My story may seem unusual, but our paths are all different, and when the result is finding your passion, it is worth every step!
My name is Susan Herrera, and my husband and I are the Tennessee Follea® ICARe Representatives, working with Peggy Knight Solutions. My journey with hairpieces and hair loss began 15 years ago. While dating my would-be husband, I was invited to help with the regional opera production of Aida. With a cast of 500 choristers, we had to transform each of them into Egyptian or Ethiopian characters. That endeavor required some sort of hair piece for each person, and they were desperate for assistance. I was concerned, having no formal experience working with hair, but agreed with the assurance that I would be taught all I needed to know by the wig mistress, my future mother-in-law. The show was a success for me and I found that this process was much more intuitive for me than I had imagined. Over the course of the next few years, I learned the craft of wig styling and building. I was promoted to wig master after several years of apprenticeship and continue to lead the productions’ wig department with my husband, Jason.
During this time, my mother-in-law continued to teach me and introduced me to the world of medical hair loss. I volunteered with the American Cancer Society’s “Look Good, Feel Better” program, teaching women undergoing active treatment for cancer about normalizing their appearance as their skin and hair changed with treatment. I was disappointed that so few participants attended these free programs, and eventually felt that it was not effectively helping these women in the way I wanted to help; I wanted to make a difference.
I attended hair school and became licensed in cosmetology. I trained through the Aveda training program of a large local salon group, always believing that first, I wanted to do no harm to the existing hair. I felt limited by the salon, and chose to venture forth on my own after a few years. Since then, I have ultimately arrived in the position of becoming a business owner, with my own private studio space, offering an oasis from the prying eyes of a traditional salon, while remaining in a high-energy environment that is for Everyman, rather than a medical or clinical environment.
Even on my own, frustration began to set in as I tried to blend my passion for wigs with everyday hair. Three timely examples of why I needed to address the hair loss industry head-on blossomed around me. First, a client came for weekly styling of her hairpieces and natural hair. Some of the hairpieces were bonded, and some of her own hair was integrated through a top piece. I was not the provider of the hair pieces she used. The overall effect was one of an overwhelming amount of hair that would never satisfy the client’s goal of no longer using artificial hair to enhance her own, after she had become a slave to them because of a hairstyling catastrophe. Her hair was much thinner than the human hair pieces used as enhancements, and the bonded piece looked unnatural without the top piece integrated in. The waffle for the integration piece was visible, even after pulling her hair through the holes to blend it in. The client’s main frustration was expressed as we spoke each week, and finally, she exclaimed that this was not the hair she would ever want to intentionally have, so why was she paying exorbitant amounts to have it put on her head? I wondered the same thing, but had no answer. I vowed to learn as much as I could to find as many solutions to hair loss as possible so I could offer beautiful hair pieces that would make a person have the hair they had always dreamed of.
My second frustration came in the form of a sweet, kind-hearted young girl who suffered the effects of trichotillomania. Although the psychological aspects had been addressed and managed, the symptoms of the condition (pulling out her hair) had not disappeared. The family visited a local wig shop to special-order a child’s wig, for $2500, which they were assured would be perfect for the little girl. The wig arrived, but did not fit as advertised, the color was not a good match for the girl’s complexion, and the wig itself had far too much hair to even begin to look natural. When they complained to the shop owners, they were informed that the wig was not refundable (which is common practice, as it is considered a personal care item). The shop made a special exception for this family and offered an adult wig for $1500 of the original purchase price, and the remaining $1000 would be given to the family as a credit to be used in the store. They found the same adult wig online for $900 and felt cheated, and although the wig did not suit the child, the people at the wig shop were convinced it was a perfect match! I met the family after they had received the adult-sized wig, as they searched for a solution to normalize their daughter’s appearance. We found another option through an organization that procured an appropriate wig for the child’s needs and by the new year, she returned to school with a new head of hair. I knew I wanted to find a way to offer wigs to children undergoing the devastation of hair loss, and make sure they would fit their small stature and have a natural density of hair to make them virtually undetectable so as to not further their humiliation.
The third eye-opener was when a very valued client texted me one evening about whether my community offered personalized wig services for those undergoing treatment for cancer. I offered consultation services, but she directed me towards the website of a salon dedicated to assisting cancer patients preparing for hair loss, hours away. My friend told me of a previous experience when she had gone with a friend to this salon, and in the initial consultation, the treatment was discussed, photos were taken, the wig was ordered, and follow up visits were planned days before the hair was due to fall out. The follow up visit then consisted of shaving the client’s head, and replacing the hair with the wig, perfectly prepared to match her previous look so no one would know the difference. I was amazed at the wonderful opportunity to truly change a person’s life by helping them continue their life with as much normalcy as possible. This friend drove four hours to get to the salon for each visit, perhaps even in the middle of extreme illness of chemotherapy. That became an inspiration to offer personalized care in a private environment to return their sense of self, closer to home.
Why would people in such vulnerable states be put in positions where they felt so exposed and sometimes even taken advantage of? Anger overwhelmed me until I realized that each person was receiving help in the only way the proprietors or friends knew how, whether it was with bonded strips of hair, ill-fitting wigs on a child, or a lengthy car ride to find the service they so desperately craved.
Shortly thereafter, I was introduced to the Follea® line of hairpieces. When my husband and I first met with Carmen West, we were prepared to interview her as she interviewed us. The wigs were of such a high quality, we could barely believe our eyes or the feel of our fingers that ran through the silky, natural hair of each piece. We witnessed durable construction, each with varying options to customize according to the needs of each customer, whether they have alopecia of any variety, trichotillomania, chemotherapy treatments, or any other medically-related hair loss. The consistency of pricing both online and in shops was a relief! We were so pleased when Peggy chose us to represent her Peggy Knight Solutions Follea ICARe team in the state of Tennessee! By representing this team, we can now offer solutions to so many different challenges, and it is exciting to know that we represent the most beautiful line of wigs and hairpieces, customized with each consultation to meet individuals’ needs.
Susan and Jason Herrera are based in the Knoxville, Tennessee area. Susan at Studio H in Studios West Salon Suites is located in Farragut, near Turkey Creek. Please call (865)216-1712 or email email@example.com with any questions, or to book your personalized consultation so she can share Follea® with you!