Behind the Lens - Ajani Truth Photography

An integral part of any photo-shoot is the photographer, without the "shooter" there's essentially no shoot. Therefore, I'd be remiss to not include interviews with photographers on BeautySchooled!

I was pleased when Ajani Truth Photography agreed to be our first featured photographer and give us some insight on what it takes to produce a good shoot and why "that" photographer may not want to work with you.

BeautySchooled! How long have you been a photographer?

Ajani Truth: Honestly, I've had a camera for about almost 2 years now just shooting birds, flowers and buildings the first few months. Then took the last year and a half shooting people, specifically fashion. In 2009, I set some goals on what I wanted to shoot and who I wanted to work with locally and met most of those goals and then some. It definitely took a lot of shoots and working with people strategically to get to other people. Some of the most important things that I've done for myself thus far is to hold my integrity and cultivate strong relationships.

BeautySchooled! Did you do any formal training prior to launching your career as a photographer?

Ajani Truth: I have no formal training in photography. Just kept my mind focused on reading and trying new things and picking up new ideas through mistakes. I do have previous experience with Photoshop which helped me early to give the images a decent pop in post-production. I swear, doing test work with people who are like minded just took the pressure off the "business" side so I could relax and just be creative while making some errors and not feeling the pressure of money. Working with dynamic people became my education.

BeautySchooled! We hear all sorts of terms for photographers, fashion photographer, life style photographer, beauty; event… the list goes on and on. What type of photographer are you and can you help clarify for our readers what the differences are?

Ajani Truth: Personally, I classify myself most of the times as a beauty/fashion photographer and sometimes I say a commercial photographer which can encompass the 1st two plus more. Beauty photography focuses on selling cosmetics, skin care, perfume, etc. Fashion photography you are trying to sell clothes, bags, shoes, etc. I shoot an event or two for fun but not an event photographer at all. I believe in staying in my lane as much as possible because I want to be somewhat of an expert. People know me for my beauty work. It just sticks out whether clean or dramatic. Good beauty images just seem to captivate people. Also, I work with music artists to shoot their promo shots/album covers and I do occasional creative portraits. I've been trying to use Twitter/FB to bridge the fashion/beauty world with my music world and let people know that I do both.

BeautySchooled! I recently spent time with a friend in Miami who’s a makeup artist, she was there working on a shoot for a major cosmetics brand, the photographer on the shoot requested her on the project. I thought that was a HUGE deal! To me it says that she did something very right the last time she was on set with this particular photographer. Tell us what makes you want to work with a particular hairstylist, makeup artist, fashion stylist or manicurist on a shoot?

Ajani Truth: First and foremost, I think about the style of the artist. Does that person fit the shoot at question? All jobs are not equal and at the end of the day it is a job. People have certain strengths and as a photographer, you are sometimes assuming the role of the project manager. I've worked with MUAs with strong clean makeup but couldn't do more than that. And some that can only do creative work. That's fine but as a manager I need to find the right fit for the job in both skill AND personality. You don't want to bring in a creative team member who pisses people off. Sometimes I know the client and what they can tolerate. Then I look at speed and efficiency. Some team members are nice and do great work but maybe this shoot can't take an hour or two on basic makeup especially if you have 10 looks for the day. When all things are equal, the tie breaker for me is someone who can make me laugh. I look serious when shooting but people that know me understand that I'm super silly at times.

BeautySchooled! In my interviews with various industry vets I’ve been hearing what seems to be the same song, that reality television has gotten the new crop of personal appearance professionals confused and that the new breed wants to be celebrities themselves and show up on set behaving as if they are the talent. What are your pet peeves on set? What type of behaviors will make you determine that you would never want to work with someone again?

Ajani Truth: One of my major pet peeves is coming onto the set with a bad attitude. I'm big on energy because that negative energy travels. I can't allow that energy to ruin a shot for a client so leave it at home. Another is not being productive. I love to have fun but cut the excess talking, joking, etc if you can't produce the work in a timely manner. Another major issue is when creative team members talk about or down to another member. It brings down morale and is just not good for a healthy work environment. I've had a MUA critique a new hairstylist's work and try to change it. Feedback to make the shoot better is fine but let's it be sincere and helpful. This will definitely make me not work with someone again.

BeautySchooled! In this industry we all know that we’re only as good as our portfolios, a frequent complaint I hear from new hairstylist, makeup artists and so forth is the inability to find a great photographer that is willing to work with them. They want to see their portfolio but if you’re new you don’t have one… do you see the catch 22? Lol What advice or suggestions do you have for them?

It is a catch 22. The first thing I would do is search hard for a good up and coming photographer and offer to assist on a shoot. It maybe free or TFP work but it will get you some images. Be sincere, honest and professional in your approach. Professional emails that seem to be targeted to me personally may not automatically persuade me to work with you but an impersonal, poorly written email will automatically persuade me to NOT with you. Now here is the part where I will be a little biased. Sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands and create your own shoot by paying to get it done. Four stellar images will get you a lot further than 20 poor images. I just had a MUA friend shoot with a great photographer that she paid for and now her work is ACCURATELY represented like others on her skill level. If you can't afford to pay at the moment, then keep searching for photographers and reaching out. Someone will need you at some point. Build and cultivate relationships. I've worked with people that had no ports because they were cool.

BeautySchooled! Let’s switch gears and talk about rates for a moment. I’m a firm believer that you get what you pay for. I personally have come across quite a few new artists (music) who are surprised to learn what the day rate of a makeup artist or manicurist is on set. Have you experienced this at all? What would you say to the artist who’s looking for a bargain when shopping for a photographer?

Ajani Truth: It's funny, you mentioned artists especially male artists. Before I worked with some of the best makeup artists, I felt like most women can do basic makeup. Definitely not true. You see these videos and artists have women in the videos with bad makeup, hair and wardrobe and it reflects on them. A lot of times artists want different locations, cars, special buildings, and other things in shots but they have no budget. Who is going to pay for it? Not me! My goal is to make indie artists look polished like major label artists. Sometimes this requires extra money. Model portfolios may include many shots, but artist promo shots have to pop from the moment you see them. Labels, radio people, and others in the music industry will base your music off of that image. My advice to artists is to price photographers and save up. Some artist music isn't that good so at least they can get a sharp image and fool the music executives. {{{laughs}}}

BeautySchooled! I can’t end without asking you this because I know there are makeup artists out there that will want to know…TFP – Testing for prints. Do you still do this?

Ajani Truth: From time to time, I will do TFP work with exceptional MUAs, hairstylists and wardrobe stylists. At that point, I will bring in a model from a pool of models that I've accumulated. I also test with a number of agencies in both the DC/Baltimore, Richmond and NYC areas. I'm still new to game, so testing is a must. Sometimes it's just fun similar to the how musicians do jam sessions and record it. As long as the vibe is cool and the model, creative team and photographer are all on the same or similar skill level then it makes sense. A lot of my strongest images in my port are from test shoots. As your skills and style are more in demand, TFP/testing will just lessen naturally.

BeautySchooled! Are there any last words that you want to leave with our readers?

Ajani Truth: Define your own level of success. A lot of times, when you get advice it is derived from what that person knows of you and the situation and usually never the reality. Find your own TRUTH.

Thank you Ajani for such an informative and inspiring interview. Be sure to visit Ajani’s website and follow his twitter.


When Professional Brands Go Mass… - Minx Collaboration with OPI to Launch Sephora

There was a rumble in cyber-space today; well actually the conversation has been brewing for a few days now since the distribution of Sephora’s new catalog. Apparently I’ve been hiding under a rock because I didn’t get a wind of it until today when Minx sent a mass e-mail to all of the Minx Manicurists. My guess based on what I read here at is that they’ve probably been receiving some angry phone calls. Shortly after the e-mail hit my inbox… my twitter feed exploded!

What was all the brewhaha about? Well, Sephora along with OPI collaborated with Minx for a new product. I immediately reached out to Minx PR; however I didn’t get much more info from them than what was in the e-mail I’d received earlier.

I ignored my twitter for a while, and gave this deal some thought. My background is business, I was in corporate just about as long as I’ve been in the beauty industry, and in 2001 I launched my own natural bath & body line and I've had my own beauty studio for five years now, so I can easily see this from the perspective of a small business owner (yes, Minx is a small business) as well as from the viewpoint of a manicurist.

I realize a lot of manicurists may have the misconception that because they’re placing 2 and 3, maybe even half a dozen $300 Minx orders a month that the company must be making money hand over fist. However, there’s production costs, marketing costs, administrative costs and the lists goes on. In addition it takes a while for almost any small business to begin to turn huge profits especially without additional cash flow.

I said all of that to say what? I understand where Minx is coming from. Collectively our $200 and $300 Minx orders are just not enough for Minx to continue to meet current demands grow the business and bring us new and innovative products. I hope that all makes sense.

Now let’s look at this from a Minx Manicurist's perspective. Is this Sephora OPI product in direct competition with the Minx service that you provide? In my opinion the answer is NO. Minx is a LUXE service, and should be treated as such. If you’re not marketing it in this way and discounting the service to compete on price here is your wake-up call to step up your game. There’s enough market share out there for the DIY client and the Minx client who is looking for a luxury service.

Here's a good example, I’m also a bridal makeup artist. I airbrush and I use Temptu. Sephora also carries a consumer line of Temptu Airbrush products. I personally have yet to hear of a bride that decided to airbrush herself on her wedding day. Sephora carrying Temptu has not affected my business.

In addition, do you remember Lee Press-on Nails? Well that didn’t stop women from going to the salon for acrylic tips and sculptures, did it?

Earlier today another Minx Manicurist and I were discussing this Minx/OPI/Sephora collaboration and she asked me what I thought. My response was that I don’t see my client sitting at home pushing anything on their nails to save a few bucks. That’s simply not my clientele. I think the OPI/Minx product (Mind you I keep calling the product that but it's actually OPI for Sephora) will appeal to a customer base with less disposable income, girls in high school and others living on a small fixed income.

Another possibility is that the OPI/Minx product will bring more awareness to the professional Minx service. EVERYONE shops Sephora but not everyone is familiar with Minx. So don’t fret, instead of feeling as though you may have to lower your prices to “compete” try adding more value to your service. Just like there’s enough market share for dozens of Minx Manicurists in each city there’s enough room for this new product. Think about it, instead of wasting valuable time on the phone with someone haggling you over your Minx price, you can now direct them to an affordable alternative that may be within their budget.

BeautySchooled! would love to hear your thoughts and please forward this post to anyone that you know who performs Minx services. Let’s discuss.

(Minx Photos: courtesy of Lisa Logan)


Blacks Don't Move Product?

Web surfing I came across this video on Jezebel and then tracked down it's origin... this is "our" industry let's discuss.

Visit and for more information and to join the discussion.

Ciao for now... Class is dismissed!

Minx Nails - Certification Chicago

I had the pleasure of attending the Advanced Minx Training this past Sunday after going to the 2010 ABS show…

If you’ve followed my Twitter and some of my blog posts you already know that I’m obsessed with Minx… Truth is it was my discovery of Minx that compelled me to return to beauty school to study nail technology. Once there I was a little on the fence about Minx until… I received my training kit in the mail and performed my first Minx application. I was completely hooked! There is NOTHING like Minx anywhere… so yes, go ahead and say it I drank the Minx kool-aid. Lol

I apologize in advance for the lack of photographs, I was busy trying to soak in every piece of information that I could. However you know I didn’t leave without a picture with Minx Master and Celebrity Manicurist Lisa Logan… I’ve been following this lady’s moves for a few years now so I can’t tell you how delighted I was to meet her and find that she’s “GOOD people”, incredibly humble and sweet you’d never know that she was trotting the globe with mega stars like Beyonce, Jay-Z and Mary J Blige.

The training was held at Cuatro restaurant just a quick walk over from the McCormick Place Convention Center where ABS was held, which was nice. The training also got underway almost right on time. Our Minx Masters were Lisa Logan, Crystal Rice and Natasha Ray. LaShaun Brown-Glenn, owner of Nails Naturally located here in Chicago was there also making sure things ran smoothly.

It was a tight fit but the set-up was nice, two techs to a table and lamp with several minx designs and all the tools and supplies need to successfully perform a Minx application.

The training started with the essential 7-Steps required to perform a Minx Service we all took notes in the mini composition books they provided. Other than the fact that the Heat (what Minx calls their lamps) kept blowing a fuse there were very few hiccups. Each table had sufficient one-on-one time with the MinxMasters. They all shared valuable information not just about the Minx service but life as a busy successful nail tech too.

Was the training worth the $175.00 and did I feel like I learned anything… were the questions twittered to me over and over following the training.

Here’s my take. Absolutely! The level one training alone is not enough to turn a Nail Tech into a MinxMaster. However there’s one caveat, it’s essential that the tech does sign-up and do the level one training as well as practice the Minx application prior to attending the training. I personally believe that’s how you’ll get more bang for your buck.

The specialists who had never performed a Minx service seemed a little lost and they couldn’t quite make the connection during the “theory” portion of the training. It really helped that I had a targeted list of complications that I was able to have them addressed by the MinxMasters while I was there. I was able to turn out a nearly flawless set of Min! (Lisa Logan said so herself). The key is to practice, practice, practice, practice before the training and after. Photograph your work so that you can see you progress.

The hands-on was followed by light fare, open bar and shopping. Totally fun times!

Follow Minx on Twitter as well as Minx Masters Natasha, Crystal and Lisa!

The next big Minx training is at IBSLasVegas visit Minx's website for details and to register.

Ciao for now... Class is dismissed!

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My IBSNY 2010 Experience...

While planning a recent trip to New York I discovered that IBS (International Beauty Show) would be in town that weekend. Since I’m all about the multitasking I made it my mission to attend.

I mapped out my classes beforehand (this is important) in order to maximize my time. These tradeshows are HUGE so it’s important to go with plan. What’s your objective? What do you hope to gain by attending the show? Are you looking for business education, new techniques, motivation to take your career to the next level or are you simply looking to sample new products? Whatever your agenda proper planning is essential. Personally I’m all about the education, because knowledge is power and I believe you can never know too much. There’s always someone out there that’s smarter than you or that has already done something that you’re trying to do. I’m a huge fan of learning from other people’s mistakes… leaves me more time to do it right!

So, I did just that I spent the entire day hoping from class to class and with the one hour that I had left I hit the showroom floor for a few minutes.

But back to the classes, I started with The Red Carpet Manicure, a hand facial demo and discussion; though I’ve been in the industry since 2002 as an aesthetician and makeup artist I’m new to the world of nails so this session with Jacqui Pierce of Kinara Spa Skincare Clinic in L.A. was awesome! In school we learn the technical stuff required to complete a service but Jacqui demonstrated how to take that service to another level… the 5-Star level to be exact. In addition to that I attended a makeup workshop by Emmy Award winning makeup artist Eve Pearl who actually brought her Emmy for us all to see, The Best Barber Show on Earth by Major League Barbers… was a great demo. In addition to haircutting techniques they discussed service add-ons and increasing your ticket price (I’ve always secretly wanted to be a barber, now more than ever I’m convinced to just do it.) Booked Solid was a high-energy session (yes he had us on our feet clapping and stretching and reaching, it was a hoot) by Salon owner and author Paul DiGrigoli, who went into detail about why some people aren’t booked solid and how if you’re one of them to make that happen.

Personally I think it was worth the $85.00 one day admission price.

Here are some random pictures that I was able to take, the photo of the MoroccanOil doesn't really do it justice, they had these amazing chandeliers it was all glam!

Ciao for now... Class is dismissed!

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Behind the Blog - Eyebrow Stylist Rashida B. **UPDATE ADDED**

by Anika Kai

Every week we patiently (or not) wait for Beauty Schooled aka Brow-guru Rashida B to post her newest blog on the image maker of the week. Now these are not just your everyday hairstylists, make up artists or wardrobe creators (no disrespect to the everyday beautifier ) but these are the most coveted professionals within the beauty industry and she snags interviews with them daily and asks them the questions we all want to know.

Often when other bloggers post articles on the artists she has featured, Rashida will Re-Tweet the link and tag them as “image makers”! Well, one day While doing my daily tweet- check in I noticed a blog post from @afrobella (blogger extraordinaire) on Rashida B and I retweeted it and tagged it “imaged maker” as a joke. However, at that very moment, a light bulb went off and I wondered to myself if people REALLY know the true person behind the tweezers. So I decided to turn the tables on one of Chicago and Miami’s most sought after brow & makeup specialists and provide you with a rare look behind the brand!

So sit back grab a cup of tea and join me as I “pluck” her brain!!

Anika Kai: Welcome Rashida, how does it feel to be on the “other side” of the keyboard?

Rashida B.: This is sooo strange for me, I've done dozens of interviews but they're always about what I do and not about me, personally. So, I'll be honest I'm a little nervous. So be easy.

Anika Kai: So tell me when you first fell in love with your tweezers??

Rashida B.: June 8, 19umm yeah…LOL, I’d just gotten my eyebrows done for my senior prom by this amazing Polish lady Margaret, she waxed them but said that I could keep them tidy with tweezers. I literally used to stand in the mirror waiting for a hair to grow so I could tweeze it away. Before she had at them… my brows were crazy and bushy, the transformation was incredible. That’s when my obsession with brows also began. From that moment I would stare at other people and think… hmmm if we could just remove some hair right there…

Anika Kai: So many people think that being a well known and in-demand beauty expert is glamorous can you tell everyone what a day in the life of Rashida B. looks like?

Rashida B.: Oh wow it changes from day to day… I’m in the studio most Sundays through Tuesday, Wednesday – Friday in the morning are reserved for house calls. Wednesday – Friday evenings I’m in class until 10:00 p.m. and all day on Saturdays. I generally do my writing early mornings and late nights along with answering email, and returning phone calls, homework and reading. I read a lot mostly business books and beauty and fashion magazines. I also do tons of internet research it helps me predict beauty trends and stay on the cutting edge of things, and that’s my modified schedule! LOL Before I became ill in January I worked five days a week doing as many as thirty-five clients a day, I had over five hundred clients in Chicago and nearly two hundred in Miami where I’d go and work a week then fly back to Chicago and start it all over again. There’s nothing like a serious illness to help you put things into perspective. It may not sound like it but I really have slowed down a lot.

I absolutely love what I do, but it’s far from glamorous. Do I get invited to cool parties and events and try new products before everyone else? Yes, but that’s not everyday most days it’s work.

Anika Kai: What motivates you to get out of the bed in the a.m.?

Rashida B.: It's knowing that there’s a great possibility that I’m going to make someone’s day that day. Whether it’s by giving a new client the brows of their dreams or by helping her find the right foundation or skincare product or giving that up and coming artist words of encouragement to sustain them another day. Those are the things that bring me joy each day. I never approach the day thinking… what is the universe going to give me today. People who do that are only setting themselves up for disappointment.

Anika Kai: How many times have you reinvented yourself? Who did you start out as? (career)

Rashida B.: I started off as Rashida the accountant which is what my Dad thought I should be. This “beauty thing” has always been in me though. I did all my friends makeup for prom I used to cut and dye, glue, sew, braid you name it my own hair in high school. When I was in sixth grade I got a spanking for hot combing my own hair once. If I had had my way, I would have attended beauty school immediately after high school but being the first generation child of Nigerian parents in America that wasn’t happening. So off to college I went. I did hair, makeup, brows and nails in my dorm to make extra cash. It’s funny how I’ve come full circle. I suppose you could say that was my first reinvention to get me here to this place today. There is more though I’m not done yet…

Anika Kai: So you started out as an accountant? Wow… how do you go from accountant to beauty guru? Can you tell me how you mapped that process out?

Rashida B.: This beauty thing has always been in me. In 2002 I decided to quit my job so that I could attend esthetics school. I was working for a real-estate development firm that took a big hit after 9/11. I’d already registered for the October program and was saving my money when I was laid off in June four months shy of the start of my program. It was a blessing because I was able to take my severance and draw unemployment, while everyone else was sad I was ecstatic. I wanted to start school right away. Near the middle of my program I enrolled in the makeup artistry program at Columbia College. So I did esthetics by day and makeup artistry at night. I worked in a salon for a year after that, while I worked on my business plan, then I rented a small space inside of a nail salon right across the street from where my studio is now. I was there for a year before opening The B Spot Chicago. Next to giving birth to my son that was my second proudest moment, because it showed me that my clients believed in me and the future of my business. My clients prepaid for services so that I could secure and remodel the space. It was meant to be… I sent them an email announcing the space that I’d found and offered them the chance to prepay for services at a discounted rate and in less than two weeks I had over fourteen thousand dollars.

Before that time I can’t tell you how many “friends” and family members swore it couldn’t be done.

I’m saying that to say don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do, if you truly have the talent and drive don’t be afraid to follow your passion. Also, for anyone on the fence get off the fence and get started today it’s never too late to start, or in some cases start again.

Anika Kai: Think back to Rashida at age 7, what did she want to be?

Rashida B.: Oh wow, okay don’t laugh but I wanted to be a ballerina or a Broadway stage actress. I was so in love with the Nutcracker and Annie, I would run around the house singing 'Tomorrow' and 'Hard Knock Life', I drove my dad absolutely insane! I was in all the plays in elementary school, I was in my element on stage I wasn't the little girl with the funny name with parents with funny accent when I was on stage. Then I got a little older and wondered why on earth no one told me I was tone deaf! Singing is not one of my strong suits and in fact I just learned how to dance. LOL In my head I’d like to think I’m still on stage now, just a different kind.

Anika Kai: What inspired you to start the blog site “Beauty Schooled!”

Rashida B.: With the exception of the interviews all of the links and info that you see in the side bars are things that I had researched over the years, I get dozens of email each week from beauty pros, especially estheticians across the country wanting to know things like how did I perfect my tweezing because they don’t really put a lot of emphasis on that in school, to how’d I get in so many magazines and who is my publicist. Even publicists are shocked to find out that I don’t have a publicist.

I wanted the blog to answer some of those questions as well as to be a resource and a place for inspiration to others. I think it’s important for us to see others doing well and to hear their stories and their struggles. Reality television has got people all twisted thinking that this thing comes easy. It’s a lot of hard work, there’s a lot of dues to be paid and being cute, sexy or charismatic is not what lands you the job. We didn’t “happen” into this industry because we’re not smart, and we don’t all sleep until noon, work a few hours and pop champagne the rest of the night.

I work hard and there are hundreds of others out there that work even harder than me. When I first started I’d invested so much in my education and my kits that there was barely money for the necessities never mind designer duds and exotic vacations. Those are the stories that I felt needed to be told because there are so many folk out there fronting. I love the candor of the artists in the Image Maker interviews. I just really hope that people are listening.

Anika Kai: Are you working on anything new?

Rashida B.: I’m working on a quite a bit right now. I attended the Artist Summit over the weekend and it’s inspired me to write a short e-book which will be downloadable from the blog soon. It will be a quick crash course in beauty branding, marketing, goal planning, pricing strategies and etiquette a lot of it will be true life examples of either things I’ve experienced personally or people that I know have. I’m also back in beauty school learning nail technology I’ll be done in December I have HUGE plans for that… however I can’t spill on that just yet. I’m also planning a big move in 2010 once I’ve gotten all the medical stuff out of the way and I’m cleared by my physicians. It was a toss up between Miami and New York, but it definitely seems like I’ll be heading to Miami, I've already built a huge and loyal following there so it just makes sense. However I won't be stationary I’ll be splitting my time between Miami and New York instead of Miami and Chicago. I’m saying so long to the Windy City. ***Updated 3/17*** Rashida B. was signed by Artists by Timothy Priano Chicago, so she remains in the Windy City for now.

Anika Kai: What differentiates you from the other eyebrow technicians?

Rashida B.: I’m an artist. I sculpt brows with my tweezers and only my tweezers, none of those funny brow stencils or wax and stuff. I’ve also studied the psychology of women and their brows… it’s kind of an obsession for me. I really do eat sleep and breathe it. I often find myself staring at people and really what I’m doing is shaping their brows in my head.

Anika Kai: What do you attribute your success to?

Rashida B.: Once I make it, I’ll let you know. LOL, No seriously, I wouldn’t define myself as a success just yet. I work hard and I set goals for myself daily, weekly, monthly and yearly and I actively work towards those goals each day. Everything I do is not a success but I never give up. Giving up is never an option. More important than any of that, I pray a lot and I’m always consulting with Him to make sure that I’m moving towards what He would have for me because He wants me to have the best. There are times when His affirmations are all around me that it’s no denying that it’s God, I love it because it stops the naysayers dead in their tracks.

Anika Kai: If you weren’t in the beauty industry what would you be doing?

Rashida B.: I’d either be an interior designer or chef either way I’d still definitely be writing. I love love decorating -- watching an empty space come alive. I did the studio myself I get so many compliments on it, I never get tired of hearing them… every time I do it makes me smile… it’s my other baby (I’m smiling now).

Anika Kai: Tell me something people would be surprised to find out about you?

Rashida B.: That I’m a home body. That when I’m not working, I’d really rather be at home, with good food, snuggled up on the sofa.

Anika Kai: Who are some of your mentors (known and unknown) and what makes you look to them?

Rashida B.: My Dad, he’s always encouraged me to be my best, he definitely “stretches” me. Marica Kilgore the founder of Bliss Spa… I study her every move she has an incredible business mind. I also learn things from a lot of people every single day, not just industry things but life lessons in general I love to hear other people’s stories I feel like you can never know too much.

Anika Kai: Who would you most like to work with in the beauty industry?

Rashida B.: Oh wow there are many, Babak the photographer who’s work I’ve marveled over for years… his photos inspire, Danna Gibbs of Dana’s Loft who is also incredibly warm and inspiring she’s made the leap by opening a salon in London, Keith Campbell that brother has an amazing mind and his energy is infectious, Sophy Robson, London’s “it nail girl” whose talent is undeniable I’d LOVE to apprentice under her. There are so many other people that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in person and via other mediums this year that have inspired me in different ways. It’s been an incredibly blessed year for me in spite of.

Anika Kai: What celebrity would you most want to work on?

Rashida B.: You. Sounds so cliché-ish I know, but every single client to me is a celebrity in his or her own right they're someone’s child, possibly someone sister or brother, mother or father, husband or wife. They're someone’s VIP and deserve to be treated as such.

Anika Kai: What are some of your favorite industry tools and products?

Rashida B.: There are so many as a product junkie my favorite product is always my next favorite product. However some of my staples are my Rubis tweezers I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without them. I have at least three dozen pairs so that I’m never without one. Jan Marini Skincare and my Clarisonic Skincare Brush, my Shu Uemura Cleansing oil, MD Skincare Alpha Beta Peel and my Give train case.

Anika Kai: What are your biggest client pet peeves?

Rashida B.: Oh wow, can I write that here you’re trying to get me in trouble. I would have to say rudeness and that comes in many many forms from being consistently late for appointments to being condescending to other guests in the studio. For the most part my clients are awesome but occasionally I'll get that one or two that leave me saying, “WOW!”

Anika Kai: You have often been heard saying “waxing is evil” can you explain that statement to us?

Rashida B.: LOL… Yes, waxing is evil and that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! You know in esthetics school and even in the consumer magazines you always hear that the eye area is delicate, it’s the first area that shows the sign of aging you should pamper it, use your ring finger and pat lightly etc etc… it just doesn’t make sense to me that you would then slather hot wax all over and rip the skin off with a wax strip. A lot of my clients regularly get microderm or chemical peels or have had plastic surgery, use retinols or are on Accutane so waxing is a big NO for them anyway.

Anika Kai: I know that threading is all the rage now as well, what are your thoughts on it?

Rashida B.: There are some awesome threaders out there who do a great job, it’s a completely different art from what I do. I mean I know some amazing brow waxers too.

My recommendation is that consumers should educate themselves by doing some research before choosing a technician and method that’s right for them.

Anika Kai: Thank you for your time, final question... if you could leave a legacy what would it be?

Rashida B.: That I made people feel like they mattered, and that I cared… deeply.

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Haute Swank! - Interview with Olori "SWANK"

I've always thought that most Nigerians embodied a unique flair for fashion and clearly there's a pattern here... with the growing number of talented Nigerian fashion stylists and designers. Don't take my word for it, get to know Olori "SWANK"

BEAUTYSCHOOLED! How long have you been in the industry?

Olori SWANK: I have been in the industry only 1 year and 7 months. (…but I took a hiatus for 6 months in between that time.)

BEAUTYSCHOLLED! Wow, you’ve done quite a bit in that short period of time. When did you know you wanted to become a Stylist?

Olori SWANK: I actually started off with aspirations to model. I did a couple small jobs here and there; a national advertising campaign and some music videos (don't ask me which ones...LOL). Every time I would do a test shoot for my portfolio, the photographers would ask me to refer them to my stylist. When they would learn I styled myself they would always tell me to consider styling as a career. I was still in college (studying Psychology/Pre-Med) and I really knew nothing about the field of styling, so I never truly took them seriously. Then one day Mickey “MeMpHiTz” Wright, Jr. (V.P of A&R for Jive Records) told me he loved my personal style and wanted me to develop an image for a new artist he signed to Jive, Asia Cruise. It was all uphill from there. I kind of learned the business as I went along. So I guess, I never aspired to be a stylist. I was born a stylist and it just took a little while for me to realize it.

BEAUTYSCHOOLED! Other than your college degree, did you receive any formal education prior to launching your career?

Olori SWANK: Everything I know about being a fashion stylist (from the creative end to the business end) is self-taught through observation, research, and trial-and-error. I kind of like to think of it as an independent study course at your choice University.

BEAUTYSCHOOLED! Would you say that you have a niche, or is there anything particular that your clients or industry peers would say you're known for?

Olori SWANK: They know me as the edgy rebellious chick with the blue hair. I hate all things ‘appropriate’ and ‘predictable.’ For example, I don’t do ‘matching’ and I stray away for symmetry (ex. I may do 20 bangles on one arm and just a ring on the other hand). I also like to mix patterns, textures & feelings (ex. Shorts and a Sweater, Polka Dots & Plaid, Leather & Lace).

BEAUTYSCHOOLED! What’s a typical working day like for you, if there is such thing as typical for you?

Olori SWANK: No two days in my entire career have ever been the same!!! It’s exciting but stressful at the same time. But that’s what makes it so great. I’ve pretty much broken it down into 4 major categories: prep days, shopping days, office days and travel days. Prep days involve production meetings with the director/photographer/producer/talent/etc, creative meetings, & garment edits. Shopping days entail pulling garments and shopping for the shoot or production. Office days consist of the business side of things. Planning for new shoots and new events, expense reports, etc. And travel days are pretty much what they are - - travel days. And most of y’all read my tweets from 30,000 feet in the air. J

BEAUTYSCHOOLED! Can you share with our readers what a day is like on the set of a photo shoot?

Olori SWANK: uhhm. …upon arrival, the first thing I like to do is have a small chat with the photographer & the talent. Then my assistants and I unload the garments & set up our workspace. For me, it’s very important for things to be organized; so we set up the pieces (including shoes, accessories, etc) in a particular order. Then, I dress the talent in the first look. As the photog is shooting, I make small adjustments based on the angles. I am always looking in the camera (or monitor) to see how the look photographs. Even though it looks one way in the flesh, it might look totally different on film.

BEAUTYSCHOOLED! What would you say are the biggest misconceptions about the industry and stylists specifically?

Olori Swank: I'd say the biggest misconception about being a stylist is that it's an easy job & you just put a bunch of clothes together. It's actually more complex than that. Being a stylist requires a whole lot of research. You must not only be "in the know" on current trends, but you must follow the designers to predict what trends are upcoming. You attend shows to preview upcoming collections and you study magazines as if they are your school books. You must also build solid relationships with these designers and brands to elevate your status as a stylist. The more designers you can pull from, the better you are as a stylist. Also, being a stylist can be quite stressful. Trust me!

BEAUTYSCHOOLED! It seems that every up and coming stylist wants to work with celebrities. What advice do you have for someone new who is trying to break into the industry and wanting to work with celebrities?

Olori SWANK: My greatest piece of advice would be to find someone doing it already & work under them as an assistant (or intern). …& network, network, network!

BEAUTYSCHOOLED! So what’s next for you? Any projects in the works that you can
share with the readers?

Olori SWANK: Hmmm. What’s next for Miss SWANK? …Well, I have a reality show launching in 2010. It’s called “The Adventures of Princess SWANK.” It’s going to give viewers an insight into the life of Princess Ivory (DTP Records Executive) and myself. I like to think of it as a visual diary of what it is like to work behind the scenes in the entertainment industry. I also have my lip gloss line that will be making its debut in 2010. I’ve decided to keep the name top secret for now. Furthermore, I have several fashion events that I will be launching beginning the first week in January. In addition to the aforementioned things, I plan on styling, styling, styling, staying ahead of the curve and growing my “SWANKdom.” Stay tuned…..

Olori, thanks for that insightful interview. For more information on Olori be sure to check out her website and her twitter.

Ciao for now... Class is dismissed!

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Nailpro and Minx Nails at ISSE 2010

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Prayers and Help for Haiti

I will not abandon you as orphans - I will come to you. John 14:18

BeautySchooled!'s prayers and deepest sympathies go out to the people of Haiti and their loved ones affected by this horrific tragedy.

If you can give please give... but one thing that we ALL can do is pray.

YELE Haiti fund: click here...
Red Cross fund: click here

*Please be certain to do your research when choosing which funds to donate to, unfortunately there are predators out there that use times of out pouring and giving such as this for their own personal gain.

Ciao for now...

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It's a Men's Thing - Celebrity Hair and Makeup Artist Cataanda J. Interview

Welcome to the first Image Maker post of 2010! I've had the pleasure to speak to our next Image Maker often enough that she seems more like an old friend than talent I interviewed for the blog. When I tell you this young lady is on it, she's on it! Expect MAJOR things from her in 2010. Get to know Cataanda J.

BEAUTY SCHOOLED! How long have you been in the industry?

Cataanda J: Wow, well I’ve been in the industry for over 30 years! (giggles) You ask how that’s possible and I’m not even 35 yet? Ok so, I’ve been doing this since I was old enough to hold a comb and brush…I was probably 3! Hey, experience is experience!!! I actually attended beauty school my 10th grade year in high-school as part of a vocational program where I went to regular school for half a day, and then was bussed from the school campus and taken to Kalamazoo Beauty Academy for the other half a day. Sooooo, there you go. You can conclude that I am well seasoned! (smile)

BEAUTY SCHOOLED! When did you know you wanted to be a makeup artist?

Cataanda J: My mom was a cosmetologist and when I was like 7 or 8 she would take me to school with her and that’s where my talent began to flourish! I never really wanted to “be” a makeup artist, I just “was” naturally… I always said I wanted to be a supermodel! (laughing) But not only did I love everything about hair; makeup; and getting all dressed up; I had an unbelievable talent for doing it all! For years makeup and the artistry was just something I loved doing and did very well. At the start of my career, I focused more on hair and just collaborated the makeup aspect with the hair whenever asked! It wasn’t until I moved from Michigan to the DC area in 2002 that I decided to actually pursuit makeup as a side gig to keep me until I built my clientele in the hair salon. I thought, if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it BIG! So I decided to apply at the M.A.C. counter in Nordstrom, got hired, and the rest is history! (smile)

BEAUTY SCHOOLED! How did you decide to specialize in Men's Grooming?

Cataanda J: I didn’t sit down one day and say…..”Hey, I’m going to specialize in Men’s Grooming”! (laughing) It’s something that I kind of just fell into. Working for M.A.C. you obviously work with all races, ages, and sexes, so……(laughing) That’s another story! When I decided to quit M.A.C. to strictly freelance and start my own business I got more gigs on set, photo shoots, music videos, runway shows, etc. I realized then that there is a huge market for men in this industry and most people don’t think about men and their beauty, oops I mean, “grooming” needs! (laughing)

It wasn’t until the whole “metro sexual” craze came about, thanks to Diddy, well he was Puffy at that time that men felt comfortable receiving and now actually talking about their experiences with such services like the mani/pedi, facials, eyebrow waxing, etc.! (giggles) The biggest eye opener for me and when I realized the high demand for men’s grooming was when working as a consultant on different events for L’Oreal Paris. Most of the men attending the events are almost dragged in, literally, by their wife or girlfriend, but being that L’Oreal has a men’s skincare line, Men’s Expert, these men discover that they do have some curiosity and issues to address. So that is when I am flooded by their questions because in that environment, they are totally comfortable talking about it because they know that is what we are there for!

BEAUTY SCHOOLED! Did your specialization require any special or specific training?

Cataanda J: I’d say yes and no! The first place I worked was a Barber Shop! I was actually a stylist there but being the only female working in a barber shop it gets quite interesting! (laughing) I’d watch the owner and study his technique. It wasn’t long before some of his clients started to challenge me to cutting their hair because I’d always say “oh, I can do that”! So one day I accepted the challenge and the results were fantastic!

I already had experience using the clippers and trimmers seeing as how short cuts with a shaved nape/neckline was in back then. Plus my mom use to have me fade up the hair in the back and cut all kinds of designs in… (laughing) Then we would color the lines in with eyeshadow ….It was hot! (giggles) My other training came from when I worked at Supercuts! OMG, I got so much experience cutting there its crazy! The name says it all, Supercuts, and its just that! I gained various clipper cut techniques, mastered eyebrow and beard trims. (ear hair trim as well, eeew) I also got over my fear of using the straight razor.

BEAUTY SCHOOLED! How different is it working with men than women?

Cataanda J: Well working with men is usually much more of an adventure! (smile) They usually flirt with you and some even try to hit on you! That can sometimes be a bit uncomfortable. Besides having to fight them off, working with men is a lot less work! (giggles) Unless the dude is rocking a lot of hair where intricate styling is necessary or if he has extremely bad skin, a days work with the guys is simple and sweet!

BEAUTY SCHOOLED! What would you say are the biggest misconceptions about the industry and makeup artists specifically?

Cataanda J: What I would say are the biggest misconceptions about 1)The Industry- is that it’s “glamorous”! This is a deep, dark industry and if you’re not careful, it will totally consume you! It’s so easy to get caught up in….. LOL That’s a whole other topic! (SMH) 2)Makeup Artists- is that when you tell most people (especially that aren’t in the industry) they think it’s not a “real” job! For example, if you say “OMGosh, I’m so tired from working all day”…it never fails! Some disrespectful jerk will say, “oh whatever, all you do is “play” in makeup all day, how can you be tired?”….and I’m like dude, “you think you know, but you have NO idea!!! How about following me around so you can truly learn what a day in a life of a makeup artist is really like and trust me, you will have much more respect for what I do”!!!!

BEAUTY SCHOOLED! What advice do you have for someone new who is trying to break into the industry and wanting to work with celebrities?

Cataanda J: For new makeup artists and hairstylists who are trying to break in the industry, I say learn all you can when you can! This is an ever changing industry and we’re all creative beings so not only does your work speak for you but your personality speaks volume meaning, you have to remain humble! Never get to the point where you think you know it all and you’ve gotten so BIG that you forget from whence you came!!! On the flip side of that, this industry is very competitive and critical.

Know that you can do whatever you want and there is no limit to where you can go….You will get so many “NO’s” before you get a “yes” and it can sometimes be very disappointing! When you’ve reached the status as “Celebrity Makeup Artist” and/or “Celebrity Hairstylist”, please remember that is JUST a title! What you do is not who you are! I spoke about it earlier….it’s easy to get caught up! Never get to the point where you idolize anyone! Celebrities are celebrated people! That does not mean they are better than you so never lose who you are to fit in with someone or be swayed by the crowd! Be yourself, walk with dignity and do what you do!!!……You will be highly respected and much more appreciated!!!

Thank you Cataanda, for that wonderfully inspiring interview! For more information on Cataanda be sure to check out her website.

And... Cataanda's interview has you considering a career in Men's Grooming be sure to check out my older post on Diana Schmidtke and her book Shortcuts.

Ciao for now... Class is dismissed!

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Is this year THE year for you?

Happy New Year! I'd like to take this time to thank each and everyone of you who've followed this blog and recommended it to your friends.

The new year generally kicks off with most people setting goals and making resolutions. There's something about a new year that screams new beginnings. A lot of us probably wanted to start over back in October or even as early as May last year. Maybe you didn't know where or how to start or begin again...

Each year I pull out my favorite excerpts and inspirational quotes... and thumb through them but I have two that I visit more frequently than all the rest in fact they're both on my board where I can see them... one I've posted before {Right Livelihood}

This one I've never posted before but reading it today I wanted to share it with you... I have a feeling someone needs to read this today...

Thanks again for reading and lets make 2010 THE year! xoxo

Rashida B.

"So often we let life bump us off course. We set out on a path, and almost instantly our emotions distract us, or something happens and we drift off course. If you want things out of life, you will have to go for what you want regardless of your current situation. If you concentrate on your goal and do not get distracted, you place an additional force at your disposal. For the power of will allows you to be moved into the right place at the right time. If you do not know what you want in life, you express that uncertainty into the universal law. And it --- being impartial --- expresses back to you the same feeling. The result is that nothing flows, and all your attempts to materialize your dreams fade or break up.

If you do not know what you truly want then the best move is to begin to clear out all those things that you defintiely no longer want --- debilitating relationships, unhelpful habits, lack of action, and become clear, and then you can head toward it. The path of power calls for certain aggression, as does nature. The animal in the forest goes for what it wants and in doing so it expends energy in getting its needs met. You should adopt the same style. Lock on to what you want, go for it no matter how long it takes, and you will have added concentration to your battery of techniques for self-improvement."

Stuart Wilde

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