FEATURED ALUMNI: Graham Nation, 2011 Aveda Institute Denver Graduate

The Aveda Institute Network has no shortage of highly accomplished graduates earning a career by doing what the love. We are constantly inspired by the stories and want to share them with you! Learn how these Featured Alumni have reached success in beauty industry and how an Aveda education helped them achieve their goals!


Hi, I’m Graham Nation. I graduated from Aveda Institute Denver – Cosmetology Class of September 2011. I currently live in Los Angeles, CA and work at Alen | M Femme Coiffure Salon in West Hollywood. I also travel back to Denver for clients every 6 weeks and I’m a part of the Ted Gibson artistic team.

What led you to pursuing a career in the beauty & wellness industry?

Honestly, when I was a musician full time I always hung around hair dressers and just loved it. They wore what they wanted, they made their own schedules, had tons of tattoos, got to go to work everyday to create and have fun and make people happy and love themselves. After realizing all of this I was sold! We as hair dressers get to empower people, give them confidence, and help them see themselves for the beautiful people they are and that’s AMAZING!

What did you choose an Aveda Institute for your education?

Many many moons ago I dated a hairdresser when I lived in LA the first time. She was an Aveda student and I would always go through her kit and read her books and help her study so when I got the choice there was no other school for me.

Upon graduating, how did you decide what to do and what were your early experiences in the workforce like? Any challenges? Any amazing opportunities?

I actually got an amazing opportunity right when I got out of school! An amazing friend of mine, Ever Good, works at Matthew Morris Salon and Skincare and introduced me to Matthew. She took me to a veiwing party when Matthew was on Shear Genius. He is such an amazing person – so full of talent – the way he carries himself and treats others is very inspiring. Matthew offered me a job and I started my year and a half Assitant program with some of his stylists and then with him directly for 6 months. Fast forward a few years – I was moving to Los Angeles and got connected at Ken Paves Salon where I also assisted for 6 months before working as a stylist. Ken is the same way – full of talent and creativity, just an amazing human all around. With Ken I helped on styling the Biggest Loser make-overs and doing a color makeover on the FABLife. I can’t thank Ken enough for helping me get my feet wet in Los Angeles. The advice I can give future professionals is work for someone you look up to, respect, and want to grow with. Your boss is a huge part of your growth as a stylist and as young stylist we need that person to be a foundation for us to build amazing careers on.

What is the most valuable thing you learned while in cosmetology school?

Practice! You might think you’re the best in your class, but that means nothing when you leave school. In the salon you are trying to shine above the rest and your competition are the “Tracy Cunninghams” and the “Johnny RAMIREZs” and the “Chris McMillans” and the “Ken Paves” – all these people who have literally devoted there lives to this industry. So the next time you wanna skip a graduated Bob class or a styling quota – Don’t!

As your career grows, is there anything you’re now glad you learned as an Aveda student?

Discipline and consistency. What you learn in school you can easily turn around and put it to use in your everyday life as a professional. Your clients will also love you for these two things!

Even the greats have bad days! What has been your most embarrassing/terrifying experience in your career?

When you promise something and it doesn’t turn out the way you want – to me that’s the worst thing I can do. I don’t know if it’s the worst, but I can remember a friend of mine whose hair I was doing (thank god she’s awesome) – we did a color and it wasn’t at all what we were going for. We both hated it. So I found myself at 10 pm mixing tons of bleach. We didn’t leave the salon til 1:30 am (she got there at 5 pm). But you know what? The color was amazing and it was just what she wanted. We were both in love with it! To me that was the only option. Never leave a client unhappy. Personally It makes me lose sleep at night… I can’t do it.

Do you have any advice for current Aveda Institute students?

Hard work pay off, especially in this industry. Never stop learning/growing/creating/traveling/pushing yourself to be at the level you want to be at. Only one person stands in your way, YOU.

For a more in-depth interview, click here to read Aveda Institute Inspire Greatness’ Graduate Spotlight with Graham Nation. Follow him on Instagram.

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