A renowned Massachusetts beauty brand is facing an ugly reality that is creating financial trouble for students, customers and staff.

Jaylean Sawyer always hoped to start her own beauty business.

“I want to be a boss lady, honestly, a boss woman. I want to be my own boss, make my own hours,” Sawyer said.

To take the first step towards this goal, she enrolled in the Elizabeth Grady School of Esthetics in Medford last spring.

“I was all for it,” Sawyer said. She was juggling classes with her full-time job.

Sirilak Prawanna also wanted to improve her beauty skills and decided to enroll at the school. She had already taken massage classes through Elizabeth Grady and was excited to expand her options.

However, both women say learning was difficult because of disorganization and lack of supplies at the school.

“It was a little bit difficult to learn how to do certain steps in a facial without these certain products,” Sawyer said.

Prawanna said she paid for make-up supplies in her tuition but they never received them.

And while both hoped the situation would improve, it didn’t.

The school was evicted from its Medford location in January because rent wasn’t paid. This caused classes to be moved online and teachers started leaving.

“Even the instructors were left hanging, so they couldn’t tell us anything and we also didn’t hear anything from the owner or the director of the school, so we were just waiting to see what was going on,” Prawanna said.

Weeks later the state shut down the school because of the eviction.

“I honestly had a full-blown panic attack. I’m paying out of pocket for school. I am on financial aid but I’m literally working every single day just so I can go to school,” Sawyer said.

Students are able to transfer their credit but many told 7 Investigates they struggled to find other part-time options or programs that were compatible.

“We were all blindsided by this. I feel like a lot of students wouldn’t apply if we knew ahead of time,” Sawyer said.

The students were unaware that trouble had been brewing for Elizabeth Grady School of Esthetics for a while. Kathleen DeNicola took over as the president in 2021.

Lawsuits claim she owes millions of dollars in loans, unpaid rent and taxes.

In addition to owning the school in Medford, she also runs seven Elizabeth Grady salons. State records show she holds the licenses for the Elizabeth Grady salons in Andover, Acton, Beverly, Burlington, Framingham, Saugus and Swampscott.

7 Investigates repeatedly tried to contact DeNicola and her attorney but did not hear back.

Joanne Hofmann is one of the customers who has gone to the Burlington salon for decades.

“I thought they were professional and I like to keep up my beauty regime,” Hofmann said.

When she called to try to schedule a facial in February a worker told her everybody was gone and there was no supplies.

This came as a shock to Hofmann who had $400 in gift cards.

She said she can’t find another Elizabeth Grady salon that is still open to accept them.

“This is not right, it’s not right, not right for me or anyone else,” Hofmann said.

Months later, 7 Investigates found more customers locked out and showing up for appointments at the Burlington salon, only to learn it was closed.

We repeatedly called all of DeNicola’s salons. We couldn’t reach anyone on the phone at any of their locations.

While customers are looking for new salons, Sawyer and Prawanna are struggling to makeover their beauty careers.

“Now I have to start over from the beginning,” Sawyer said.

“”I was scammed; that’s how I felt,” Prawanna echoed. “It’s just so sad that you cannot take back the time, you cannot take back anything and I just lose it for nothing.”

7 Investigates did get in touch with the Elizabeth Grady salons not licensed to DeNicola. Many said they are running normally and plan to stay open and rebrand.. However, they are not accepting gift cards not sold at their location.

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office has received a number of complaints related to Elizabeth Grady. The office told consumers in March, “we are not aware of any information that might help us in recovering funds on consumers’ behalf.”

The AG recommended consumers discuss charges with their credit card company or consider filing a claim in Small Claims Court.

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