TAMPA — When Kayla Thwaites was getting ready for the Skills USA cosmetology competition — where she hoped to represent Florida on the national stage — there was just one problem.
A major one.
Contestants had been sent mannequins to demonstrate their skills on. Kayla had tried her best to dry the mannequin’s hair — and it melted.
First, she tried putting it in a dryer, but when that didn’t work, she made the big investment for another mannequin. And it paid off. The Leto graduate won at the state competition in Pensacola, and will represent the state of Florida at a national battle of future cosmetology professionals in Kansas City this summer.
Kayla said she never panicked, but came close. She can look back and laugh.
“There were 16 competitors and we had so much to do,” she said. “When I first got there I was nervous, but when I saw what I was doing, I figured out that I was better and started to feel confident.”
A lot of her classmates at Leto certainly felt confident in her. She was a huge commodity during prom season when plenty of Leto students were looking for help — from nails to hair.
“Everyone has a style that works, but everyone doesn’t have a style that they want that works,” Kayla said. “Everyone has an idea what they want and they bring me pictures, but sometimes they don’t work.”
Kayla said that many of her friends want free hairstyles, so she has to limit them, but she said she does her best.
“I know they get excited, but I just let them know what works and doesn’t work. If you have super curly hair, do you really want to stand in front of a mirror for a half-hour every morning? You have to be realistic,” Kayla said.
The future is open for Kayla. She had a weighted 4.5 grade point average at Leto, but she is putting college on hold.
“I need to see what happens if I win in Kansas City,” Kayla said. “The first thing is to get my cosmetology license.”
She enjoyed her time at Leto and expects to miss high school.
“We all meshed together so well,” she said. “I loved it at Leto. We were like a family in a weird way.”
To support Kayla Thwaites and her efforts to get to Kansas City, call (813) 735-0237.