Category Archives: Back to Beauty U

Beauty Schooled on The Beheld!

Virginia Sole-Smith Q&A on The Beheld

My new blog friend Autumn Whitefield-Madrano writes an awesome and thoughtful blog called The Beheld, which you should already know about because I link to it allll the time in the Price Check and on Twitter.

So there was much hopping about with excitement when Autumn asked to interview me for The Beheld about the Beauty U project and other beauty-related matters. Check it out here.

Also we coined the phrase “Sisterhood of the Brazilian,” which is going to be huge. I’m pretty sure.

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Filed under Back to Beauty U, Beauty Labor, Beauty Schooled, beauty standards, Career Opportunities, Tip Jar

[Back to Beauty U] The Written Licensing Exam

The written part of our licensing exam is held at one of those vocational high schools where they teach Driver’s Ed and certify real estate agents on the weekend. There is a lot of dingy gray carpet and all the fluorescent lights seem to have one bulb out.

Meg and I plan to meet outside, fifteen minutes early, so we can sit together. We’re both nervous and we both show up at least twenty minutes early. We are not the first to arrive.

When we reach the check-in table the first thing the old lady exam proctor says to me is, “Your purse is filthy.”

I’ve put it down on her table to search for my checkbook and am completely disconcerted. Is purse hygiene part of the test? Am I failing already? Continue reading

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Filed under Back to Beauty U, Beauty Schooled, Beauty U, Career Opportunities, In Class

[Back to Beauty U] Test Time

Excuse the super short post today — in a few short hours, I’ll be sitting in the nearest official Department of State testing center, number two pencil in hand, poised to multiple choice my way through 100 randomly generated questions about makeup, facials, waxing, and a motley assortment of anatomy, skin histology, chemistry, and electricity that you’re supposed to know in order to become a licensed esthetician. (Even though we are not doctors.)

That’s right. It’s time for the written portion of my esthetics licensing exam. Some of you might remember bold plans to study a Milady’s chapter per week in preparation for this event. Most of you are probably like, “what plans?” Because that sort of petered out by Chapter 3. (Of 21. Oops.) Life and what not.

So I’ve spent a significant portion of the past 48 hours firmly attached to Milady’s and an ever-growing pile of flashcards. And I’m pleased to report that I seem to remember more of that book learning than I expected I would after four months off. But I would not describe my confidence level as bubbling over. It’s basically impossible to insert an entire 600-page textbook (plus a twenty page packet on licensing laws) into your brain on short notice.

Plus, skin lesions all boil down to being red, itchy and probably filled with pus. Which makes it really hard to tell a macule from a papule from a tubercle. And also kind of gross.

So, cross your fingers for me, and all of my Beauty U classmates taking the test today.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a Six Items update. In the meantime, why don’t you go read about Elle bleaching its cover models, the pink princess evolution, and this excellent slideshow about my girl Buffy — vampire slayer/feminist icon/beauty standard redefiner/yes really!  — who turns 30 this week.

Because I have to get back to my flashcards. These skin lesions aren’t going to memorize themselves.

 

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Filed under Back to Beauty U, Muddling Through Milady's

[Back to Beauty U] How Beauty School Changed My Look

Grasshoppers, get excited.

I’m back over on No More Dirty Looks this whole week, talking some nitty-gritty, never-before-reported details about Beauty U — and how shellacking ourselves in potions and lotions for sixteen hours every week translated to all manner of hair and skin behaving badly. Continue reading

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[Back to Beauty U] Mary Kay Calling

Back to Beauty U: An occasional series where I roll out some never-blogged-before Beauty U moments

Mary Kay and Missiles

The first thing I learned from Delores is that Mary Kay ladies don’t drive pink Cadillacs anymore.

Well they can — a shiny pink convertible is still one of the choices if you’ve earned Career Car privileges — but Delores drove up to Beauty U in a silvery-pink Chevy Equinox SUV. She wore a royal blue skirt suit with black fishnets and black knee-high boots plus lots of gold accessories and I later learned that the suit itself was a “Mary Kay Sales Director” suit that she had to qualify (in sales numbers) to wear, but that the accessories were all hers.

Delores carried in a pink tote bag brimming with catalogs, while behind her, Sue wheeled in a the biggest pink polka-dotted suitcase I’d ever seen. Upon closer inspection, the dots revealed themselves to be tiny hair dryers and makeup brushes. There weren’t any clients on the books, so everyone piled into the spa classroom while Sue passed out little plastic-covered cardboard folders. Inside, they held a mirror and a plastic tray, divided into different inch-sized compartments. Mine held the remnants of many prior product applications. The mirror in Blanche’s folder was cracked.

The next thing I learned from Delores was that if I wanted to, I could make “a corporate income” selling Mary Kay products right out of my home. “Even in the recession, our saleswomen are doing better than ever!” She jumped right into her speech about that while Sue came around and squirted little bits of product onto each of our trays.

“I always wanted to stay home with my children and Mary Kay has let me realize my dream,” Delores said, showing us her gold charm necklace that featured silhouette heads for each of her three kids. “My husband has even been able to retire early because my business is so successful!”

I knew that Sue was between jobs and trying to pick up a bartender gig. They mostly relied on her boyfriend’s income, doing something for the town that meant whenever we had a snowstorm he had to pull double shifts and plow the streets.

“That’s why I’m so thrilled that Susan has come back to Mary Kay again,” said Delores. I had never heard Sue go by “Susan,” but it sounded right coming from Delores, all successful and corporate. “She can help support her family and still have time to be with her son and pursue her education! Now ladies, let me tell you about our amazing new skin care line.”

And as we were instructed to dab each of the product samples from our little trays onto our faces — the custom Mary Kay “facial” — I couldn’t figure out if I was being sold a career or a face wash.

Delores really liked the Mary Kay Timewise 3-in-1 Cleanser, which promises to cleanse, exfoliate and tone you all in one step, but Miss Jenny was underwhelmed. “We don’t like combination products here,” she explained to Delores, rubbing a bit of cleanser doubtfully onto the back of her hand. “If you’re going to do all those things properly, you really need three separate products.”

“Of course, that’s why we also offer our Classic Basic Skincare line, where you use a separate product for each step,” Delores responded smoothly, marching us right along to the lip treatment samples. “Remember, ladies, you earn 50 percent commission on every product you sell. That’s why I’m so pleased that Susan has come back to us — the sky really is the limit!”

In fact, this was Sue’s third time selling Mary Kay, which meant it was the third time she had bought the $120 start-up kit, where you get samples of all the key products and a guide to selling them to all of your family and friends. “The first two times, I didn’t make any money,” she told me later. “But this time, with our esthetics knowledge, being in this business, I think it makes a lot of sense.”

After our “skin care class,” Delores handed out catalogs so we could page through all the different shades of Mary Kay eye shadows and lipsticks. “Remember, ladies, if you buy tonight, Susan will earn 50 percent off everything!” she told us. “You really are helping out a friend. That’s how Mary Kay works. You can help her even more if you agree to host a party, plus that way you can get free products!”

Of course, we all wanted to help out Sue. Miss Jenny bought some eye shadow. Miss Stacy agreed to host a party. I bought the lip treatment and later I would buy a toner and a clarifying mask, when Sue swore they would be just what I needed to clear up my Beauty U breakouts. (They weren’t.)

By then, she had hosted a few parties where she earned $500 in a night — way better than bartending. Except out of that $500, she also had to pay for party snacks and wine, pay Mary Kay to maintain the web page of her “exclusive online store,” and pay for inventory so she could make more sales at her next party.

That first night, Blanche had been the most suspicious of the whole thing when Delores began her sales pitch. “Can I get another mirror?” she asked Sue, handing back her cracked one. “Do you really make any money this way?”

But the magical phrase “corporate income” — plus Delores’s shiny car and spiffy suit — seemed to go a long way. By the end of the night, she had signed on to Delores’ team, forking over the $120 for her own starter sales rep kit. And she and Sue helped Delores cart out the roll-along suitcase and the pink tote bag, chattering about that 50 percent commission and the great new range of eye shadow colors.

So. I’m pretty fascinated by the whole world of direct-marketing cosmetics, which so many women at Beauty U seemed to at least dip a toe in — without ever making much money.

Have you tried selling Mary Kay, Avon, or another direct-marketing makeup brand? What was your experience? Tell us in the comments, or email me (beautyschooledproject [at] gmail [dot]com) with your story.

[Photo: “Missiles and Makeup,” by Brent Moore of SeeMidTN.com, via Flickr.]

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[Back to Beauty U] Picture Day

Back to Beauty U: An occasional series where I’ll be rolling out some never-blogged-before Beauty U moments.

Virginia Beauty U picture

It took me a few weeks to figure out about Picture Day, even though we were surrounded by evidence of it every night at Beauty U. The walls of the school’s break room and back hallways are lined with the class photos of previous years, these poster-sized grids of student headshots set against swirly blue backgrounds like spreads from a yearbook.

Maybe it was all the big hair. Maybe it was all of the feather boas and motorcycle jackets. But we just assumed that these class photos were relics from the 1980s, strange artifacts of Beauty U’s history, displayed perhaps as cautionary tales for future students against blue eyeshadow and too much cleavage.

Then Meg and I looked closer one day, and noticed that one group photo had the words, “Class of 2008.” Continue reading

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[Back to Beauty U] The Exit Interview

photo of beauty school graduation diploma

For some reason, I am really nervous about going back to Beauty U for my “Exit Interview.” Maybe it’s because it sounds so formal, even though I can already guess it will be much like the entrance interview, and thus, not all that scary. Maybe it’s because it’s always a little awkward to go back to places you’ve left. (Ever quit a job and then go back to visit a few months later? Always. Weird.)

So Meg and I schedule our exit interviews at the same time, which makes me feel better. Miss Susan, the night school director, tells us we can even come in together if we want. We say yes, please and go sit on folding chairs across from her desk in the main office, where posters of pouting models with jagged haircuts hang haphazardly in the big window that faces the parking lot and the highway beyond. Continue reading

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