Today’s interview consists of my favorite questions from previous interviews. Some of them have been altered slightly.
Why did you decide to build a career in the beauty industry?
The simple answer is because I’m a naturally creative person who loves to do makeup. Even when I wasn’t very good at it, I was still pretty good at it. And because my parents instilled a great deal of unearned confidence in me as a child, I kept practicing and getting better even when the eyeliner was too thick, my brows looked too dark, or someone called me a “clown” with too much blush on. It never seemed to phase me much. I didn’t take it personally because my creations were always somewhat separate from myself. More like art, less like glamour.
I think that careers in the beauty industry can absolutely be trained, taught, and learned. However, I think that many of the most successful beauty professionals I know have a bit of natural talent somewhere. Whether it’s practical, like makeup application, or a little bit more abstract, like the ability to communicate well and deeply empathize with others.
The complicated answer is more along the lines of the Oprah quote: “You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you intend.” I always positioned myself in a job near to the beauty industry. My original idea was to join my best friend Ashley Ellix, and attend beauty school right out of high school. Then go to college to get my writing degree once I had a career that could pay for it. I graduated when I was seventeen, and my parents wouldn’t allow it. Beauty school dropout and all that, I guess. So I went to journalism school first. Looking back on it, that allowed me to seriously build my knowledge in the industry. Working at Victoria’s Secret (running their beauty department), Estee Lauder, doing freelance artistry and working the front desk at a spa paid the bills while I was in college, but provided me with some serious beauty experience. And a lot of real business experience.
I moved up the ladder and was offered a couple of different pathways: climbing the corporate chain with Victoria’s Secret, or becoming a full time esthetician at a spa I worked at. I chose the latter, knowing that small business was more my style, and I didn’t know if I wanted to leave the area. Years later I was approached about a business partnership and the idea of owning (or co-owning) my own skincare and makeup studio was suddenly an option. I had never considered that before. A couple of years later after that deal fell through, I opened my own studio. You get what you intend. Even if you’re not exactly sure what that looks like.
I think that for me it was always important that I have a job that allowed me to be creative, and work as far away from “the man” as possible. I work very well with others, however, I do not work well with bosses. I think that just as important, coming out of college with a ton of student debt, from a family that struggled with money, I needed to work in an industry that could give me monetary security. News writing is not that industry. It doesn’t pay very well, and it’s highly politicized so I knew my dreams of writing about what I was passionate about would be crushed, leaving me disillusioned. I also think that in the back of my mind I somehow knew that I wanted to keep writing close, to save it for later when I could choose what I would write about.
Now, my beauty career is more about community and entrepreneurship and less about the art. Reconciling those two aspects of business is the journey I’m currently on. But I wouldn’t trade it in for anything else.
What’s it like working with your sister?
It’s the most stress-free work environment I can imagine because we both just do our jobs. I know that sounds incredibly simplistic, but it’s the truth. We take care of our clients, show up on time, keep the shop clean, offer the same level of service, and are basically on the same page regarding all political and social issues that we may encounter as a business. Essentially, we don’t have to deal with any annoying coworker or boss issues, and we can trust each other with the business as a whole, and with each other’s clients.
Most people assume that we spend a lot of time together, but because we’re estheticians and spend 99% of our time in our treatment rooms, we actually see each other for about ten minutes a day. So we have to schedule time outside of work to see each other!
I love working with Christina and am happy that I was able to create a safe space for us to work together and build our careers. As an older sister it also makes me feel proud to watch her succeed.
Do you think working with predominantly female clientele and colleagues help to create a sense of community? If so, why?
YES. The answer to this question is simple for me. The more women I collaborate with, meet, and have as clients, the more full my life becomes, and the stronger our community and world become.
As girls, we’re taught the lie that women don’t work well together. That we are “catty, not supportive, back-stabbing,” and “dramatic” when we form groups. This is a lie the patriarchy constructed to keep us separated from each other, and out of our collective power. I believe with ever fiber of my being that our liberation lies is collaboration and empowerment of other women.
Women are people. We are individuals. We all have personalities and problems and flaws. We will not all get along with each other. However, there is nothing written in our DNA that states that once too many of us enter into the same room, we magically turn into passive aggressive bitches. We need to unlearn it, and I think the way that I’ve unlearned this lie is by putting myself in room after room after room full of women. In beauty school, in college (I was a Woman’s Studies minor), at work in a female-dominated industry, and by actively going to other businesses owned and run by women.
All the business connections I’ve made, the friends that have lifted me up, the opportunities I’ve been recommended for and the success I’ve had in my industry are all possible due to a strong network of women. Plain and simple.
What is beauty to you and how do you use your work to foster this idea?
To me, beauty is a lot of things. But mostly it’s a choice. Beauty is whatever you need it to be in that moment, for you, because ultimately it’s a feeling, and it’s fluid.
We have all been taught (especially as women) what is considered “beautiful.” I think that real beauty comes in the messy unlearning of that false ideal. In discovering what makes you feel good, happy, healthy and whole.
Beauty can be the full face of makeup you put on to cover up your sadness, or the full face of makeup you put on because you’re happy. It can be the feeling you get from a clean face. It can be art. It can be practical. It can be a feeling of calm, or a feeling of excitement. It can be messy or orderly. Dark or light, subtle or loud. It can take physical form outside the body in many ways but it’s also something inside of us.
At this point in my career, I think that one of the most important things I try to keep in mind is that my goal is to help you to feel beautiful. So my real job is to discover what that means. Not to impart my own ideas of what beautiful should be.
What is one valuable lesson you’ve learned from spending so much time with women of different backgrounds and life situations?
I’ve learned that I don’t know everything, and I should be grateful for what I have.
I would elaborate, but I think that is fairly self explanatory.
What is one piece of advice you have for someone wanting to enter into the beauty industry as a professional?
I learned this piece of advice from a dear friend and someone I would consider a mentor: You teach people how to treat you.
This is true in your personal life, but also in business. As a new beauty professional you will want to take every client that calls, work long and unpredictable hours, try to be nice when people don’t show up or cancel last minute, and make every concession to accommodate new clients. I did all of these things for years.
And while I absolutely think that working hard and being flexible in the beginning of your career is integral to building a solid long-term clientele, I also think that you will attract people who value the same principles and boundaries that you establish. Do you want clients that show up on time? Be prompt. Do you want clients that rarely cancel? Rarely cancel. Do you want clients that treat you like a professional? Treat your clients with professionalism.
This will, over time, eliminate potential clients that don’t understand why you’re treating them this way. Clients who are always late will rarely be compatible with a professional that always runs on time. Clients who text you at midnight will rarely be compatible with someone who clearly states their business hours in response to those texts. I also think that this helps your clients to see you as a person with a life outside of your business, not simply a service person obligated to wait on them.