Long-time Kitimat resident Teresa Neto has built her reputation as a hairstylist with nearly 50 years of experience. (Christian Apostolovski/Black Press Media)

Long-time Kitimat resident Teresa Neto has built her reputation as a hairstylist with nearly 50 years of experience. (Christian Apostolovski/Black Press Media)

Award-winning hairstylist nears 50 years serving Kitimat

In Our Valley: Teresa Neto

Long-time Kitimat resident Teresa Neto has built her reputation as a hairstylist with nearly 50 years of experience.

Neto was born in Calvao, Portugal which is located near the sea coast and grew up in a big family with six siblings.

“I was there until I was 20, it was a fantastic experience,” she said. “We were 15 minutes away from the big ocean with big huge waves, we would go every Saturday and Sunday.”

Schooling in Portugal at the time was different and Neto stopped traditional school at grade four opting to attend “retreats”.

At these retreats, Neto got a chance to learn a variety of different subjects including history, religion, cooking and sewing amongst others.

“When I was 12 I was already helping a friend of my parents who had a store where they sell clothes and sold materials,” she said.

Her experience during these retreats helped her as she was applying her skills in sewing and cooking daily. Looking back Neto was happy with the opportunity as she believes the experience she gained was more valuable.

Though she never planned to leave Portugal, she ended up coming to Kitimat to help her brother with his baby.

“My dad received a letter with the news, ‘we have a baby and can Teresa come and help’,” said Neto. “We got a picture of the baby and she was cute as a button.”

She got very excited at the opportunity to travel to Canada and help take care of her brother’s baby immediately jumping on the opportunity.

Not long after arriving in Canada Neto began taking night school. She had already begun learning how to drive in Portugal and continued her education in Canada eventually obtaining her driver’s license.

She then began working at the Nechako restaurant filling in wherever she was needed.

“I started working there and I noticed I was having trouble being there with my allergies, sneezing and every time I eat I had an upset stomach,” said Neto. “It wasn’t my thing.”

In talking to some of the cooks they recommended that perhaps she try to get a job at Helen’s Cafe. Neto was only working part-time at the Nechako restaurant and decided to check out the cafe.

Neto went for lunch one day and spoke to the staff where she was informed that they could use the extra hand. Following a phone call and a brief interview Neto was hired at the cafe but decided out of respect for her original employer she would take part-time work at the cafe.

Eventually, her allergies became too much to deal with and she quit her job at the Nechako restaurant. Months later she met up with one of the waitresses from Nechako Restaurant and found out she moved to the Chalet. She then invited Neto to apply there as well. Neto did apply at the Chalet and got the job, giving her two weeks at the cafe to begin her new stint at the Chalet.

“I worked there for six months and then I went to college in terrace,” said Neto. “I have been working towards getting my grade 10 and 12.”

Her goal was to get into hairstyling which required her to complete grade 10. She was hired on to be an apprentice at the Pine Plaza beauty salon and Nechako hair salon as the people that hired her owned both of the locations.

Her love of hairstyling began at a young age as she styled her hair nearly every day in a different fashion. In Portugal, she was friends with a girl who was a number of years older, when the girl got married she invited Neto to do her hair for the big day.

“It kind of freaked me out but at the same time I was excited,” she said. “I put it in big curls in the back and a big red rose on the side and off she went to her wedding, that was my first trial.”

Neto, having been hired as an apprentice in Kitimat went to Vancouver to attend school for her apprenticeship. She attended the Vancouver City College on 250 Pender St. where she did two months of her schooling before heading back to work for a year.

She enjoyed her time in college reminiscing about times she spent with her classmates getting dinner and watching other classes do their work.

“I would buy dinner at the cafeteria, have dinner and then go off to watch the next class do their foot massages and watch the nail technicians work,” said Neto.

She finished her schooling in Vancouver and eventually returned to Kitimat and found out that she was going to be taking on the role of manager at the Pine Plaza Beauty Salon.

“I had no idea how to be a manager, I just got thrown into it and they taught me how to do some accounting, I knew a bit already,” said Neto.

Even though she was nervous at the beginning it was a role she found herself in for 25 years, taking on apprentices and passing on her expertise to others. She spent much of her early career in hairstyling showcasing her talents through competitions.

“I did a lot of competition work, I competed every year, some were in Vancouver, some were in Prince George with the most being in Terrace and Prince Rupert,” said Neto. “Kitimat has never held one of those hairstyling competitions because we never had enough people interested.”

She collected countless trophies throughout her competition days.

Neto eventually got married to her husband Jose with whom she shares a daughter, Lara. After spending 25 years at the Pine Plaza Beauty Salon she decided it was time for her to take an extended vacation and head back to Portugal with her daughter.

She returned to Kitimat after the vacation and after a couple of more gigs as a hairstylist opened her own store – Teresa’s House of Beauty.

Neto has been running her hair salon for nearly 20 years.