Tag Archives: Miss Jenny

[2000 Dollar Wedding] Bridal Makeup is Whatever You Want it To Be.

The third and final post in my 2000 Dollar Wedding Guest Post Series is all about bridal makeup: The rules we learned at Beauty U —psst, Beauty U fans: There’s a new Miss Jenny story!—  versus what really happened with me and bridal makeup on my wedding day.

I also get to talk about the awesomeness of my friend Katherine (that would be her, hair-spraying me down, above) who is a very talented makeup artist, just by the by. (She also did Kate of Eat The Damn Cake‘s wedding makeup and was endlessly patient with both of us no-makeup types!)

Because there will be a quiz later, make sure you’ve also read Part 1: Why I Stopped Weighing Myself Before My Wedding and Part 2: Yes Your Teeth Could Be Whiter (But Why?). And check out all the other guest posting awesomeness that is happening over there right now. If any of y’all are wedding planning, 2000 Dollar Wedding is where it’s at for keeping your sanity in check. (Even if your wedding costs way more than $2000. Promise.)

Thanks so much to the wonderful Sara Cotner for including my posts in her maternity leave coverage! (PS. She’s now the proud mama of little Henry J!)


Filed under Guest Post, Makeup, Muddling Through Milady's

[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


Filed under Back to Beauty U, In Class

[Best of Beauty U] But Have You Considered a Recession-Proof Career in Beauty?

Ah yes, our post-Christmas slowdown. Which was followed by a brief spring/early summer speed-up and then quickly replaced by a major summer slowdown. As mentioned in my graduation post, most of my fellow Beauty U graduates are still job hunting. So I think we may need to rethink this whole “recession-proof” concept.

Business is not so great at Beauty U right now. Continue reading

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Filed under Best of Beauty U

[Best of Beauty U] The Field Trip

We ended up taking four separate field trips to makeup stores (Sephora, Ulta, and MAC). Mostly, these were an excuse to get out of school for the night, shop, and eat mall food. But don’t think I’m knocking that — when you’re in the middle of 600 hours of beauty school, getting a night off to shop and eat mall food is rad.

We never got a chance to learn much more about airbrushing makeup, because the Beauty U system was always out of cartridges. I still think this whole thing is way too much work unless you’re on a movie set or something.

Temptu Scan

Me. Airbrushed.

Today we pile into Miss Jenny’s SUV and drive over to the fancy mall for a demonstration of the AIRbrush Makeup System by Temptu at Sephora. Continue reading

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Filed under Best of Beauty U

It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Gets Tasered.

photo of metallic pink taser

So fascinating to hear everyone’s take on the Vatoo Thing, from Friday. (I am especially loving the extremely great point that you are not actually tatooing your vagina because that is INSIDE your body. Oh, seventh grade health class flashbacks galore!)

Meanwhile, Gawker and The Cut have been riffing on the male side of the genital beautification biz (manzilians, brozilians, guyzilians, penazzling, yes these are all happening in a day spa somewhere), in response to this firsthand account on Salon by Jed Lipinski. I admit to being a little grouchy because there’s a rather glib tone being taken about a waxer who reports having to pull a taser on an “aggressive” male client in the thigh because he kept making inappropriate advances.

Maybe I’m uptight and old-fashioned, but if you have to bring a taser to work, I’m sorry, your job is too dangerous. Continue reading


Filed under Beauty Labor, Beauty Schooled, Tip Jar, Waxing, week 39

Beauty School Tests Can Be Harder Than You’d Think.

Tonight we have the written test on waxing. It’s an accidental pop quiz because Miss Stacy forgot to tell us we were having it. Nobody does well. The spa has been busy, busy, busy with clients and it’s been over a week since we cracked open Milady’s (or, as is usually the case, read from the Milady’s-provided PowerPoint lecture instead). Remember that whole speech from Miss Susan about how we can’t work on clients because we’ll miss important book learning? When we get our grades,* we finally get why that’s important.

This is our fourteenth written exam (out of about twenty) that we’ve taken since starting Beauty U. For the first thirteen, we followed Miss Jenny’s pattern: Read the PowerPoint lecture together as a group. Answer our workbooks independently, then review the answers as a group. Take notes while Miss Jenny quizzed us from the actual test. Study from those notes at home. Answer the chapter review questions for extra study time and extra credit. Do well on the test.

The other teachers think Miss Jenny spent way too much time on theory and not enough time being hands on with us.

Miss Jenny thought that we all worked full-time jobs (hence our participation in a night school program) and most of us take care of kids too, and thus, didn’t have much in the way of free time to spend on homework. And I’ve got to go with Miss Jenny on this one. And even if she was being too easy, it seems a little questionable to change the game so drastically at the halfway point.

“I never had any test review when I was in school,” says Miss Stacy, when we complain that this test was harder than the rest because she didn’t do the study prep, or tell us which day we’d have the test so we could plan to study at home. “You shouldn’t have been counting on us doing that. If we have clients, we don’t have time.”

Except that we aren’t supposed to have clients, because we aren’t supposed to work on real people. Until we’re done with all our tests. Oops.

Miss Stacy and Miss Marci (one of the Miss Jenny replacements) go over the test with us so we can all figure out where we went wrong, and it becomes clear that the main source of confusion is, well, them.

Example #1: Beauty U provides baby powder for us to apply to skin before we wax. Milady’s says that baby powder can be irritating (all that fragrance) and cornstarch is a better option. So when the multiple choice test lists both baby powder and cornstarch as potential answers… Chaos ensues.

Example #2: Milady’s insists that roll-on wax is the most sanitary option. Miss Marci insists it’s the least sanitary option. So when the test describes it as both sanitary and unsanitary… You get the idea.

Sorry, I know that’s all a bit inside baseball. And in the grand scheme of things, maybe it doesn’t matter whether roll-on wax is sanitary or if you use baby powder or not. Miss Stacy and Miss Marci are both excellent hands-on teachers, great at demonstrating how to perform services and endlessly patient when we ask really obvious questions, over and over again. And it’s not their fault that we keep getting so busy with clients that we don’t have time to do book stuff — they don’t book the appointments.

But I think it does matter when a business that bills itself as “a school first” prioritizes paying clients over test review. And schools that encourage working moms to apply by saying the night schedule will be so easy to fit in around their busy lives should make a real effort to design a curriculum that actually does that.

“When I was in school, I had to learn what was the real world way and what was the book way and it was up to me to keep it all straight,” says Miss Marci.

We’re getting pretty cranky about this whole “when I was in school” business, past evidence of things sucking not being the most rational argument for why things should continue to suck in the present day. But what makes me sadder is that, as we present our case, the teachers know we’re right.

“This is just how Beauty U does things,” says Miss Stacy.

“What if you asked them to do things differently?” Meg asks. “Like book fewer clients, so we can have time to do our test review? Or give us points for questions that we answer right for the real world if you think the book is wrong?”

There’s an awkward silence. “I guess we can try that,” says Miss Marci, looking at Miss Stacy for confirmation. Even though Miss Stacy is technically the junior teacher, Miss Marci, being newer, lets her call most of the shots.

Miss Stacy just shakes her head.

*Okay, full disclosure, because I know somebody will ask: I got a 90. Or technically, an 88, plus 2 points of extra credit for hastily scribbling answers to the chapter review questions as we were all cramming as best we could ten minutes before the test. I know. A 90 is a great grade. But stay focused, because this isn’t about me.


Filed under Beauty Schooled, In Class, Waxing, week 21

[Tip Jar] Just Saying No to Peels with Client Four

Tip Jar: Where you get the back story on every tip I make at Beauty U.

five dollars photo

Now that there’s only one senior student left in Beauty U’s night program, all bets are officially off on that whole “juniors can’t work on clients until they finish book work” business. Per this helpful commenter, I ask Miss Stacy if the spa will just book less clients until we’re done with Milady’s (about four more weeks, people!) and she rolls her eyes. “You would think, but don’t count on it,” she says.

Cut to tonight: We’re supposed to be reading the chapter on waxing, but Sue is rushed off her feet with facials and waxing appointments. To make it fair, Miss Stacy sets up a rotation of us four juniors (Stephanie, Blanche, me, Meg) so we step out of the classroom in order and nobody ends up feeling like they’re missing the most. Our names are written up on the white board, and whenever we take a client, we’re supposed to erase ourselves from the top of the list and rewrite our names at the bottom.

So. Four* is a middle-aged Indian woman who has been coming to Beauty U for haircuts by the cosmetology students and just got referred over to the spa (way to upsell, Cos Girls). I give her the second facial she’s ever received in her life. I’ll be honest, she’s got some troubled skin. Breakouts and redness on her cheeks, dry patches around her nose, and a few dark spots that she absolutely hates. “What can I do to fix these?” she asks. “Should I try a glycolic peel?”

I pause. I hate glycolic peels. I also hate telling people — especially women of color like Four — that they should try to lighten their brown spots. So, stalling for time, I ask, “What are you using on your skin now?”

“Nothing,” says Four. “Just water and sometimes Vaseline if I feel dry.”

Bullet. Dodged.

“Okay, let’s start with the basics,” I say. “You should be using a cleanser, toner and moisturizer at home every day. Otherwise, no matter what we do here in the spa, your skin won’t sustain the results. I’d rather get you started on a good home care regimen than dive into one of our most intense treatments. You might find you don’t need to do anything that drastic.”

I mean, if Miss Jenny were still with us, I think she might have cried. This is a word-perfect Esthetician Speech. And Four eats it right up. We do the facial, and as we walk out, she asks me to show her the products she should buy for home use. I sell her a cleanser and a toner on the spot, and she would have bought a moisturizer too, except we’re out of stock. As she checks out, she asks, “Are you sure I can’t do glycolic?”

“Very sure,” I say. “But if you want to upgrade your next service, you might consider our anti-aging facial. It brightens and lifts and everyone loves it.”

She does consider. And books the anti-aging facial, which costs twice as much as the standard European facial. And tips me $5 (20% of her $25 fee). And leaves with a huge smile on her face.

On the one hand, I’m severely glad it was me giving Four her facial, because somebody else might well have signed her on up for the Battery Acid Deluxe Treatment. And when you don’t even wash your face at home, that’s kind of like scheduling a gastric bypass without trying the whole “eat less, move more” approach first.

On the other hand, I have no idea if the home care products will work for Four, or if the fancier anti-aging facial will give her any results. I don’t even know if she needs results, or if she should just work on making peace with the fact that her skin has a lot more shades of brown in it than some people.

I don’t feel good about playing into her insecurities. And I notice even though she smiles, she never quite looks me in the eye.

Current Tip Total = $25

*I’ve decided to dispense with changing names for all the clients and am just going to number them. Let me know if you hate it and I’ll go get a baby name book or something.


[Photo from over here, thank you random interweb.]


Filed under Beauty Schooled, beauty standards, Chemical Peels, Facials, In Class, Tip Jar, week 19

Miss Jenny Quits Part 2: The Crackdown Begins

Photo of Grease, "Beauty School Dropout" on Broadway

With Miss Jenny gone, things are starting to change at Beauty U.

“Laundry needs to be put away in the closet, ladies,” Miss Lisa says, gesturing to a pile of four folded bath towels behind the waxing station. The senior students grab from there when they need to make the facial beds on the fly between clients. “It can’t just be left out in stacks all over the spa.”

Later, Miss Stacy snags the red metal Klean Kanteen off my desk in the classroom. “You guys, I don’t want to see this kind of thing anymore,” she says. “Enough with the juice and the coffee and the tea. You are only allowed to drink water in here and it should be in a real water bottle.”

“But mine is water,” I say. “There’s only a little bit of vodka in there, honest.”

Everyone laughs, even the teachers. But still: “I don’t care if you have your Klean Kanteen,” Miss Linda says. “But if Miss Susan sees it, she’s going to take it away.”

Miss Susan is the night school director. She doesn’t mess around about school rules. Half an hour later, she summons us all into the classroom. Stephanie is in the middle of giving me a paraffin dip, but Miss Susan needs to talk to us right now, so I pad over in my bare feet, dripping apricot oil, and stand on a towel.

It turns out the issue is us junior students working on clients before we’ve graduated to senior student status. “This has never been allowed to happen before in the history of Beauty U,” Miss Susan says somberly. “It can never happen again and it will never happen again now that I’m aware that it has been happening at all.”

The logic being that if we’re busy working on real clients, we’ll miss what Beauty U calls “theory instruction,” aka reading Milady’s. Which is all well and good, except that we’ve only ever worked on clients when the spa overbooks and a teacher tells us too. In fact, Meg misses half of the lecture because she’s finishing up a facial that Miss Stacy assigned to her earlier that evening. But no more! We all match Miss Susan nod for serious nod.

And finally, as we’re pulling on coats at five minutes to ten: “I don’t want to see coats draped over chairs in the classroom either,” says Miss Lisa. “You should fold them up and put them in your bags. And really, you shouldn’t even have your bags in here. You should put them in the lockers in the hall.”

“If Mr. G sees your bags in the classroom, he’ll grab them all up and take them away,” adds Miss Stacy.

Now lest this all sound like I’m whining: I get that most workplaces and schools have rules on what you can wear and where you can eat. And that they’re often necessary to maintain a professional and hygienic atmosphere. And the business about mastering the curriculum before we’re let loose on real clients makes sense too.

But there’s a lot of talk around beauty schools these days about how the industry has become so much more “professionalized” in recent years. Which means, beauty school is no longer just a place for the Rizzo and Frenchie types who failed typing in high school. We’re supposed to be here to build a career, to go on to work on rock stars and make six figure salaries, if you believe Mr. G.

So I guess I’m just a little stuck on the disconnect between that notion and the reality where it’s okay to confiscate water bottles and pocketbooks from tuition-paying, soon-to-be-professional adults.

[Photo: “Beauty School Drop-Out” on Broadway, via BroadwayWorld. I know, I can’t believe it took me this long to make that reference either.]


Filed under Beauty Schooled, Career Opportunities, In Class, week 17

Miss Jenny Quits.

Yes, chickens, it is true.

Our beloved Miss Jenny — the sometimes Brazilian Queen, with her straight talk on body parts and refreshingly honest sales tactics — has clocked her last Beauty U hour.

She told us earlier this week that she had given notice. I’m in a bit of a quandary about how to explain it to you, since the issues revolve heavily around the kind of interpersonal drama that I try to keep off this blog. It just isn’t relevant to our work here, though I’ll admit, it can often occupy a good portion of our 16 hours per week over there. In some ways, it’s like any workplace; egos get in the way, feathers get ruffled, sides get taken. And in some ways, it’s better — Beauty U isn’t any teacher’s full-time job, so you’d hope that would make the strife easier to let go than when you spend 40+ hours a week chained to your cubicle. And there’s a certain level of guaranteed respect from the students, even if colleagues don’t mix.

But in a lot of ways, it’s worse. The pay is bad — Miss Jenny has said it’s significantly less than $20 per hour; I’m guesstimating $15 or under, which only adds up to around $30K per year even if you worked full-time. And the management seems pretty checked out. Since our school is a satellite campus of the main Beauty U an hour away, visits from school owner Mr. G are rare. Miss Jenny gave her notice over a week ago and says he has yet to return any of her phone calls, let alone attempt some sort of conflict resolution. Who can blame him? At that price, in this economy, his workforce can be disposable. Word has it that two new teachers have already been hired to take her place.

Everyone is saddened by the breaking news. Miss Jenny likes teaching makeup more than the other teachers, so Meg and Stephanie are bummed because that was their main reason for coming to esthetics school. “I just feel like this place isn’t turning out to be what I expected,” says Stephanie. But the senior students tell us Miss Jenny isn’t the first teacher to quit abruptly. “There’s a lot of turnover, especially for the night classes,” Sue says.

Dear readers, don’t be too sad. This won’t be the last you’ll hear of Miss Jenny on Beauty Schooled because I’m hoping we’ll keep in touch. And she features in some school stories that I’ve had to file away for post-graduation publication.

But she’ll sure be missed around Beauty U.


Filed under Beauty Schooled, In Class, week 16

Getting Hands On with Body Treatments.

Getting Hands On with Body Treatments Photo

Tonight we watch the senior students demonstrate a body wrap, then get down to business ourselves — bearing in mind, of course, everything Miss Jenny taught us last week about dealing with our clients’ breasts.

Here’s how it works: Your client strips down to her undies and lies face down on a facial bed, which has been covered by a plastic sheet. You lay a big bath towel over her, and then start “dry exfoliating” her, which means rubbing a rolled-up, dry hand towel in circular motions all over her legs and back, peeling back the bath towel over the part you need to work on and then recovering it as you go.

“I always think this part’s just for show,” says Miss Lisa when I ask what the towel actually does. Improve circulation? Slough off dead skin cells? “It kind of draws the service out a little longer.” Okay then.

Next, you massage your client using a special blend of essential oils. You start at the ankles and work up her legs in long strokes, then move up to her back and shoulders. Once you finish applying the oil blend to your client’s back, she flips over under the bath towel (you can either hold it awkwardly and look away, or leave the room and let her wriggle around by herself) so you can work on the fronts of her legs, her stomach, breasts if requested, shoulders and arms.

When it’s my turn to play client, Meg is too shy to attempt any of that breast business, so Miss Lisa shows her how to lay a hand towel on top of the bath towel that’s covering me from neck to ankle, and then, holding the hand towel firmly in place, slide the bigger towel out from under, so she can access the rest of me.

If you’re thinking “wow, that sound finicky,” you’re not wrong. It takes a few practice runs, and Meg and I are now pretty darn comfortable with each other.

Then she moves on to the stomach massage. To be honest, never having had a body treatment before, I thought this would be the weirdest part of all. We’ll save midriff anxieties for another post, but suffice to say, I’m conscious of having downed half a glazed cruller during our break at Dunkin’ Donuts. And when I watch Leslie work on Sue’s belly, I do think, “Hmm, your stomach skin definitely moves around in ways that aren’t totally flattering.” But it’s surprisingly relaxing to experience, maybe because we don’t often spend much time being nice to that specific part of our bodies.

Blanche wants to know if we can use those wooden back scratchers that look like two ping pong balls attached with a handle. “Wouldn’t that apply more pressure?” she asks.

“I think when someone is paying for a service, they’re kind of paying for your touch,” says Leslie, one of the senior students, as she’s working up Sue’s legs. “Your hands are more soothing.”

“It’s true,” says Miss Lisa. “I felt weirder when I had a body treatment done with a brush, because then it seemed like the esthetician was like, ew, I don’t want to touch you.”

I think Leslie means that when a client pays for a spa service, they want your expertise; they can draft a family member into giving a regular old back rub, or using one of those back-massager deals. But the thing is, we’re not at massage school, so we’re not learning any of the science or theory behind the different kinds of massage. We’re just giving a regular old back rub, then wrapping you up in a heated blanket so the product can penetrate more deeply. Our “expertise” all stems from the product we’re using; a specific anti-cellulite cream or blend of essential oils that claims to solve some problem with the appearance of your skin.

But most consumers know that the effectiveness of those products is highly debatable. So Leslie and Miss Lisa might be even more on the money than they realize.

Because it seems to me that the customer is really paying for us to touch them and act like we’re okay about it — even if they are far from okay with their bodies themselves.


Filed under Beauty Schooled, Body Treatments, Customer Cult, In Class, week 16