Who are the beauty industry stars that the people in class aspire to be? Is Miss Jenny a role model? Are there big six-figure earners people look up to? Does anyone aspire to a Hollywood-style job as a celebrity or Fashion Week makeup artist? Is getting in with a brand–like being a MAC artist a big thing? Just curious about the aspirations/expectations.
There’s a lot of talk about the potential to earn six figures, but I have yet to meet anyone who graduated from Beauty U and is doing that. A few weeks ago, Mr. G gathered us all in one of the classrooms to show us pictures of a former student with a big rock star because she cuts his hair now (sorry, I’m being coy to help with the whole protecting my sources thing — by which I mean the student, not the rock star!). She had emailed them over to let him know how well she is doing out in LA and he couldn’t wait to tell us about it. “This is a Beauty U graduate!” He kept saying. “This could be any one of you!”
“Do you know how she got that job?” one of the cosmetology students wanted to know. “Like, what she did after she left here to end up working for Mr. Rock Star?”
“I do not,” said Mr. G. “I’m guessing she went to New York City to get some more training and then I think she ended up moving to California for family reasons. So I don’t really know the whole story. But she started here, just like you.”
I mean, there is every chance that this former student is actually Mr. Rock Star’s niece or something. Suffice to say, her Beauty U. degree isn’t what landed him in her salon chair. It seemed like the current student population was pretty evenly divided between finding her story totally inspirational (a lot of the hair students talk about migrating to NYC for apprenticeships or additional training at big salons like Bumble & Bumble) or more of a fairytale that didn’t have much bearing on their lives.
What’s been making me a little sad is the fact that the ratio keeps skewing more towards the what-a-fairytale end of things the longer I spend in beauty school. Miss Jenny, Miss Lisa and the other teachers are absolutely role models, but more for their knowledge and talent than for their financial success, especially since Miss Jenny let slip that she’s earning “way less than $20 an hour” working at Beauty U. But when we started, several of my classmates were pumped up about the idea of being makeup artists, working on photo shoots for magazines, or at the very least, doing bridal makeup freelance or for a big spa in our area. At the midpoint, they’re talking more about working for a dermatologist or plastic surgeon. This is because the work feels more meaningful there and because you’re more likely to get health insurance.
And when I talk to the senior students who are graduating in the next month or so, even that ship has sailed. Sue started by applying to dermatologists’ offices, but no one seems to be hiring and those that are require extra training on top of your basic 600 hour Beauty U degree. So she’s selling Mary Kay cosmetics instead, hosting parties, moving $500 worth of products at a time, and bringing their promotional materials and samples in for all of us to try and buy. Her Mary Kay sales director drives the silver Chevy (which has replaced the pink Caddy, FYI) and makes a “good corporate income,” all the while being a stay at home mom to her kids. That’s living the dream.
So while facialist-to-the-stars is a nice fantasy, a ticket out of the lower middle class is more of what we’re aspiring to these days. Everyone worships brow guru Anastasia Soare, for example, but nobody seems all that connected to the notion that they could personally become the next Anastasia, with a celeb-studded client list and products in every Sephora.
I guess reality is setting in. I just hope it’s still worth $8500 in tuition payments or loans.
*Do you have any burning questions about Beauty U, behind the scenes? Hit me in the comments, email beautyschooledproject [at] gmail [dot] com, or find me over at Formspring.me, which seems to be what all the cool kids are doing now.