My Beauty Story: Getting to Know Leysa Carrillo
A Free-Wheeling Chat with the Curly Educator 

Leysa Carrillo might be a name you already know if you’re in tune with the beauty industry.

A powerhouse cosmetologist in the hair and makeup world who’s taken the world—and our industry—by storm, Carrillo is more than just a highly-lauded social media phenomenon (though, she certainly is that, too).

Sure, you might know Leysa Carrillo from her often-viral social media posts. You might even be one of her 94,000 Instagram followers.,

It’s possible you recognize her name as one of the notable ambassadors for companies like Mizani, Redken, and more. You might have even learned about her when she won multiple cosmetology awards or in the latest launch of her curly-based education academy platform, Forever Curls Academy.

However you know Leysa, you know her name brings a message of empowerment, unmatched skill, and a whole lot of curly-haired knowledge and self-taught grit that stylists around the globe are itching to learn more about with each passing second.

But that skill—and her intense drive to not just better herself, her family, and life for success—didn’t catalyze in a traditional way. In fact, her beauty story is one of self-taught talent, lots of hard work, and a hands-on approach that never lacked in dedication.

Her story is one that cannot be imitated or replicated and her journey is one of passionate success. The best part? It’s right here, ready for you to read right now.

Leysa Carrillo: A One-of-a-Kind Beauty Story

Where It All Started

Leysa’s story didn’t start out like other cosmetology success stories do—you know how it sometimes goes, superstars are thrust into the world of hair and makeup and ready to make a name for themselves in the industry from a young age.

Instead, she found wild success in a different world—one that had, on the surface, almost nothing to do with cosmetology.


“I grew up in a third-world country with no opportunities, no sources—it was really hard, right?” Leysa said.  When ballet entered the equation, she worked tirelessly to perfect her skill and open the door of possibility for herself.

“I found myself a career that allowed me to travel all the world,” she explained, “which was good—it opened my eyes to all the possibilities until I could make it to America. I traveled over 17 different countries, I was working by the time I was 15 or 16.”

By 21, she’d moved to Vegas, been hired for a two-year contract, and perfected her skills further until an injury ended her career.

Enter the beauty industry.

Leysa had always been the go-to girl for her fellow dancers when it came to hair and makeup. And of course, having what she described as “curly, hard-to-manage hair” all her life played an enormous part in the personal skills she developed in this niche.

“I was always the friend with the hard hair—the unmanageable hair. But I was always braiding, helping with style, and I knew a lot of makeup. (My ballet friends) and I were in our late 20s, we started getting married, and I was still doing most of my friends’ hair and makeup for their weddings. I would practice for months.”

That’s when things got serious and she started toying with the idea of cosmetology.

But college was expensive, she didn’t have any previous credits, and being non-fluent in English wasn’t making anything easier. Then, one day, someone handed her the information she needed to get things going—information for a small, new, and importantly, cheap beauty school.  

She paid, she went through the courses, and she graduated.

The hustle happened almost immediately after that, she said.

“I’ve always been the person who finds herself looking to make a better future for myself—maybe it’s because nothing has ever been given to me, the added responsibility, and the knowledge that whatever I do I need to be good at it.”

She’s also competitive, she says, and her leftover ballet personality definitely played a part.

After graduation, she knew she wanted to bust out of her comfort zone and become the best of the best. She looked at magazines, she found reviews for the best salon in Las Vegas—the owner was sweet, but knew she wasn’t ready yet—so Leysa started as a cleaning lady for the salon.

On the weekends, the owner let her do makeup. After hours and during the day, Leysa was learning everything she could. Six months later, she was the salon assistant. She starts assisting, helping with makeup, and working hard. She’d finish by 6 p.m. at her job, head to another job after that, and never missed her weekend job, either.

All of her hard work paid off.  When the owner of the salon expanded, Leysa had a chair with her name on it.

The hustle didn’t end there, though. She didn’t feel she was as connected with the more upscale culture—she had to study how to connect with her clients. During this process, she started talking about her travels, which piqued interest.

Two years later and a lot of hard work later, she was winning her clients over—and her skills were speaking for themselves. She was completely booked.

She collected endless information and learned so much—that’s the driving factor behind being an educator.

She wanted to make an entrance into the world of something she understand intimately, curly hair.

She started looking at magazines and she noticed that every cover featured straight hair. She already had gone viral for her color-focused straight hairstyles, but curly hair was a realm that hadn’t been touched yet, at least, not by Leysa.

The evidence that curly hair wasn’t getting the TLC that other hair types were getting was all there. When Leysa began her curly hair journey, she realized the clients had had bad experiences, had been turned away at salons, and were neglected because the knowledge base just wasn’t there.

“I promised myself, I’m going to figure this out so I don’t make the same mistakes the stylists are making. I want to treat everybody equal. I want every single person who sits in my chair to feel love and beautiful at the end, no matter the color of the skin is, no matter how hard the curls might be, the language they speak. I wanted to become a diverse stylist.”

And that she did.

She was becoming known for being the curly hair guru. And it wasn’t just clients who noticed, other stylists took note, too, and they wanted to learn directly from her.

That’s when the education piece came into play.

She wanted to share that knowledge she’d built through self-taught grit and experience (and by experience, we mean serious experience—she’d shaved her head twice and destroyed her best friend’s hair to figure out the techniques and knowledge she needed to build her expertise).  

She was pushing curly hair to the max.

Another big break happened in her career around this time. A few different companies hired her—One of which was L’Oreal Professional—and made her part of viral campaigns that ultimately got her a lot of much-deserved attention and notoriety. She broke the mold and won awards, created a curriculum in less than 6 months to teach with Cosmoprof, and put together one of the most comprehensive knowledge bases for curly hair education.

And people wanted more—they still do.  

Where Leysa is Now & What's Next

Her curriculums started expanding—from a few hours to a few days worth of education. Eventually, the need to expand became overwhelming.

Now, Leysa is launching her own academy, The Forever Curls Academy.

Her concentrated, detailed academy is packed with all the knowledge Leysa has to offer—and it can be up to nine days long.

Anyone can sign up for Leysa’s academy and it’s an in-person, Las Vegas-based program. But that’s not all. She’s in the process of creating a digital version of her Forever Curls Academy that’s launching later in the year to reach those who cannot attend her in-person academy courses.  

She even has a popular podcast, My American Vida!, that shares the story of her life, growing up in Cuba, and how she came to America.

For Leysa, the challenges have obviously paled in comparison to the success she’s attained—but challenges did exist.

“The biggest challenge was moving to a new country—not to bash America, it’s the most amazing country. It’s just like being reborn from a third-world country, it’s completely different. Everything is different. I think the biggest challenge in my life was adapting to a new life and being reborn. When I moved to this country, it was my birthday.

The accomplishments came, too.

The biggest one?

“Finding the space to be happy doing what I love—I thought I would never find (anything) I was more passionate about than dancing,” she said.

“I found the love of my life, I enjoy every minute, and I’m so happy that I can call it ‘work’ and live off of that. I work hard—really hard—but I enjoy every second of the process.”

As far as Leysa is concerned, the hard work never ends.

She jokes that she still has three jobs, but she’s not really kidding—in fact, it ends up being a lot more than three gigs.

She still works behind the chair (because you need to as an educator, she says), she works in the digital space with her podcast and education, she launched her own educational academy, works with big brands as an ambassador and advisor, and so much more.

The best advice Leysa offers is straightforward and simple.

“Learn. Educate yourself in every aspect of the business—no matter what business you’re doing—is key,” she said. “The more you know, the better. There are things you’re going to learn from experience that no one can tell you. Educate yourself and look for all the possibility and how much you can maximize your business.”