Georgia man becomes cosmetology school principal after 16 years in prison

‘I was labeled as a menace to society but I do community work, never been back, never been in trouble. I fight for families outside of this place, with advocacy.’
Published: Jan. 4, 2023 at 11:13 PM EST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - A story of redemption for a man who served more than a decade in prison. He is now a principal at a cosmetology school in Tucker, proving that no matter your past, you are in charge of your future.

“I was 19. Prior to that, I had good grades. I was active duty United States Air Force,” said Chris Willars, “I was the driver in a robbery.”

Chris served 16 years and 11 months in prison. Once he was released, he married his wife April, and the couple opened a cosmetology school called Lasting Layers of Beauty Institute. Chris and his wife wanted to bring their students more than a cosmetology education so they bring in financial experts and other resources. Many of the students I spoke to while shooting these interviews told me they felt like they were walking into their second home when they came to class.

One student told Atlanta News First that the staff taught her how to dream. She said she didn’t have a vision for her life before she came to Lasting Layers of Beauty Institute.

Some of the students do know Chris’s story. They say they felt inspired that they could face whatever they were going through outside of class, and not let those circumstances define them.

“I never knew that this type of impact would be made,” said April Willars.

“There are a bunch of us who didn’t let the system change us,” said Chris, “There are countless individuals who have been incarcerated who are counseling, mentoring who are coming home, who are husbands, fathers, business owners. We just don’t get talked about enough.”