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Centenarian drives herself to hair appointments at EIT

Media Release

Hairdressing student Chantal Taylor with her 101-year- old client Valda Colwill.


Recently turned 101, Valda Colwill routinely drives from her Hastings home to have her hair permed and set by hairdressing students at EIT.

The centenarian thoroughly enjoys these outings to Salon Elite, located on the Hawke’s Bay campus in Taradale.

“The girls are great,” she says of students at EIT’s commercial hairdressing training salon. “The treatment is 100 percent, and it’s a very reasonable price.”

Having her hair styled at least once a week, Mrs Colwill is one of the salon’s longstanding clients.

“It’s become like a club,” explains Valda Smith, who has had her done every week since reading about Salon Elite in a community newspaper 12 years ago.

“We are all of an age where we are not just grandmothers but great grandmothers. We’ve become like a family.

“We come here because they want models for the girls,” the Taradale resident says of the hairdressing tutors, “but they are helping us. The students have got to have someone to practise on, but they’re also helping us.”

Like other members of this de facto “club”, Mrs Smith is charged for the materials used in the treatments. Her appointments cost $17 unless a student is having an assessment in which case, it’s a “freebie”.

“It’s $80-$90 down the road, which is a lot for people on the pension,” she adds.

Emerging from under a hair drier, Mrs Colwill settles into a chair in front of a mirror as Year 1 student Chantal Taylor works on the finishing touches to her perm treatment.

“Young people don’t get their hair permed and set,” observes Mrs Smith. “They have blow waves.”

Programme leader Jewelle Lloyd agrees, and says that is among the reasons the seniors are such valued clients.

“Without them, most of our students wouldn’t pass. That’s because there’s such a shortage of clients wanting perms and sets. You can never have too many clients for that.

“We have a really good young clientele with the students on campus, but that’s transitory. Curls are fashionable now, but you don’t see younger people having sets like the older ladies.”

Jewelle and her teaching team are captivated by the camaraderie they see among these women.

“They buy each other gifts, hold each other’s hands and know each other’s illnesses. Coming here suits a certain type of person. They have to be tolerant because students can sometimes take a long time over their hair.

“But they love getting to know the girls, they make a big fuss over them. Some of the older clients tell the students where to put each roller and staff how to assess their work.”

Clearly too, these are women who take great pride in their appearance. Elegantly attired and perfectly coiffed, the bright-eyed and eloquent Mrs Colwill looks like she will continue to set a high bar for some years to come.

© Scoop Media

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