Victoria Pantoja – Colombia 

|Women’s day| STORY
Ring ring ring.

Victoria answers the phone and responds kindly several times as she shakes her head in agreement. The call is from a client who frequently visits her every 8 days. This particular client makes recurring appointments for hair color treatment for her roots along with color brushing. Victoria tells the client she will be at the salon by 11:00 AM.

It’s a summer morning and as usual Victoria or as her clients refer to her affectionately «Vicky» prepares to start her day with a positive mindset. The first thing Vicky does is make her daily green juice that includes blended parsley, celery, carrot, ginger and a green apple. Vicky then packs the green juice and goes on an early morning walk to the park wearing purple pants and a white blouse with the sleeves cut off. She also has a hat on to help with the bright sun. Vicky starts by walking two laps, soon after begins to jog another two laps before stretching by a nearby tree. Finally, she ends with a set of 5-pound weight exercises, crunches and leg exercises all the while giving thanks to the universe and God for a new day!

Ever since Vicky was a little girl she understood the importance of eating and exercising well. She comes from a city where fruit grows in the backyards of homes and each morning fresh eggs from home raised hens are eaten for breakfast. The local rooster is everyone’s morning alarm.

At the young age of 16 Vicky got pregnant and although she was very scared at that moment in her life, she decided to be the best possible mother for her baby. She did not allow herself to be held back and soon after started looking for a job. She quickly ran into some issues as she looked for jobs. The job hours were long and wages were very low.

Day and night Vicky thought of a solution to be able to spend time with her son and build a family with her husband. Until one day when she was taking Ricardo to Kindergarten, she had an epiphany and met a lady who was studying for her hairdresser license and immediately felt interested. She never thought of becoming a hairdresser because she had always taken courses related to car mechanics and how to repair car radiators. Vicky never imagined herself fixing hair, nonetheless she took a risk and the following day began hairdressing courses.

With her new knowledge in the beauty industry, a hairdresser chair, and some space in her house to attend to future clients, Vicky started running her own successful beauty salon in Colombia for 25 years. With time she was able to offer jobs, moved the beauty salon to another location and to have a second baby. After a few years of saving she earned enough to buy a house a pay for her sons’ studies and live more comfortably, but one day everything changed.

Ricardo was the eldest son who would soon turn 18 and be obligated by the government to serve in the military. Vicky did not think twice about it and sent her son to study abroad instead of carrying a weapon. It was difficult time in the country; there were guerrillas, illegal groups and the country’s army fought aggressively against these groups causing more violence in Colombia. Prior to turning 18, Ricardo took a flight to New York, several thousand miles away from his home looking for new dreams and opportunities. Unfortunately, Ricardo leaving split the family in two and Vicky only thought about when her family would be back together.

For many years Vicky dreamed of the day she would be reunited with her son in the U.S. She finally got that chance 11 years ago and packed her bags to embark on her new journey.


Vicky was welcomed in the Big Apple by bright lights and the sparkles of the City. Vicky woke up to many cold winter mornings and went to Manhattan to apply for hairdresser positions. Although her English speaking skills were not the greatest that did not hold her back. Vicky was persistent; she took English classes and memorized important key words relating to her beauty salon profession. Vicky quickly learned the essential vocabulary to get hired for a position in a beauty salon, but she always intended to own her own salon and be her own boss.

For months, Vicky would wake up thinking about giving up and going back to her country. Her motivation to keep her going was to one day have her entire family reunited and own her own business. Vicky always had a reason to continue, she would smile and pursue her dream. Eventually, she found a job where she started to earn a percentage of profits. Vicky worked hard and managed to attract more and more clients. She eventually studied to get her hairdresser license and began to flourish from salon to salon.

Today, Vicky the Colombian hairdresser is highly requested across beauty salons in Queens, New York. However, the thought of owning her own business has not stopped, she has started to rent a chair in beauty salons across Queens handing out her business cards with her data and phone number as Vicky, the Colombian hairdresser. She now offers her services to clients from all around the world from countries like Italy, Ecuador, Guyana, Dominican Republic, Argentina, India, and different parts of the world that she never imagined, and, certainly clients from Colombia.

Vicky is a brand, she has bigger goals now. After living 11 years in New York City, she thinks about every challenge as step to get where she wants to be. She loves to read about successful stories because she believes no one is born at the top there is always a long process to get there.

Vicky always believed that knowing how to do something makes you useful but being great at that something makes you unstoppable. Vicky confesses she fell in love with the art of hair. In her 35 years of experience there is not a single day she felt forced to work, it was the joy of cutting people’s hair that kept her cheerful all those years. She likes what she does and that’s why she does it with love.

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