Born in Ukraine, Karina Astakov Kotok moved to America with her parents when she was 6 years old. She grew up in a conservative part of Pennsylvania’s countryside, graduating valedictorian of her high school class.
“I figured I had to go to college, because that’s what everybody does.”
She spent a year majoring in Actuarial Science at a 4 year school before realizing, she was simply unhappy.
“I was embarrassed at first to tell my friends that I was leaving college to go to beauty school, but I do not regret my decision at all. I love it.”
Karina’s second place winning style at the national student competition while she attended Empire Beauty School.
Karina continued to be at the top of her class at Empire Beauty School in Lebanon, PA where she placed 2nd in the Long Hair Evening Design category at a national student competition.
“I am kind of competitive when it comes to hair. It’s something I am very passionate about.”
So passionate, once she started school she immediately found a job working as a shampoo assistant at a local salon, not only getting her foot in the door for possible future employment, but also gaining valuable insight into how a salon operates.
Karina says that experience combined with what she learned at Empire, set her up for success.
“At Empire we got a lot of hands on experience with clients. Not all beauty schools can give you that experience.”
Today, she is a stylist at European Elegance Beauty Studio in Ephrata, PA.
She still loves to enter competitions, recently placing 3rd in Empire’s ‘Style the Artist’ Instagram contest. She says social media has helped her career along, and encourages new stylists to put it to use.
“Take advantage of social media. You can use it to work up a clientele base. I have had multiple clients referred to me through social media posts. When clients post photos of themselves, or I post styles, I often receive new clients that way.”
She says as her clientele continues to grow, her income is growing too. But for this valedictorian, her career is far more than just about the money.
“When I was going to college I was looking at this really great salary once I graduated, but I was so unhappy. Now I am doing something that I love and I still have the opportunity to do really well, in this field.”