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Bambi Wagers: Star Stylist

Bambi Wagers had just finished a client’s haircut when she got the email on her phone. As soon as she read it, her heart stopped. She could barely breathe. She called her husband and told him the news. “I knew it,” he told her. She ended the call and tried to go on with her day, hands shaking and heart beating wildly. She couldn’t believe this was happening.

Wagers was just nine years old when she realized how short life really is. Riding bicycles with her mom and sister in West Virginia, she lost control of her bike and her body flew over the edge of a footbridge, landing nine feet below. For nearly a week, she was in a coma from head injuries. When she awoke, she felt a strong sense of purpose. Even at that young age, she decided to pursue a simple yet powerful mission--to make others feel good. For a long time, she thought that meant being a doctor, maybe even a brain surgeon, like the one who had saved her life. 

But when Wagers was a sophomore at West Holmes High School, she visited the Ashland-West Holmes Career Center JVSD. The school’s hands-on nature intrigued her, and three programs appealed to her--culinary careers, early childhood education and cosmetology. The latter, she realized, fit with her mission--to make others feel good, so she enrolled, graduated, and, at 17, began building her clientele. 

Wagers especially loved the transformations that came with readying clients for special events--weddings, homecomings and proms--or when a client made a dramatic change at her suggestion. What fun it would be, she thought, if she could style for bigger events, like the Miss USA pageant. Two years ago, she even took a class at the Farouk Educators Boot Camp University in Cancun, Mexico, to be a pageant stylist, but nothing came of it.

It’s ironic that Wagers cringes now about styling her own hair for senior prom, about the baby’s breath she stuffed into her up-do that she describes as “horrible.” Her escort that evening had been just a friend, but now, she says, he’s her biggest supporter, the one who has believed in her and helped her overcome her overwhelming shyness, set goals and aim higher. Now, she and Scott Wagers have been married for eight years and live in Millersburg with their four lovebirds, Beeker, Bunson, Chicken and Steve. Scott, she says, is the reason she’s where she is today. In 2009, he encouraged her to attend the Make-Up Designory (MUD) in Burbank, Calif., the largest make-up school in the nation. That, Wagers says, was a turning point in her career.

“For six months, I experienced a different culture and learned so much about doing makeup for photo shoots, bridal events, and film special-effects. It was hard being away from Scott for so long, but he was very supportive. I wouldn’t have gone had it not been for him.” 

He also encouraged her to become an educator for Farouk Systems, the Houston-based hair care and spa products company that makes the CHI line, an official sponsor of the Miss Teen, Miss U.S.A and Miss Universe pageants. She has now been a Farouk educator for seven years. 

In March, Wagers traveled to America’s Beauty Show at McCormick Place, West in Chicago as assistant to the platform artists, preparing the models’ hair for demonstrations. She knew that the show’s director, Lisa Marie Garcia, was responsible for choosing that year’s Miss U.S.A. stylists. Spurred on by a burst of confidence, she emailed her Farouk managers, Ryan Kaskey and Lisa Decker, telling them she wanted to be considered as a stylist for this year’s pageant. She sent Garcia a two line email outlining her credentials and expressing her interest. Garcia evaluated Wagers’ work in Chicago. Wagers had just finished a client’s haircut at S&S Mane Attraction in Millersburg when she received the email on her phone that began, “Congratulations.” 

From May 17-22, Bambi Wagers will be one of 15 stylists chosen from more than 1,500 Farouk educators worldwide to travel to Las Vegas, Nev. There, she will see one of her dreams come true as part of a styling team for contestants of the 61st Miss USA pageant, airing June 3.

“I’m really excited to see the different personalities of the contestants,” Wagers says. “I’ve always believed that, with my gifts and talents, I’m able to minister to women, to make them feel beautiful on the inside as well as look beautiful on the outside. I’m looking forward to doing that there.”

As Wagers prepares for the trip of a lifetime, she has a list of things to bring along--her curling irons and straighteners, blow dryers and clips, combs and brushes. But maybe even more importantly, she takes with her the knowledge that she has the support of her husband and best friend. 

“He sent me this text today,” she says, her voice filled with emotion, her eyes brimming with tears. “You are only limited by your own imagination,” she reads. “Sometimes, it just takes someone else to help you see that you aren’t shooting high enough.”

Wagers says she’s thrilled to have found a career where she can do just what she always imagined, to make people feel good. She hopes to keep pushing, keep improving, and always lend a listening ear when her clients need to talk. 

“I don’t look at this as my job,” Wagers says. “It’s my life and my passion.”

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