was in a professional but hectic environment, working with real models. I had to work with the ideas of the fashion designer, but could also put some of my own ideas into the styling too. It was just fantastic and a brilliant experience.”

Whilst Jean was aware of little discrimination during her childhood, she did get a lot of negative feedback when you talked to people about her plans to go freelance with her hairdressing. She listened to people’s opinions, but she did not let that put her off. “If you have a dream job, you can do it,” she offers to young Deaf people today. “It’s up to you to do it. You need to be determined and confident, and don’t be scared to try!”

You can find out more about Jean and her hairdressing business at:

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Community / Deaf Life

13th October 2013