Born and raised in Ferndale, Michigan, Carlean Gill attended Lewis Business College, after which she gained quick entrance into the entertainment industry as a professional model. It was while working as a model that she landed the ultimate job that would forever change her life. Carlean became a “Fiesta Doll” in the historic Arthur Braggs’ Idlewild Review, traveling with such acts as Della Reese, the Four Tops and Temptations.
In the early 1960s, while on weekend breaks, Carlean started her cosmetology career, enrolling in classes at All American Beauty College in Saginaw, Michigan. Shortly thereafter, she opened Carlean’s Beauty Salon, which she successfully ran until 1988. During her career, she kept herself at the forefront of the cosmetology industry through continual education in the US and aboard; her international training included Milan, Italy, Africa, and Seoul Korea. Throughout her career she worked at salons around the US, and it was her position at J&F Salon in Oakland, California that led to her participation in the National Hair Weaving Championship Competition. Carlean won two consecutive National Hair Weaving Championship titles.
After 30 years of operating Carlean’s Beauty Salon, Carlean decided it was time to take cosmetology to the next level and opened Saginaw Beauty Academy and Saginaw Barber College. Saginaw Beauty Academy was credited for graduating Michigan’s first hearing-impaired cosmetology student as well as many of the top producing cosmetologists and barbers in the Saginaw Metro Area. The opening of Saginaw Beauty Academy was one of her most fulfilling business opportunities as it allowed her to change the lives of others economically. In 1998 and 1999, Carlean traveled to Harare Zimbabwe to support the opening of Naturana Beauty College in which there is a library dedicated in her honor. Carlean has unselfishly used all her talent and skills to encourage women of color to have the confidence to emphasize their beauty.
In addition to cosmetology, Carlean was a pioneer in the horse racing business becoming the first African American thoroughbred horse breeder and farmer in Saginaw County. Over the years Carlean has been named Frontier Businesswoman of the Year, honored with the Great Seal of Michigan by Governor Jim Blanchard, and named a Saginaw Lady of Top Distinction. Along with numerous other organizations Carlean is one of the founding members of the Saginaw African American Business Association better known as SAAMBA.
Carlean never forgets her community, she continues to give back by providing beauty and career workshops as well as participating with charitable groups such as the Red Cross with whom she worked after Hurricane Katrina and Habitat for Humanity with whom she traveled to Ghana, Africa to work in May 2006. However, in addition to all her accomplishments, her proudest most rewarding achievement has been raising her daughter Nicole.