Sometimes in life, a sudden situation, a moment in time, alters your whole life, forever changes the road aheadAhmad Ardalan. In 2015 Julie Chapus, founder and director of Miss Julie’s School of Beauty in Rochester, New York,  experienced that “sudden situation” that forever changed her life. Julie received a call from “T”, a classmate she knew from the Continental School of Beauty as Julie, a Master’s Degree Social Worker, was taking classes to become a cosmetologist. As “T” talked Julie recognized she was a victim of human trafficking and that her life was in danger.  Julie, reached out to services she knew could help “T” be safe and move forward in life. This moment in time altered how Julie was moving forward in life as well.  

Dare to reach your hand into darkness, to pull another hand into life.” Norman B. Rice

Prior to that moment with “T” Julie had known she was going to open a beauty school. After that moment with “T” Julie understood her students would be Rochester residents.  “Miss Julie’s School of Beauty,” would be a “startup non-profit cosmetology school designed to empower those at risk and survivors of human trafficking through vocational training.” Julie began the work of learning, doing, advocating, teaching, and educating. 

When you know better you do better.” Julie Chapus

For five years after Julie completed cosmetology school she operated out of her home a hair salon. In doing this she discovered the scars and bruises in the scalp of women being trafficked and abused, as their abusers harm them in places people would not see or tend to look. As Julie worked with hair, she used her social work skills to interact, engage, and build trust with these women who were being trafficked. While Cosmetology School had trained her about hair there was no training about signs, symptoms or what to do if a cosmetologist was concerned about a person’s wellbeing. Julie learned from a human trafficker the actions they take to keep a person trapped. Verbally, emotionally, and physically abusing them instilling fear, promoting addiction, separating people from family and friends, and controlling money. Women who were unhoused told Julie stories where they would be given a place to stay with strings attached. Some women had completed programs having worked on their mental health, addiction, and had been given other community support did not have the job skills to financially support themselves, keeping them in a revolving door of being trafficked yet desperate to get out.

We believe that the past shouldn’t keep you from a beautiful future. Acting on that conviction, we are working to provide survivors and those at risk with an opportunity to earn a cosmetology license and enter into a rewarding career, at no cost to them.” Miss Julie’s School of Beauty

As rogue social worker Julie Chapus absorbed and learned, she also began partnering with individuals in the community. In the Rochester New York area there are fifteen programs dedicated to human and sex trafficking. The New York State Cosmetology Board has been a wonderful support, including putting together a Waxing License in 48 hours when presented with the justification and data to do so.   Individuals and groups would ask about signs and how to help someone who might be a victim of human and sex trafficking so Julie and Chloe Quimby, a founding member of Miss Julie’s School of Beauty, developed  a three hour “Salon Human Trafficking Course” that anyone, whether you work at a hair salon or not, could attend. Victims of human and sex trafficking are often hidden in plain sight. This course gives individuals the information of what to look for.  More recently Dr. Brenda McQuillan, an Associate Professor of Social Work; MSW Program Director of Roberts Wesleyan College in Rochester NY, ran surveys to show the training program is evidence based. Julie often receives requests for this training – showing the need for this valuable information. 

Trafficking is a $180 billion industry. Thirty billion dollars of that is right here in the USA.” Julie Chapus

Julie has been steadfast in her determination to raise the funds necessary to open “Miss Julie’s School of Beauty” in the fall of 2024. The space has been located and Julie is close to reaching the funding necessary. Miss Julie’s School of Beauty will require a referring agency and twelve month sobriety for each participant. There will be no cost for participants to attend. This school will be therapeutic and trauma informed with each day being structured so women participating will have the needed time to continue working with community supports and mental health providers. Julie has been thoughtful, and thorough, in determining how to structure the learning day. In addition to cosmetology classes, restorative circles, DBT/CBT, and other wellness skills will be embedded into this beauty school.

You’ll never forget a person who came to you with a torch in the dark” M. Rose

It is with honor, and joy, we shine the Kindness Champion Spotlight on Julie Chapus and Miss Julie’s School of Beauty in Rochester, New York.  A school acting on conviction “to provide survivors and those at risk with an opportunity to earn a cosmetology license and enter into a rewarding career, at no cost to them. Because an NYS-granted cosmetology license removes the necessity of a background check, graduates will be free to pursue an independent living without the necessity of explaining a traumatic history.” We thank you for being you and bringing your awesome to the world.

For more information on Miss Julie’s School of Beauty here is their information:


Instagram: @missjuliesschoolofbeauty

Facebook: @MissJulie’sSchoolofBeauty