Monday, June 21, 2010

A Beauty Academy Success Story: Isabel P. Picard

I was twenty years old when all that could go wrong in my life did. Work, studies, boyfriend. It was like I had stepped into a warp zone. The boyfriend was gone; I quit my job after my boss had threatened to fire me if I did not make the sales quota every month and I quit cegep 8 weeks before receiving my diploma. Yes, my diploma. As in: I threw it all away 8 weeks before getting the paper I studied for for 3 years.

My parents wanted me in school or at work full time and since I was living at home and had just quit school, I had to find a new full-time job. I worked at the airport collecting airport improvement fees (November 1997). People called me a thief, threw their credit card at me, asked if I wasn't ashamed of doing this type of work. It wasn't too long before I realized that there was no way I was going to stay at a job like this for years. I knew I had to get back in school if I wanted to be able to get a job I enjoyed. I looked at what I had (almost) completed: studies in tourism, then (almost) graduated in litterature and communication. My part-time work experiences had always been in customer service. That's what I knew best and knew I was good at.

I asked myself questions like: what do I like doing?; what are my passions?; what do I see myself doing for years on end?; what have I always liked? And the answer came. I started wearing lipstick when I was in elementary school, grade 2 to be precise. Not a cute translucent lip smacker, but rather a deep, rich purple Wet & Wild lipstick. My teacher had called my mom to ask if she knew her eight-year-old was wearing purple lipcolour to school. Yes, she knew. I wore kohl eyeliner pencil in the third grade. I accompanied my mother every time she went to the esthetician's. She would pretend to wax my toes. She gave me a quick facial cleansing and massage while my mom would have her mask on during a facial. I loved going there. Her work space was always clean, well decorated and the place was filled with creams and make-up. How far could it be from heaven? I'm still convinced I was the only student who wore a day cream to school in grade 6. My friends in high school were surprised that my mother allowed I wear eye shadow on a regular basis.

I grew up watching my mother applying her makeup. To this day, she doesn't leave the house without her earrings and lipstick. I was a toddler when I started giving my grandmother makeovers and pedicures (read: painting her face with any possible colour cosmetic I found and putting Noxema in thick layers on her feet and legs and massaging until it completely absorbed). After taking all these memories into consideration, I realized esthetics would most likely be an excellent fit for me. I gathered all the information I could find. I checked out private schools and public schools. I didn't have the money to go to private schools and I wasn't convinced that a shorter program was the way to go for me. I discovered a public school in my West Island neighborhood was offering the program. I went to visit Gordon Robertson in June 1998 and met with one of my teachers who showed me the classroom; the facial room; manicure/pedicure area and she sat down with me to explain the program. It wasn't all creams and lipstick. I actually had to study and learn about the human body; cosmetology and interactions with the skin. I was ready for the challenge and started classes in September.

The year flew by. I had two great teachers who were passionate about esthetics and their work. They had their students' success at heart. I remember that some classmates had major issues with touching other people's feet and I thought: "What on Earth are you doing in this classroom, then? Did you think you'd learn how to put on makeup and that would be it?" After all, esthetics is not always fancy, pretty and all things beautiful. The esthetician works very closely to her clients and comes across a variety of infections, skin conditions, not fresh-from-the-dryer underwear and smelly feet. But there is always surgical gloves, fragranced baby powder and a great foot soak to save the day! On the other hand, not all days are filled with horror tales either.

My pet peeve was sales. Although I could recommend and suggest products with ease, going through the actual sales process was a real pain for me. That is the class which gave me the most grief. Like anyone who's working towards a goal, I was anxious to get there and actually start working in a salon however; the year didn't seem long. The closer I was to the end of the program, the more I knew I was on the right path. I studied and graduated with very satisfying grades.

I worked for a year and a half as an esthetician in a salon while I also completed my certification in electrolysis. I truly liked the contact with clients. I developped a friendship with some of them and it was very flattering to know that some would specifically ask for me when making their appointment. I had kept in touch with one of my teachers and one night in March 2000, she called me up. She had heard of a Canadian cosmetic manufacturer who was looking for a training manager. She thought of me for the position.

I celebrated my 10th year anniversary at Groupe Marcelle this spring. So I don't give many pedicures any more and I haven't had a facial in so long I can't even put a date on it. But I still get my waxing done and always have pedicured toes. I'm still fascinated with creams, lotions and colourful makeup. Lipsticks and emulsions are my daily companions. I no longer work as an esthetician, but my diploma is put to good use every day in a work environment that is very close to what I studied for.

I love my work and I'm always proud to say that I'm a certified esthetician. A big thank you to Micheline and Johanne for believing in me and giving this profession its nobility.

Isabel P. Picard

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