Kornelija Cecetaite is sat on her bed in her family home eating a yoghurt whilst we sit on opposite sides of the country for our conversation over FaceTime.
Her silver hair back in a loose ponytail, bare-faced and in a baggy black jumper showed the realities of life in lockdown due to the current pandemic shaking the world and stealing normality.
On your average Friday, you would find 19-year-old Kornelija Cecetaite assisting a hairstylist at the BLEACH London salon in East London.
But for the next few weeks, you will find her in her North-East-London townhouse, working from home due to the outbreak of COVID 19.
BLEACH London is a well-known company across the country with their products being sold in the high street drugstores, Boots and Superdrug.
The brand is a household name for hipsters across London due to their colourful grunge aesthetic and three popular salons in Brixton, Soho, and Dalston.
Kornelija started her career at BLEACH London at the young age of 17, after deciding to drop out of college and follow her heart to become a hairstylist.
However, the assistant stylist didn’t have an easy journey of getting to where she is now.
Whilst she was completing her GCSEs she couldn’t decide which pathway she wanted to follow, so the teenager did what every young person thinks to do and turned to her parents for advice.
Their thoughts were to find an easier career to get into as her mother believed “it would be a long journey ahead of her” and her father’s concerns were, that she “wouldn’t make any money, as it’s really difficult to get a big break within the beauty industry.”
As a group, they decided that baking would be an easier route as she was pondering over what she liked to do, and at the time she loved to bake.
Her tone heightened as she seemed to look back in embarrassment and mocked herself as she said, “being so young that genuinely is just the mindset that you’re in, so I just thought that I’d go and do that.”
After finishing a year at cookery school, Cecetaite knew that she didn’t want to return, so she enrolled herself at a hair and beauty college in Essex.
However, three weeks into the three-year course it was evident that she “absolutely hated it” and knew that wasn’t how she wanted to find a way into the industry.
On a whim, the 17-year-old “messaged BLEACH on Instagram and told them that I was studying hair, and they got back to me and said that they’ll send me to college with the job so then I decided that I needed to drop out.”
Looking back in reflection the blonde-haired girl smiled as she said, “I’m so glad that that is how it played out and how I did it because I was just happy as long as I could work at BLEACH, I didn’t care.”
Two-and-a-half years later, Kornelija is now a salon assistant and is “responsible for anything and everything” so she could be helping a stylist to bleach a client’s hair one minute and getting them a drink the next.
Kornelija’s job at the Dalston salon is all about being a friendly helping hand as she works her way up to be a fully qualified hairstylist over time.
As a younger teen, she struggled with conversing with people that she didn’t know and since starting her career she has grown in confidence as she said, “working at BLEACH there are a lot of us who struggle with mental illness issues and I feel like working in a space where customer service is key, you really find the confidence on how to talk to all sorts of people.”
However as the salons have closed for the foreseeable future Kornelija is now spending her time on helping with the Instagram account for the company, “I am already part of the BLEACH social media team, so we’ll be doing as much DIY stuff as possible, so one of those things will be Instagram Lives.”
Since Kornelija got hired at the Dalston salon she has had opportunities that hairstylists across the world would die for.
Back in 2018, the BLEACH team were hired to work at London Fashion Week for Alexa Chung which meant that Kornelija got the incredible opportunity to get a hands-on experience of London Fashion Week.
The biggest grin hit Kornelija’s face as she said, “Fashion week was one of those pinch-me moments for sure, I got to work for Alexa Chung, and I’ve followed her for quite a long time so I was really excited, being able to assist with doing the hair for a fashion show was major for me.”
BLEACH is known for being out of the ordinary, so it was no surprise when the blonde-haired girl said that she got to help work on the famous popstar, Halsey’s hair.
“Halsey came into get her hair done which was really interesting and I got told to do the Instagram story for it so I was speaking to her and assisting her stylist for it, so that was one of those weird moments as some of the photos that I took of her are now her fans Twitter icons, which is really weird.”
In reflection, Kornelija smiled as she said, “I am the youngest person who works at BLEACH and having worked there for so long, and being at the position that I work at now, as I’m not high up in the company but to be able to say that I have had the
chance to have the opportunities that I have had already is crazy.”
When you google BLEACH London, the image results will show you a rainbow of different hair colours that they have styled.
The BLEACH aesthetic is well established for being fun and experimental so you’d imagine a “certain person wearing certain clothes or acting a certain way” to work there and Kornelija definitely fits the mould, with her cream-coloured-hair and thick golden framed glasses, the teen oozes in confidence.
Kornelija sits in a baggy jumper currently, but out and about you will find her in leopard print flares and a sky printed t-shirt, “I think the more confident I get and more self-assured that I am it allows me to do things that I have always wanted to do or dress in a specific way that I have always wanted to dress.”
The young girl’s view on being who you want to be shows that it is all to do with bravery and self-assurance.
Hypothetically speaking, she said, “say if someone comes into the salon and they’re getting something really natural and the person sat next to them has five colours in their hair and they say ‘I could never do that, I wish I could pull that off’ and I turn around to them and say ‘you can, you can have your hair however you want, what is stopping you from being able to have the same hair as that person?’ The only difference between those two people is that one day one person decided to do that and the other still hasn’t, they’re still thinking about it, and if I’m going to say that to them, then I definitely have to apply that to myself.”
In a world full of people, be the one with the five colours in her hair, as this is the only opportunity you will get.