Earlier this year, Courtney Griffiths won the ‘Against All Odds’ category sponsored by Denman Professional at the Collective Pride Awards. Set up by The Lion’s Barber Collective, this award aims to recognise unsung heroes in the hair and beauty industry who have overcome huge challenges to get where they are today. Courtney is currently working towards a VTCT Level 3 Award in Education and Training at Hair At The Academy in Exeter.
Her journey has been a challenging one and demonstrates incredible resilience. Her early childhood was turbulent and unstable, as both her parents were struggling with alcohol addiction. Aged just three-years-old Courtney, along with her younger brother, was placed into emergency care. Their first placement however, was on a rural farm with a foster carer who neglected and abused them. The foster carer was later charged and imprisoned, and Courtney and her brother began a sequence of moving from care home, to care home. At the age of eight, Courtney was referred to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) for support. From then until the age of 13, Courtney continued to move around a lot. After a brief attempt at reconciliation with her mother, Courtney found the strength to put herself back in care and at 15 found a residential house with kind people.
It wasn’t long however, before Courtney found herself in a toxic relationship with a man who was controlling and violent towards her. School was becoming increasingly difficult during this time and Courtney was left feeling lost and scared. It was then that Virtual Schools, a government-led educational resource dedicated to supporting children in care, stepped in to help. They assisted with securing funding that would allow Courtney to train as a hairdresser with Hair at The Academy (HATA) and try learning in a more vocational and supportive environment. The supportive environment created by Mary Pugsley, Founder and Director of HATA and her amazing team gave Courtney the boost she needed and before long, she was passing exams with flying colours and achieving a 100% attendance record.
Courtney looks back on those first few weeks and months at HATA with a huge amount of gratitude, likening them to a family: “When I was offered a place, I felt so happy but also shocked. I couldn’t believe they wanted me. No one had had that kind of faith in me before. They made me feel like I’m worth something.”
Courtney is just one of many students that have turned their life around with the help of HATA, and the rest of the salon’s team, which includes multiple tutors, a teacher, a counsellor and a support worker. Courtney’s story is one of resilience and determination and stands as a shining example of what can be achieved when someone believes in you. Today, Courtney lives in a safe and supportive home with her long-term foster mum
Barbara, who is currently applying to become Courtney’s legal guardian. She has achieved multiple qualifications including a Level 2 Diploma in Hair and Beauty Skills, a Level 2 Diploma in Women’s and Men’s Hairdressing and is now working towards a Level 3 Award in Education and Training.
Not only is Courtney the recipient of the Against All Odds award, but she is also now part of the team at HATA, tutoring other young people who have faced similarly difficult starts in life. She plans to continue refining her skills and abilities as both a hairdresser and tutor, to secure financial stability and be in a position to help others like herself. “I want to have a secure and stable career that will allow me to foster my own children when the time is right,” she shared. “Having lived in care all my life, I know what they want and need and would do everything to give them a nice life.”
Denman was also one of the official sponsors for BarbersRide 2023 – more on that here.
Against All Odds was just one category at the Collective Pride Awards 2023. You can see the full list of categories, and winners, here.