HARMONY ARTIST STORIES:
YOU'LL NEVER MAKE IT IN THIS INDUSTRY
There are three things that have changed my career: uncertainty, trauma, and fear.
“If you want something we can’t give you, go get a job.”
I was fourteen when my mom said that to me. I’ll never forget it. See, I had a great childhood, so great that I had no idea how impoverished we were until I was well into my twenties. We ate Hamburger Helper regularly while my parents saved to buy a home in a better neighborhood. I grew up in a working class family from the south suburbs of Chicago. I was oblivious to their struggles, and an asshole of a teenager but, I did get a job at fourteen and haven’t stopped working since.
I became a licensed Esthetician in 2001, and the first five years of my career were an absolute mess. I bounced around employers hoping that the next opportunity would change my future. Eventually, something shifted when I began working at a salon and spa specializing in brows, and the service became an obsession. Three and a half years later, it was the longest job I’d held in the industry and it was about to end.
After Thanksgiving in 2009, my co-workers and I received a phone call from our employer letting us know they were closing their doors. It was a month before Christmas, in the height of the recession, and we were instantly out of a job. Stefanie, one of my co-workers, contacted me right away and asked if I wanted to do something together. Apprehensively, I said yes.
“Don’t ask me to pay your fucking rent.” That’s what my ex-boyfriend said when I told him about the opportunity. I hated him for that statement at the time, but I love him for it now. Looking back, I know that if he did financially support me, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I had a few hundred dollars to my name, I needed to make it count and I needed to survive. The uncertainty I had for my future fed every ounce of desire to make our little business succeed.
A couple years later, The Browtique was doing incredibly well. Business was thriving, word was spreading, and our schedules were filling up. It was one of the happiest times in my life but that was going to change.
“Diana? I’m sorry to tell you this but, Devin passed away last night.” Devin and I had met on a blind date 10 years earlier. I’ll never forget the moment we made eye contact for the first time, the chemistry between us was instantaneous and undeniable. We only dated for a couple of months. I lived in Kentucky at the time and moved back home shortly after we met, but affinity fueled our friendship.
A certain level of trauma occurs to us when someone with that kind of prevalence is suddenly gone. It changes you, and you’re never quite the same again. There’s a pain that haunts your heart from that day forward. I had no one to confide in.had I barely knew any one of his friends or family and he hardly knew mine. After everyone left the funeral, I went back to the cemetery, sat there alone and watched them bury one of my best friends. My head was spinning, everything stopped, yet I had a business to run and all I could think about was, what could I have done to prevent his suicide? I questioned my life and everything in it. The hardest thing in our industry is pretending like everything is okay when you are emotionally falling apart and the best thing is, it is our biggest distraction.
A couple of months passed, and my partner Stefanie and I decided to open our own brick and mortar location. Exciting right? I sat on the floor of our new location, realized something wasn’t right and it was me. In that moment, I started recognizing the signs of depression. I realized my life could take two drastically different paths and at that point, I had to choose what I wanted, happiness or anguish. It’s not that easy I know, and I still struggle but, I knew for damn sure I wanted to be happy again. I poured myself into work like never before and I was non-stop. At the start of 2013, I set a goal to be booked a week in advance and by the end of the year, I was booked three weeks out.
Mary Ritcherson is the reason I got into permanent makeup. I came across a photo of her work and my jaw dropped. Blown away was an understatement. I studied images of her work and was enamored with the hyper-realistic, perfect, precision of every hair stroke and I frantically began to research training. I knew it was some form of permanent makeup but didn’t know specifically. I googled everything under the sun and found nothing. Eventually my search paid off and I came across microblading. I assumed it was the same service Mary offered but training was impossible to find.
Between working full-time, running The Browtique and building a community of estheticians, creating t-shirts, online training, and working on a product line for my new baby, Arch Addicts™, I was consumed. Permanent makeup was still in the back of my mind though. I’d go delirious for hours searching for credible microblading training and at one point, was ready to book a flight to Europe.
In December 2014, I heard Branko Babic was coming to the US and his first course was in Chicago. I signed up without hesitation. The class was held in April, 2015 and although the experience was wonderful, the service was downright terrifying. I wasn’t sure if I had the capability of offering this. It was by far the most challenging service I’ve ever taken on in my career. Being established in the industry and specializing in eyebrows, no one had higher expectations of myself then I did, but I also felt there was an added pressure of meeting the expectations from my clients and colleagues who assumed I would be a natural.
I never want to look back at my life and regret not doing something because of fear. I had to get over my anxiety. I practiced for six months prior to taking on clients and took a supplement before every service to calm my jitters. As I began to participate in the forums, I became even more overwhelmed. I questioned whether this was worth the investment of my time and money. In July of 2015, I took a permanent makeup fundamentals course at The Beau Institute and then, a few months later, I attended Daria Chuprys advanced micro stroking class. It took my confidence and microblading technique to another level. Most recently, I attended Shades and Strokes™ taught by Teryn Darling and Mary Ritcherson which was one of the best educational experiences I’ve had to date.
A little epiphany came to mind one day that alleviated the confusion and doubts I had in myself. Every artists’ approach, technique, and aftercare will entirely change depending on the individual, their location, environment, and demographic of clientele. As far as I’ve learned, there isn’t one approach that works for everyone. We have to find our own paths within the industry.
I whole-heartedly believe that all of us have a divine strength within ourselves; you are capable of anything. I know my heartaches have been experienced by many; we all have a story and this is mine. There’s a beautiful thing that comes from our struggling and it is the ability it gives you to find your own power. Every night I turn off the lights, lock the door to our shop, and smile again.