Erika Franklins mom makes her tuna melts, so when she eyed the sandwich on the Bagels and More menu, she was sold. Even though the upscale bistro is right next door to First Class Cosmetology School in Beloit, she had never lunched there.
Cost is always a factor for students. I said.
Born in Virginia, Erika was an infant when her family moved to Beloit. Now 18, she graduated from Beloit Memorial High School in June and immediately enrolled at First Class. We met because I was looking for affordable pedicures, and she was my student nail tech. It was obvious she loved pampering people. I was pleased with her competence and attitude.
Her career ambitions started very young.
I was maybe 4 or 5 and would play around at my Grandma and Grandpas house and put rollers in my Grandpas hair and paint my Grandmas nails. In about eighth grade I thought, this is really what I want to do. I had a little purple piggy and would put change in there. Pennies.
She cashed her piggy in, her mom and grandmother supplementing the shortfall.
My savings didnt put a dent in my tuition.
You were very young when you began saving.
I always heard that (college) was very, very expensive. I always had big dreams, since I was a little kid. I cant really remember ever wanting to do anything different. I honestly cant.
What do want you from your career?
Well, Im not trying to brag or anything, but I am really good at what I do. My whole family has told me that over and over. Beautifying people, I love it. I cant really explain it. Its just something that I love to do.
Whats your philosophy about appearance?
When I was in high school…appearance was everything. My appearance wasnt very good. I was kind of picked on. So if I get a client who comes in (who is) down, maybe they were picked on or dont like the way they look, I can do something to make their appearance better.
You find beauty in each person.
I think everybody is beautiful, she beamed. I love everybody, I do.
Is the trend in high school still girls being crazy about diets and thinness?
The trend is who has the best body. Bigger people dont count. They are nothing.
With my clients, if a big lady comes in, and shes not confident…not happy about the way she looks, when she leaves, I want her to feel like shes beautiful…on top of the world…just for five or 10 minutes. I think that would mean a lot to somebody.
I wish people were more interested in being healthy than skinny, I said.
I started writing in my journal again after I talked to you for the first time, she changed the subject. I started writing about how I feel when Im in the salon.
I was touched.
I didnt realize you were a writer. Hmm. Stories from the salon. Everybody would read that, I mused.
And I started writing my poetry, she said. I used to be a very good poet in high school. I was…a little nerdy. I loved English class.
That usually means you have character and you think, I said, realizing I had some influence.
In high school, were you concerned about violence there?
Not strangers…the students. Its more of the gang thing. I was more scared about those people coming in and hurting innocent people.
What can we do about that?
The parents. Im telling the parents to grow up. They need to get in there and parent their children. Dont let them run loose. Make sure they do their homework. Make sure theyre in school on time. Teach them manners! Thats not so hard. I mean, maybe 25 percent of the kids have manners…because parents dont care. It makes me nauseous.
What advice would you give high school kids?
Talk to your parents. Tell them whats on your mind…if youre struggling with something. Talk to your parents. Thats what theyre there for.
And if they arent listening?
Theres always somebody.
The world out there is kind of scary now.
Its very scary.
Will you stay in Beloit to work?
Beloit needs me, she giggled.
You think Beloit has potential?
It has a lot of potential. Nobodys doing anything about it. Its just a beautiful town…but, all of the empty buildings. By the time Im out there and doing stuff, it will pick up a little bit. Hopefully, people will notice and realize that Beloit needs more.
Did you enjoy your tuna melt?
She smiled. Yes.
Marjorie Stradinger is a free-lance writer residing in Roscoe. She has covered food, drama, entertainment, health, and business for publications in California and Illinois for the past 25 years.
From the Sept. 28-Oct. 4, 2005, issue