September 18, 2020
I l o v e doing hair.
I have loved it since I was a little girl.
Unfortunately, like most women, I was negatively impacted by the beauty industry's media output. When I was in high school I began to struggle with my body image and I am still, to this day, unpacking and learning the roots of that.
Doing hair is a huge part of the beauty industry. And so, to put it simply, it has been a long journey with my love/hate relationship with the Beauty Industry. One of the ways I have found to connect with this complexity in a healthy way is “The Beauty Project.” This is the story of how it came to be. So buckle up!
Welcome to The Beauty Project's roots!
When I was a little girl I would do all of my friends’ hair, my hair, and my doll’s hair. I was that friend that would go over to someone's house and before they knew it everyone had cornrows tied with their brace’s rubber bands.
In 7th grade, we took a course on careers. There was some part of me that already knew what I was going to do with my life, so it was then that I declared that I would be a hairstylist. As my freshman year of high school came and went, I found myself struggling to figure out who I was and what I stood for, which left me feeling out of control and with major body image problems that I didn't discuss or share with anyone.
I graduated from the high school "hell hole" a semester early. I almost immediately started beauty school with a strong determination to be the best (my best) and formed a mantra that I would say to myself as I fell asleep at night in hopes of it one day coming true, “I am healthy. I am wealthy. I am beautiful. I am an amazing cosmetologist.” (It seemed to work, btw.)
Beauty school was tough, but I was tougher. I came out on top, receiving my license, and a salon job immediately.
And this is where the “Love Story” really begins…
I began with an open mind to learning from anyone that would teach me anything about hair. I was like a sponge. I took it all in from how to hold your body, where to part the hair, what ratio of color, etc. I was SWOOON with learning how to do my lifelong, childhood dream! As some time went on, my sponge didn’t have a filter on it and, though I was taking in so much information and knowledge about how to do actual hair, the politics and drama of the salon also began to seep into my veins and I began to feel the toxic venom of the beauty industry’s shadows.
I took space from this toxic job. I traveled and moved. Worked in another salon. Traveled some more and then moved again.
I remember loving to do hair so much, that the pain of how fucked up and challenging being in the industry is, is something I was not prepared for because they don’t teach you that shit in school.
I was blindsided and disappointed.
Then one day, staring out my window at “Painted Rock Mountain” and stretching my legs, I had a thought...
Really, it was a string of ideas, a big vision… my own salon/space, yoga/meditation, dance/ movement, art, workshops, wellness and a bunch of cool new agey shit that I was into all in one place! It was going to be called, “The Beauty Project”!
I got SOOOOO EXCITED. It was like I had found my life partner. Only instead of it being my romantic partner, it was my “work/project” partner… the thing I would spend my 20s exploring.
I wasn’t ready to start my own business, I could barely feed myself or my goldfish.
So, I took my one and only college class, Psychology of Women. It was there that I started The Beauty Project -- it was a research project where I had a list of questions that I asked my friends about their self esteem and what the heck beauty was to them? I fell IN LOVE AGAIN with beauty and the beauty industry through this project. It was like this magical expression that everyone knew about but couldn’t quite put their finger on.
In every one of the salons that I worked at I picked up a new skill or piece of knowledge that helped create the stylist I would later become. And in every salon I learned more about what kind of leadership I wanted around me or what kind of space I wanted to work in. More importantly, I learned a lot about what I didn’t want and what I thought was unacceptable and intolerable.
It was like dating!
I remember it was always a concern to potential bosses after reading my resume and seeing how much I moved around, they viewed that as flaky or unreliable. I saw it as a piece of brilliance! Of course, I couldn’t commit my life to working for them for even a year or two at that time. I was young and wasn’t sure if I would even like working for them. I take this all very seriously now. Perhaps even to a fault (more on that another time).
And then I moved again. This was the "Big One." I moved to a little town, Santa Cruz, on the coast of California that was filled with magical years of growth, transition, education, and movement.
I found an artist immersion program pretty much immediately upon my arrival. And though I wasn’t ready to do the program because I had just moved there, I talked to one of the facilitators, who would later become a good friend, mentor, and phenomenal human being that I admire. I told him about my idea called, “The Beauty Project” and asked him if it would be something that could work with his program. He said, “YES. Come to our meeting next week.”
I went. It was super cool. And I knew that as soon as the next year’s program started, I would be ready.
I also found a salon that I would work in for over a year. It was here that I finally began taking all of the skills of random things that I learned over the past five years and applied it to my new clientele. It was pretty neat to start stepping into the power of being in the beauty industry after so many years of being “scattered” or “unstable,” as some would call it... or as I would call it, “committed to finding the right place for me and willing to try out all the places until it felt right and worked for me.”
A year later, I began my venture of “The Beauty Project -- Exploring the Blend of Inner and Outer Beauty” and I was immediately met with inspiration to make this dream happen -- action, motivation to overcome challenges, and growth for things that I had no idea how to accomplish. I met with 50 people for interviews. I had no idea what I was doing at first. It was so precious to be in a “beginner's mind” -- one of the best places to be (you can read more about this section of my journey in "Gallery 2017-18").
As that year went on, I actually moved and changed salons one more time. Something about doing the project brought out more desire and empowerment for myself and my career. The salon I "ended up in'' would be the salon I would fall in love with and build more clientele and depth within myself.
My artist immersion program ended and I needed some major space from my project. I had worked my ass off to get it all done. I was proud of myself but, man, I needed a break.
The little book that I made got to live on the coffee table at the salon for awhile. It felt so good when people would take the time to actually read it. I would secretly watch them to see their intent and expressions reading it. It felt even better when people would ask if they could buy a copy (not available at this time.)
As time went on, I got an amazing clientele and I had the life that I dreamt of and had worked so hard to create.
However, from time to time, I would get little glimpses of leaving to go see the world. Leaving and exploring and never coming back. All that I fell in love with began to lose its magic. I soon would outgrow this town and my need to work for something else started to come back. And started to feel stuck in a commitment to something that I was ready to let go of. I began slowly taking one finger off the steering wheel at a time of a life that I was so grateful to have, yet knew I was way too comfortable and complacent in. One finger at a time, I allowed my white knuckles to relax and let go of the control I was gripping onto so tightly.
My heart leaning forward, eager to let it throw me around a bit allowing some discomfort in hopes that I would grow some more.
And so there I was, a year ago on September 20th, without a job, with a one way ticket to Nashville, with no clue of what the fuck I was going to do next. I traveled around for a long time, sometimes coming back to my hometown for a couple of months, only to leave again.
Then after a healthy amount of traveling and boppin' around checking things out, the whole world went into shutdown. Although parts of the world were and still are handling it differently, something that stood out to me was that we are all going through this at the same time.
When the shutdown began and I decided that I needed to go back home, the first couple months I was numbed out. I was integrating into a new way of being -- in stillness. I had never done that before at that capacity as I was always on the go and I certainly wasn’t used to it nor would I choose it for myself.. much like a lot of people during the shutdown.
But as time went on, I was able to start reflecting upon myself and why I made the choices I did and what got me to this point in my life. One of the riskiest things that I did was quit my salon job, with a full clientele and a life that I had wanted and was so driven to create. It was a bold move that I had made the previous year. And, to take some time away from doing hair and Santa Cruz was much needed for my mind, heart, body, and soul. It was a chance to see if I would miss it. It was a chance to see if I really was a hairstylist at heart and wanted to be in the beauty industry.
And so, while I was judging myself for gaining weight like never before and sitting on the couch reading about people protesting for haircuts, I began to wonder about my place in the industry.
Where do I stand in all of this?
A question I love asking myself— What do I stand for?
A part of me was so glad that I left when I did... I got to do the traveling and wandering that I wanted and didn’t have to deal with rescheduling my clientele a million times. Part of me felt like an outsider because I wasn’t getting hit by the shutdown in the way my salon friends were and I didn’t know what that really felt like. And then, there was a part of me that knew that I still belonged and actually always would.
I was on the phone with a dear friend crying that my pants didn’t fit anymore, that I had no motivation for anything, and that I wasn’t doing anything productive with this time... and then, it dawned on me. I knew that I wasn’t the only one going through this. Heck, the whole world was going through this!
I began thinking about “The Beauty Project” again, how it helped me so much a few years ago to get connected with myself, others and my “why?”. I began to get really excited thinking about this project from a few years ago when I had interviewed 50 people asking them what beauty means to them and what it is that makes them beautiful. It was a research project and I created a little book about it. I could do something like that again.
I talked to a few of my mentors and friends about what the next version of this project could be.
And I came up with, “The Beauty Project - Exploring the Beauty Industry.” I was going to interview people that work in the industry about beauty, what the beauty industry means to them, what they would like people to know about the industry, and why they are beautiful. I wanted to talk about current events and how it was impacting their businesses and selves.
I am so excited to tell you that I did exactly that!
To tell you all that I gained from the ten people I interviewed would be too much for this post (check following posts for each person's blog). Suffice to say, these precious humans that work in the beauty industry are some of the most valued and simultaneously, undervalued people on the planet. They are creative, smart, and driven to make you feel good about yourself. They are some of the most selfless people that I have ever met. Their ability to create art on your head or on your tiny finger nail while you talk about your life is some of the most astonishing multi-tasking. They have such an ability to create and hold space for you while you cry about your break up, listen to you gab on and on about your weekend, or jump up and down with you when you find out that you are pregnant. They hold your hand when you find out you have cancer or you had a miscarriage. They will show up for you at 6 a.m. for your wedding day hair, if that’s what it takes to get the job done!
These are the people that go into the industry knowing the costs of what they are signing themselves up for -- being viewed as dumb because they couldn’t find something else to do with their life, so they’ll “just do hair.” But in reality, they just want to make you feel good, because in turn that helps you go out into the world and make it a better place. It's wildly selfless in my opinion. Vanity or just truth, that’s how that works. When you feel good, the hope is that you do good. And getting your hair shampooed by someone else feels good! It is a relaxing reset.