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Ethnic Beauty

Most Southland beauty colleges conduct cosmetology classes in English and Spanish. But, several also teach classes in Thai, Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese. With so many non-English speakers applying for cosmetology licenses, the state permits students to bring interpreters along when they take their licensing exams.

Because so many students rely on interpreters, the state cosmetology board is under pressure by school and salon owners to give the licensing exams in different languages, says a spokeswoman for the California Assn. of Schools of Cosmetology. The issue is under review.

A phenomenon in the ethnic beauty business is the skyrocketing number of foreign-born manicurists and nail shop owners in California.

“There is a nail shop on every block, and most are owned by Vietnamese families,” said Aruni Blount, the supervising instructor at Los Angeles Beauty College. To keep up with the demand for training, Blount has hired a Vietnamese teacher to teach manicuring skills in his native language.

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“Statewide, the number of manicurists is really astounding,” said Jeff Weir, legislative analyst for the state cosmetology board. In June, 1983, there were 18,754 licensed manicurists in California. By June, 1988, the number had zoomed to 43,113.

In September, 1988, their were 16,156 licensed manicurists in Los Angeles County and 32,130 in Southern California.

Cosmetology is an attractive profession for immigrants or non-English speakers for several reasons. If a person completes the required classes, they need only a 10th-grade education or a passing grade on an equivalency test to qualify for a license.

Another advantage is that cosmetology courses are reasonably affordable, ranging from $2,500 to $6,000 for the courses required to get a cosmetology license. And the annual fee to maintain a cosmetology license is $6, although it is increasing to $8 in January.

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