The cutting edge: Big Island Beauty Academy opens in Kailua-Kona

  • Owners Monica May and David Gramlich stand in front of Big Island Beauty Academy on Luhia Street. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Llyz Palma washes Xavia Lindsey's hair at Big Island Beauty Academy. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Llyz Palma, left gets her nails done by Xavia Lindsey while Kahea Keka observes at Big Island Beauty Academy. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • A fully equipped salon with new fixtures facilitates learning at Big Island Beauty Academy. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Nail stations line the wall at Big Island Beauty Academy. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Danielle Gramlich sits at the make-up table at Big Island Beauty Academy. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Big Island Beauty Academy student Kahea Keka practices hena tattooing. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Big Island Beauty Academy students learn fundimentals in the classroom. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — Monica May couldn’t believe the Big Island was lacking a beauty school when she moved to West Hawaii five years ago.

The award-winning Vidal Sassoon-trained stylist embarked on a mission with her fiance, David Gramlich, to create a state-of-the-art school for local students pursuing careers in the beauty field. Their shared vision was realized last Tuesday when Big Island Beauty Academy’s first eight students filled the classroom to learn the basics.


“The opportunity is now here,” said May.

The 4,000-square-foot facility on Luhia Street in Kailua-Kona’s Old Industrial Area houses equipment for comprehensive courses in cosmetology, hairdressing, nail technology, aesthetics and becoming a beauty instructor. Programs range in length from 350 to 1,800 hours of instructional time.

Upon completion of state-board approved courses, students will be prepared for licensure, leading to careers at local salons, spas and hotels.

Leslie Shiotani is looking for a new career. After quitting her job, she saw Big Island Beauty School popping up on social media.

“I’ve dabbled in it over the years,” said Shiotani. “It was always fun, but never thought it could be a career for me.”

But with wanting and needing to make a move, Shiotani decided to go for it and take the 350-hour nail technology class.

“It’s scary making a life change at 44,” she commented. “But it’s an awesome opportunity.”

Continuing education classes are also offered for professionals wanting to stay-up-to-date on current trends and products.

With classes underway, May said the academy is now working toward accreditation with the National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences. The commission is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a national agency for the institutional accreditation of post-secondary schools and departments of cosmetology arts and sciences, including specialized schools.

Once accredited, May and Gramlich hope to partner with area high schools, providing a venue for much-needed vocational education to pupils.

“We want to create an opportunity for students here,” said May. “We have students who had to go off-island for school, but once they found out about us they wanted to come home.”

The next class will begin Sept. 11, and every 12 weeks thereafter. In house tuition payment plans are available, and the school is working with Goodwill Industries to provide scholarship grants to qualifying students.

Once students complete classroom instruction, instructor-supervised salon services will be available to the public at deeply discounted prices.


Prior to the opening of Big Island Beauty Academy this year, West Hawaii had been without a cosmotology school since 2006.

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