Musings of a cynical perfectionist, trapped inside a bubbly hairstylist.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Love of my Life (so far)

I wrote most of this for an application to the cosmetology program at Vidal Sassoon. I was fresh out of college and used to busting out essays at the last minute. Let's just say, it seemed a little wordy and excessive compared to the paragraphs my peers wrote. (I got used to eye rolls from emo 18 year olds with blue pixie cuts- i think it was also because I looked more like one of the Hooters girls who worked next door, unfortunately) But, even as I wrote it, I felt more and more sure of the direction I wanted my life and career to go, so I'm glad I purged such silly memories onto paper. I think it sums up the path to my career pretty well...

I’ve been into hair and makeup for as long as I can remember. When I was growing up, I spent more time braiding my doll’s hair than doing pretty much anything else. My older sister would get angry with me because every time she saw her dolls, they had a different hairstyle, so she knew I had touched them. I spent a worrisome amount of time numbering and organizing my ever-growing collection of nail polishes and giving my mother pedicures and foot rubs, which I somehow was tricked into thinking were my idea. My most memorable fight with a friend from my childhood started when I wouldn’t let my best friend Ashley put make-up on me, even though she always let me put hers on. At the time it somehow made sense that I was the only one qualified.
As I got older I became interested in performing, and that consumed most of my time, between dance lessons, rehearsals, and performances. When I started doing musical theater, I discovered stage make-up, and my love of it. I will never forget how excited I was the day they gave out our make-up kits. I suddenly was thrilled at my miniscule role as a dancing flower in “Alice in Wonderland,” because it involved elaborate, bright, eye makeup with swirls of color that extended out onto the cheeks and temples. The make-up artist for our production was an overweight, grumpy man named Phil who did not appreciate an 11-year-old telling him when his lines were wobbly on her eyeliner, or constantly begging him to let her try it herself. Throughout the two-month run of the show, I slowly convinced him to let me do my own eye make-up, and gradually was allowed to apply it for more and more cast members, until I was arriving early every day and in charge of eight other girls’ elaborate bright swirls, which Phil lectured me over and over again “did not need to be so perfect; the audience is far away!” I, however, was more concerned with the pictures we took backstage, cheek to cheek, with me casually bringing the camera uncomfortably close to our faces, so the detail would be more visible. The next few summers I was in plays with the same theater troupe, but no longer had to fight for my right to apply makeup. I gleefully became a goblin with sunken eyes night after night, a riverboat dancer with a perfectly groomed wig and painstakingly applied false eyelashes, and a fairy godmother, who was much more wrinkly than was perhaps necessary for the role.

            When I went to high school, my love for musical theater took a backseat to cheerleading, which I embraced wholeheartedly, becoming Captain, Choreographer, and Poster-maker Extraordinaire. I slept in pink rollers before every pep rally or game, in order to pile perfect curls on top of my head, complete with a sparkly ribbon. Oh yeah, I was THAT girl. I also went through a phase where I applied colored glitter in place of eye shadow for every game, and used up all my “True Colors” glitter on the rest of my squad when they lined up before games for me to beautify. I actually think we spent more time primping than practicing, which was probably obvious from the performance. I also had my first taste of the business side of things when I started charging for prom updos. Yeah twisties!

            When I started attending UCLA in 2003, I thought I would never be around such “girly” girls again… then I joined a sorority. Suddenly I was living in a house with 54 other girls, getting ready every morning sharing a huge mirror with a sea of faces, exchanging make-up and tips before every big event, and constantly being bombarded (to my delight) by requests for me to do someone’s hair or makeup for an event or a big date. I had guinea pigs at my disposal like never before, and got to try things I’d always wanted to do, like highlighting hair (using kitchen foil, a pencil for weaving, and a poster sponge to apply, which was eaten away by the end!) or cutting it short (using only a Venus divine razor- she loved it!). When I think about some of the things these girls let me try on them, fully aware I was so inexperienced, I’m touched by their faith in me, and profoundly worried about their judgment.

           During college I got more involved in acting, and started doing student films and day player work. Every set I was on, no matter how low budget it was, had a make-up artist or hairstylist, and I was always intent on making friends with them and talking about their career, or their favorite tricks of the trade. I was always so jealous of what they got to do every day, jealous that they got paid for something I’ve spent so many hours, so many days, doing for free.

 Looking back on it now, I’m surprised it took me so long to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I think because doing hair and make-up has always been such an innate thing to me, and something I enjoyed so much, it never really occurred to me I could turn a hobby into a career. I finally realized that no matter how many phases I’ve gone through in my life, and how many hobbies or interests I’ve had, this really is the one thing I’ve never given up when something new and interesting came along. It’s always been a part of my life, and a way for me to be artistic and creative on a daily basis, and somehow it turned into something I could make a career and a name out of.

My job is amazing. People come in feeling crappy, and leave feeling hot. I watch an all-day makeover marathon in my mirror, and it satisfies me the way a newly painted room can. I have interesting conversations with people from absolutely any and every profession or walk of life, and am surrounded by 30 other stylists from all over the world with the most colorful, funny, and ridiculous personalities. I have a skill I can barter for many things I would have paid for anyway (my pilates intructor has beautiful hair), and can wear whatever weird outfit i want, whether its a tutu or all leather. When I need a change from the salon, I do work on tv shows or photography and get back into the artistry of it all. When I do weddings I'm part of an incredibly personal and sweet day and forever feel a connection to that bride, as she does to me. I've recently started teaching styling for Shu Uemura salons all over and just became a cutting instructor at my salon, where our hungry assistants have brought out in me a need to share knowledge i didn't know i had. Best of all, I feel vindicated for every time I was judged for being too ‘girly’, every time I got in trouble in school for playing with someone’s hair (it happened in three separate grades spanning ten years, to be exact) or being too chatty. Now it all just feels like job training. And yes, mom, I did find a job where I could sleep in every morning. I told you I would.

I can still bitch about my feet hurting, though, right?

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