Queen of the desert.

Merrill Gratton, from TAFE South Australia, is passionate about hair and beauty, but the small population and large distances in South Australia presented a two-fold problem when it came to providing training in regional areas.

Firstly, establishing permanent training centres is a very expensive undertaking. Secondly, travelling at night in South Australia can be hazardous due to the danger of kangaroos on the roads. This meant students would be highly restricted in their availability. The solution? A Mercedes Sprinter Van named ‘Priscilla,’ converted into a mobile beauty and training centre.

From her conception, it took two years to bring Priscilla to life, fitted out with teaching space, mirrors, lighting, washbasins, greywater catchment, and a disability lifter that doubles as a platform for getting a generator in and out easily. With eyelashes added as a cosmetic flourish, Priscilla even boasts a fold-down veranda covered by an awning - a literal training platform. 

Gratton says the conversion represented excellent value for money, considering the cost of setting up permanent facilities. On the van itself, Merrill was adamant. “We always wanted a Mercedes, there was never any doubt about that. We really wanted to have something high-quality and classy. A vehicle that is representative of the fashion industry as we see it.”

Aside from the brand’s obvious suitability to an industry focussed on elegance, the van resolved several practical considerations too. It was essential that the van required only a normal driver’s licence, and the conversion was user-friendly enough to place no limits on who could set it up. “We can have it up or down in 15 minutes,” says Gratton.

Priscilla’s main driver, Lisa Brennan, has covered 1000kms so far. “I like how she (Priscilla) drives. Although it looks like a truck, and has all this heavy stuff in it, it drives just like a car.” Brennan praises the Sprinter’s excellent turning circle, and its power steering, but most of all, Lisa says she loves the Bluetooth audio for the long distances across the desert. “When you’ve got your music, it’s just like a proper road trip.”

Back in town, Priscilla attended Adelaide fashion week, providing hair and makeup for the models. Priscilla also played a part in ‘Haircuts for the Homeless.’ Gratton says, “Our hairdressers are really passionate about giving back.” At other events, Priscilla offers a free nail bar, blow dry bar, massage bar, and makeup bar to the public. Gratton says this helps promote beauty and makeup as a career, while providing students with innovative ideas for businesses of their own. Priscilla still has plenty of miles ahead of her.

To read more about how Shane Delia transformed his Sprinter for his business, click here.