We’re constantly inspired by our clients and their journeys, and this month we decided to spotlight Karla Mironov — a businesswoman, cancer survivor and dear friend. When we first met Karla, she had just relocated to Charleston from NY. She owned Hair Salons in both cities simultaneously, was raising her two children, and was about to start a long fight with breast cancer. Read below and find out why she is an inspiration to all of us!
Hair Stylist & Owner of Karla Jean Studio
Cancer Survivor & Super Woman
Check out Karla’s website karlajeanstudio.com or give her a call at 843.872.6911 and make sure to visit Karla Jean Studio on Exchange Street!
What made you decide to move to Charleston?
For years we had dreamed of retiring in Charleston. One day it occurred to me that I did not need to wait to retire in order to enjoy our life!
What inspired you to pull the trigger?
It’s crazy, really. I had been coming down to Charleston from NYC every six weeks to have haircut parties at my friend’s house. She would invite her friends and they would have wine and cheese and I would cut hair. It was beautiful! Each time I came to visit I would discover something new and learned that Charleston isn’t just a row of rainbow-colored houses. There is so much more to explore! So that was it! I had to move here.
What was your life like before you moved to CHS, tell me about your awesome business, experience, training and background?
Oh gosh, a day in the life of Karla in the City!
Well, on a dreamy day my life might look like this: walk to the local coffee shop for a cortado and a scone. I would then walk to my hair salon 3-4 blocks away. At one point I had a team of 18 people working there! It was energizing! I would cut some hair, do some office work, mentor a junior stylist or two and head back home to the family. On any given day there might be a freshly made frozen rosalita (with a spicy hibiscus rim) in the mix from the Oaxacan Mexican restaurant, FONDA.
My initial hairstyling training was over 20 years ago; just your average beauty school in New York City. But I gained my so-called ‘masters in hair’ at the John Sahag workshop on 49th St. and Madison Avenue. An average working day was about nine hours long, six days a week with a 40-minute subway ride each way. Each day I would assist John and observe/study his signature dry cut technique. And I love it! Cutting dry is an elevated form of cutting. It is time consuming and can be very tedious, but when hair isn’t cut in wet clusters it flows beautifully and I can see my work clearly as it evolves. 20 years later and I’m still using his technique! About halfway through my styling career I met Nick Arrojo, the hairstylist featured on the TV reality series What Not to Wear. Soon my salon, Slope Suds, became Arrojo’s first flagship salon in Brooklyn, NY. His precision scissor and razor techniques gave me a new perspective on cutting and now I am able to incorporate many styles into my work. I have also trained with other celebrity stylists and have traveled to several different countries to study their techniques along with the latest fashion.
What was your emotional state like once you got to Charleston?
I had such a sense of relief upon moving here! Because I grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, Charleston felt like home to me rather quickly. There was a point where I felt a bit lonely because I didn’t know that many people yet. But it wasn’t long before I had established a group of friends in my new neighborhood. That was an unexpected surprise!
You have such an incredible background and business, but things took a serious turn 18 months ago with your diagnosis. Tell us about your journey as you have inspired so many people around you.
Oh wow, yeah. I was preparing for to go to Italy for the Davines worldwide hair tour. I was actually entering the competition, myself! Simultaneously as I was preparing for this trip I was working on my health and fitness. I then discovered an unusual indentation on my left breast. I went ahead to Italy and came back and still nothing had changed, so I got checked out and, boom! Breast cancer. After discovering that the breast cancer had metastasized a brain scan revealed a tumor that had hemorrhaged on my pituitary gland. This put a delay on all cancer treatments until several doctors determined whether or not to do neurosurgery. We opted for the watch and wait and so far, so good! I am still recovering from my most recent surgery last week and am fighting infection. But, after 4 months of chemo, 6 1/2 weeks of daily radiation, and eight surgeries later there are no signs of cancer!
Now that you’ve gone through the treatment and still on this journey, what has it taught you?
People matter! I’ve always known this. But this journey revealed something different about relationships to me. Or perhaps on a different level. Not only were my friends and family there to support me, but total strangers sometimes too. Some would see my balding head and give me that look of “I understand” or “I’m sorry”. But, to find peace in a life of chaos was a huge desire for me because, even if you have all the things in the world within your reach if you don’t have peace and harmony in relationships those tangible things are worthless.
What have you learned from it?
Not to take any moment for granted.
What is your outlook for the future on family, business and next steps?
Hopeful! I have a clean slate and an opportunity to reinvent my life. How many people truly get that chance? It can be paralyzing to think of the many options that I have, so I am meditating on them. Really trying not to rush into the next thing.
What was most surprising to you about all of it?
Hmm… that’s a good question. I guess how well my family handled it all. They were really there for me. They were my rock. And people came out of the woodwork to support me and cheerlead me. I was deeply humbled and honored by that.
Is there are particular moment or memory that stands out for you?
Definitely. I was in the middle of cutting my 16-year-old son’s hair when I got the phone call that the cancer had spread and that I would need to have chemotherapy. I walked back to my styling chair and finished cutting his hair. He looked at me like a rock and he said, “It spread?” I took a deep breath, replied, and kept cutting. I wasn’t about to quit. Maybe it was symbolic of my journey and how my son would support me. Quiet, but always present when I needed him.
Is there an achievement or contribution that you are most proud of and why?
I suppose it would be when I won best salon in Charleston, in my second year of business. I do my best at everything, almost to a fault. I wanted to serve Charleston in a way that would make me proud. I think I have succeeded in that! It’s a daily challenge for myself that I will strive to continue.
What inspires you?
The first thing that comes to mind is nature! And then the gift of creativity create comes next. When I entered the hair competition for Italy it charged me up and I would eagerly jump out of bed every morning inspired to create! Right now, I’m inspired by a new venture with PEACH Athleisure, a women-empowering brand of elevated apparel for work, gym and play. And I can’t wait to do more with this brand that seeks to give women small business opportunities and supports them along the way.
How has this changed you?
It’s a tough one to answer because I am still changing. I think I am most grateful for the forgotten moments. Meaning, the things that most people don’t realize are happening throughout the day. Those little moments when you choose to be happy. To savor that cuppa coffee on the sunporch instead of in your regular spot. Because you can. I found that it is within my power to find joy and peace and strength in any situation.
Is there anything else you would like to share with me?
Let go! I mean, really, let go! Early on in the journey I decided I would hop on that roller coaster, buckle up and hold on tight. But I soon learned that wasn’t enough. Because I wasn’t submitting to the journey. I was still holding tight to the bar on the roller coaster and it was jerking me around leaving me battered and bruised. It wasn’t until I let go and threw my hands in the air and screamed ‘Let’s do this thing!’ (John would often say that before a runway show or team project). But I really discovered the value of giving in. Not giving up! Swimming with the tide is a lot easier than swimming against it.
Is there any question I should I have asked you, but did not?
If there was anything else to add I would probably say that while going through cancer there was deep contemplation and learning. One of the most important things I had to work at was taking care of myself first. Initially I was tempted to try to manage the moods and feelings of others around me as they learned to cope with my diagnosis. But that wasn’t my role. So, even today I am learning to put my own oxygen mask on first. It’s not easy, but it’s the right thing to do. We need to create more time for ourselves to just sit and be and enjoy life.
Karla, we couldn’t have said it any better ourselves. Thank you.