Tag Archives: Miss Jenny

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

[Career Opportunities] Rock Stars and Role Models.

Molly Surno Nail Salon Photo

Melissa asks:*

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.

[Photo from the ever-amazing Molly Surno‘s Smallest Canvas project.]

*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.


Filed under Beauty Schooled, Career Opportunities, In Class, week 15

[Government Watch] On the Matters of Tanning and Toxins.

I admit to being fully impatient with anyone who thinks a tax on tanning salons is a bad idea. Of course, thus far, that group is mainly limited to tanning salon owners (shock) who feel their “one little industry” is getting stuck with the country’s entire health care reform tab (via Jezebel). What’s more surprising: The fact that they aren’t getting much support from the rest of the beauty industry on this one. Before embarking on this here project, I tended to think of the beauty industry as one big, pretty battleship. But it’s actually made up of several different and sometimes warring factions, and tanning salons are to estheticians kind of the way reality TV stars are to um… the cast of Gossip Girl. By which I mean, they’re both guilty pleasures, but at least Leighton and Blake and the rest have to try to act.

“A big part of our job is to promote good health,” says Miss Jenny. “I think it’s irresponsible for any esthetician to go to a tanning salon or even tan regularly during the summer.” She’s not against a healthy “I spend time outdoors” glow, mind you, but you best be wearing and reapplying your SPF all day long.

And the tanning industry is hopping mad about the way the rest of the beauty industrial complex is treating them, because twist! The new 10 percent tanning tax really came about as a replacement for the 5 percent tax on Botox and other cosmetic surgical procedures, which was soundly squashed by the beauty industry and feminists alike. I’m still working through how I feel about that one. Claiming it’s discrimination to tax Botox when women need it to compete in today’s tough job market? Issuing statements about access to expensive, elective surgeries when so many Americans don’t have access to health care at all? Are we really doing that, NOW? And yet! There’s that pesky issue of abortions and birth control not getting covered, while male vanity drugs like Viagra slipped through the cracks.

So I guess you can’t blame the tanning industry for being cranky with Big(ger) Beauty. From StyleList:

Vice President of the International Smart Tan Alliance Joe Levy told NBC Philadelphia: “In creating the bill Rep. Maloney and Dent [the Congresswoman and Congressman who started the bill] have been duped by the cosmetics industry, chosen to ignore the latest research of UV light and have sided with cosmetic companies who seek to keep all of America out of the sun and covered with sunscreen.”

Duping you into preventing cancer? By telling you to wear sunscreen?! Yup, that sounds like the cosmetics industry all right. Oh wait, except it doesn’t, since potential carcinogens are among most cosmetic manufacturers’ very most favorite product ingredients. And extra sales tax on those wouldn’t do us much good, since beauty brands aren’t required to tell you when they’re using toxic ingredients.

At least for now: Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) is calling for an overhaul of our federal toxic chemical law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The current TSCA doesn’t require any manufacturers to disclose dangerous ingredients or do any pre-market safety testing on chemicals before they stick them in all the consumer goods (makeup included) that you bring into your house and put on your body every darn day. If you think greater scrutiny sounds like a good idea, go here to email your senator on behalf of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Campaign, a coalition of non-profits and advocacy groups working to get a new bill passed.

It’ll be an uphill battle against Big Beauty and all its industry friends (cleaning products? furniture? food? Check, check and check), so do spread the word. And let’s hope that grouchy tanning salon owners don’t hog all the media’s attention when it comes to stories on just exactly who the beauty industry is throwing under the bus.

What do you think? Does a tanning tax make sense? Would you like to see more regulation on which chemicals are allowed in consumer goods? Do tell.

[Photo: Tanning Beds For Sale Online. Good to know.]


Filed under Beauty Schooled, Government Watch, Happenings, Ingredients, products, Tanning, week 15

Would You Like Your Breasts Included in This Service?

So are you guys sick of facials yet? I’ll admit, I am — and I still have 59 more to do before I graduate. But this week, we’re taking a hiatus from cleanse-exfoliate-massage-mask-tone-moisturize to learn about body treatments. Which means: “Shave, moisturize, do whatever you need to do,” Miss Stacy told us, as we were leaving last week. “Because it’s time to get naked!”

We’ve already learned the (not naked) paraffin hand and foot dips, so next up on the body treatment list are Dead Sea Salt Body Scrubs, Herbal Body Wraps, Seaweed and Mud Body Wraps, Sugar Scrubs, and the Detox Inch-Loss Wrap. In all of these, your client strips down to a disposable thong (or sometimes an old bikini). Your job is to massage her from top to toe with the scrub or wrap her whole body up in product-soaked elastic bands (they look like huge Ace bandages). Then you wrap her again with heated blankets or shiny Mylar sheets (above) and leave her to cook like a giant baked potato.

So tonight, Miss Jenny jumps right in to the deep end. “It’s time to get over our shyness, girls,” she says. “Your breasts are a part of your body. Your buttocks are a part of your body. Why shouldn’t they receive the same treatment as the rest of you?”

We steer clear of nipples and plumbers’ cracks, but we’re going to learn to apply the scrub or massage cream using a circular motion all around the outside of the breasts and haunches. Of course, some clients are shy and don’t want this much hands on action. So we do first need to ask, “Would you like your  breasts included in this service?”

If the answer is no, we provide them with a disposable bra, or at the very least, use a strategically placed hand towel. Even if we are including it all, we’re going to learn to discretely avert our eyes when we remove the towel to attend to these parts, and quickly re-drape afterwards. That helps to underscore that you’re not getting that kind of body treatment.

“But I encourage, or at least, do not discourage, my clients to have everything included for best results,” says Miss Jenny. “You have to remember that it is just a body and breasts are a perfectly normal part of that.”

So somebody, clock it: It took 77 posts, but I think we finally have a totally body positive message being imparted by the beauty industry! Your breasts and butt are part of your body. Be proud of what you’ve got. (And um, treat them to a nice $75 salt scrub… okay, but A for effort.)

Anyone here a big fan of body treatments? And do you choose to have your more personal areas included, or does it freak you out to show your esthetician that much skin?

[Photo via Totally You.]


Filed under Beauty Schooled, Body Treatments, In Class, week 15

My First Real Client.

Last week, when I was finishing up my Three Months Down report, commenter Kate Ashford asked:

I have a question: How does the working-on-not-fellow-students clients thing work? Do people know you’re students? Do they get a discount? Does the beauty school have a spa that customers use, with the knowledge that they might be peeled and spackled by beauty students in training? And how are you feeling about working on real people? (Not that students aren’t real people, of course.) But it’ll be pretty different, no?

The answer: Pretty damn different, indeed.

First, the facts:

At Beauty U, we spend the first twenty-odd weeks dividing our time between book learnin’ (the beloved Milady’s Standard Fundamentals for Estheticians) and practicing what we’ve learned by working on each other. Once we finish every chapter in the textbook, we graduate to “senior student” status and are eligible to work on any client who walks in the door.

From the outside, Beauty U looks like any other strip mall salon. The main room has all the chairs, mirrors and sinks-with-chairs set up for the hair dressers and behind that is the spa, with all of our facial beds and the waxing station. Whenever we do book work, we shuttle off to a couple of small, windowless classrooms at the back. When we’re doing the hands-on stuff, we work on each other out in the spa, right alongside the senior students working on regular clients. So those folks know they’re coming to a beauty school and will have their facials, hair cuts and other treatments performed by “senior students under the supervision of an instructor.” That’s actually the draw because our services are much cheaper than average salon or spa prices. Think $25 for a facial that would run you $60-80 anywhere else. And we’re always running specials; right now I’ve got a stack of coupons that will entitle you to a free European facial and 25 percent off our retail products.

Now, I’ve still got about two months to go before my class finishes our Milady’s time and is deemed real-client-ready.

But tonight, three of the four senior students are out with the flu.

Only Becky made it in and here we are, with two real people clients, a body treatment and a microdermabrasion facial, scheduled for the same time. Miss Jenny and Miss Stacy look at each other in horror. They can’t work on clients at Beauty U because, as Miss Jenny says, “we don’t perform services for these kinds of prices anymore.” (Plus, she has to teach the class, which she can’t do if she’s behind a curtain giving a facial.) Becky obviously can’t perform a body treatment and a microdermabrasion facial simultaneously.

And so, before I know what is happening, I find myself up and off the bench.

“Is she ready?” says Miss Stacy. “She hasn’t even learned micro yet.”

“She’ll be ready.” Miss Jenny is sure. She squares off with me, and it’s like Coach Taylor bringing in the rookie for the final touchdown. (Everyone here watches Friday Night Lights, right? Okay then.) “You’re ready to do a facial, aren’t you? You’re not afraid to work on a real client, right? Well okay, get in there.”

I scrub up and plug in the steamer while Miss Jenny heads out to explain to the client in question that she can’t have microdermabrasion tonight because nobody qualified to do it is available, but I can give her the best damn European facial she’s ever had and it’s $15 cheaper anyway. My client, Jody, is apparently happy with that, so a minute later, Becky and I are walking across the salon floor to pick up Jody and her friend Betty from reception.

They’re Beauty U regulars, middle-aged soccer moms out for a girlfriends facial & body treatment night, on a budget.

I’m nervous, obviously, though it’s not the facial itself that’s freaking me out. It’s all the logistics around it that suddenly seem so awkward, even though we’ve been running drills for weeks and, after all, I’ve been on the other side of the spa chair plenty of times myself. I lead Jody into my curtained-off area in the spa and tell her to go ahead and change into the spa robe and then get into bed. And when I say “get into bed,” I have to try very hard not to giggle, because dude, I just told this strange lady to take her clothes off and get into bed.

I mean, of course I did, and she obviously knows that’s what she’s going to do, but still.

So I go hover outside while Jody changes, and Miss Jenny rushes over for a little coaching. “Her skin looks pretty sensitive; micro wouldn’t have been good for her anyway,” she whispers. “You can try upselling her to a Vita-Cure facial, maybe — oh wait, you haven’t done that yet — or how about a paraffin hand dip?”

I peer through the crack between the curtains and see Jody standing in her striped Hanes underwear, still folding up her clothes. I bolt back like I’ve been shot and return to pacing nervously around the spa door — I swear, I did not mean to spy on her, but how else am I supposed to tell if she’s ready for me?

Of course after that, I wait too long and by the time I poke my head back in, Jody has tucked herself in the facial bed and is clearly wondering if I’ve died. So I overcompensate with chatter as I give her face a quick cleanse and examine it under the creaky magnifying lamp. Does she have any concerns with her skin? What products does she use at home?

Jody keeps her responses short (“no” and the name of a skin care line I’ve never heard of) and that “I’m here to relax, please don’t talk to me” cue is one I can read right, so I shut up, forgetting that I’m supposed to use that info, however flimsy, to plot what products to try to sell her later.

Once I’ve got the steam going, we both start to relax — Milady’s claims steam is good for your skin because it hydrates and melts sebum clogging your pores. But I’m just as convinced we use steam during professional facials to make them seem more professional. Even as I’m painting exfoliator under Jody’s nose and massaging her shoulders, the thick cloud of steam between us feels like an important barrier, giving her permission to stop thinking about me sitting at her head.

I get in my groove after that, so when she speaks suddenly as I’m applying her mask (to say “that smells good”), I jump. And check the time — facials are supposed to take an hour, but I realize I’m not clear on whether that’s an hour plus time for them to change before and after, or an hour total, and anyway, I can no longer remember what time I started, or how many minutes the mask is supposed to stay on.

Meanwhile, Miss Jenny pops her head in every so often, to check my technique. Since Jody has sensitive skin, she’s anxious that I not let her steam too long or extract with too much vigor. But I can tell she’s also proud — the first of her students, working on her first client! It’s sort of stage mom-ish, but sweet.

And then I’ve got Jody toned and moisturized, and it’s over almost before it began. I slip out so she can dressed (pulling the curtain more tightly behind me this time) and collapse into a chair next to Miss Stacy to ponder the client consultation form. I don’t have anything to write next to “What did you upsell?” and “Products recommended,” so I leave everything blank and just scribble my name at the bottom.”Eh, worry about that stuff next time,” says Miss Stacy, as she signs off for me.

Every Monday at roll call, Miss Susan announces the prior week’s top upseller and top product mover. I won’t be getting any such gold stars, but I don’t care. I wave Jody out and ten minutes later, Miss Stacy wanders back from reception with five folded singles for me. A 20 percent tip and Jody’s  face didn’t fall off or turn red.

I’m calling this one a win.

[Photo: I already spent my actual five dollars, so this is “Five Dollar Note [macro]” by thefixer via Flickr.]


Filed under Beauty Schooled, Customer Cult, Facials, In Class, week 15