27 Fierce Females Shaking Up the Beauty Industry

The future is female. What’s more, that future is here, as evidenced by these inspirational women. From company CEOs and founders who launched beauty empires, to top brand educators creating stunning editorial work while teaching the next generation, to influencers leading the styling charge on social media, these remarkable leaders are changing the way we look at beauty. But how do they see the world, and what early life lessons helped inform those views? We find out.

Founders and CEOS

Alicia Grande, Alli Webb, Beth Bewley, Carmen Tal

ALICIA GRANDE, Grande Cosmetics founder and CEO

HOW I GOT MY START: On a New York radio show about the science of cosmetics. I found a lash-enhancing serum that actually worked, and thought with the last name Grande, I had to make that product my own so every woman could experience it.

MOMENT I FELT I’D ACHIEVED SUCCESS: I had a booth set up at a busy New York trade show during my early business days. Walking through the sea of people, I spotted my fuchsia “G” logo shopping bag on the shoulders of multiple attendees. I can’t explain how proud I felt. It was surreal to see my brand come to life.

ADVICE FOR SOMEONE STARTING OUT: I remember months living out of a suitcase, traveling to shows and being away from my young boys. Stay true to your convictions and create a brand you’re passionate about—success doesn’t happen overnight.

ALLI WEBB, Drybar founder

MOMENT I FELT I’D ACHIEVED SUCCESS: Getting hired by John Sahag was a pretty surreal moment in my professional life. As a budding stylist, I was in complete awe of his work. Being given the opportunity to learn from him and his amazing staff was a major accomplishment.

A MISTAKE I MADE—AND LEARNED FROM: I have a tendency to react immediately, but I’ve learned the benefit of taking a beat and thinking things through before making a decision. Business moves so fast, especially in the entrepreneurial stage, so it’s important to pause, look at the big picture and consider the overall goals of what you’re trying to achieve.

ADVICE FOR SOMEONE STARTING OUT: There has never been a better time for female entrepreneurs to follow their dreams. I tell women not to take “no” for an answer, and always trust their gut.

BETH BEWLEY, Eufora International cofounder and CEO

MOMENT I FELT I’D ACHIEVED SUCCESS: The day I no longer needed to worry about paying the bills. This industry lets you know loud, clear and early if your products and values are on point.

A MISTAKE I MADE—AND LEARNED FROM: Trying to please too many people. It took a few years to correct course and refocus on the needs of salon professionals, who lie at the heart of Eufora. I learned to never let anyone pull me away from my passionate voice.

IN 10 YEARS I PLAN ON: Working. No retirement for me! Though I do hope for more time to travel, as I love visiting new countries and learning about different cultures.

CARMEN TAL, Moroccanoil cofounder

MOMENT I FELT I’D ACHIEVED SUCCESS: When we had distributors asking to carry our brand rather than us soliciting, and celebrity stylists recommending our products. That’s when I knew we’d made a mark on the industry.

ADVICE FOR SOMEONE STARTING OUT: Education is key. Stylists are the original influencers when it comes to teaching consumers about products and their benefits.

WHAT I LOVE MOST ABOUT THIS INDUSTRY: Styling has become a No. 1 career choice for many because hairdressers now have so many opportunities for growth and learning.

Denise Rossouw, Inocenia Manoel, Jan Arnold, Lilly Balasanyan

DENISE ROSSOUW, Top Secret Haircessory founder and CEO

HOW I GOT MY START: While working on a movie set, I created my hair pieces as an alternative to wigs, making actresses’ hair look more natural on camera. After introducing my pieces to celebrity clientele on additional productions, the overwhelmingly positive response prompted me to develop this product for a greater market.

A MISTAKE I MADE—AND LEARNED FROM: Not acting on my instincts earlier. Always trust your intuition.

ADVICE FOR SOMEONE STARTING OUT: Think outside the box. This business isn’t only about service. Success can be found in retail by offering a unique product that keeps customers coming back.

INOCÊNCIA MANOEL, Inoar Professional cofounder and CEO

MOMENT I FELT I’D ACHIEVED SUCCESS: After a lifetime dedicated to my dream of developing products and creating a brand, some success has come to me at age 55. It’s been fight after fight, with defeats in the middle. But I call it a win when women who use Inoar or know my story approach me to say I’ve inspired them.

IN 10 YEARS I PLAN ON: Going back to university. Learning another language. Dancing. The world is as big as I make it.

WHAT I LOVE MOST ABOUT THIS INDUSTRY: I love creating. When I get a bottle of Inoar in my hands, I don’t see a shampoo or cream—I see my whole life. Beauty is ephemeral, but a product with story to tell may end up being eternal.

JAN ARNOLD, CND cofounder

HOW I GOT MY START: My father, Dr. Stuart Nordstrom, was a dentist and the brain behind our brand’s first innovation, SolarNail, a cross-linked nail-enhancement product. My family adopted his vision, which started in the garage with Dad’s chemistry set.

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT TO DATE: Celebrating CNDs 40th ruby anniversary this year. We’ve pushed nail and beauty industry boundaries since our inception, and to be standing here decades later is humbling.

RELATED: Professional Colorists Share Their Favorite Blonde Techniques

A MISTAKE I MADE—AND LEARNED FROM: When we launched, I was very shy and unaccustomed to public speaking; I nearly passed out at an early meeting in front of my family and 100 sales reps. at taught me an important lesson: Public speaking isn’t about you, but rather about the audience and your information.

LILLY BALASANYAN, Trissola founder and president

MOMENT I FELT I’D ACHIEVED SUCCESS: When I began receiving phone calls and emails from stylists and consumers around the world, all the while knowing in my heart that the products I offer are effective and safe.

A MISTAKE I MADE—AND LEARNED FROM: New to the manufacturing side of business, I overlooked things like contractual agreements or worldwide rules and regulations. Those were expensive lessons, so I learned to dot my i’s and cross my t’s.

YOU MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO LEARN: That I have a pet alpaca named Al. His favorite treats are carrots, and his best friend—apart from me—is a sheep.

Linda Gillette Parodi, Lydia Sarfati, Mireya Villarreal

LINDA GILLETTE PARODI, PARODI Professional Care founder and CEO

A MISTAKE I MADE—AND LEARNED FROM: Trusting too many people too soon. It’s better to grow slowly and steadily by working hard. Also, failing to take care of myself—if you don’t, no one else will.

A​DVICE FOR SOMEONE STARTING OUT: Don’t think you’ll make a lot of money in the first five years, because you won’t. at’s the time to gain experience. Work your butt off; don’t whine and complain. Commit fully.

YOU MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO LEARN: That I love bugs.

LYDIA SARFATI, Repêchage cofounder and CEO

HOW I GOT MY START: Growing up in Poland, I used to make friends come to my house after school so I could test my facial masks. I’d mix up whatever I could find in the kitchen, experimenting to see what worked. When I moved to the U.S. in 1970, I worked during the day and went to school at night to get my license.

MOMENT I FELT I’D ACHIEVED SUCCESS: When Repêchage launched at New York City’s Pierre Hotel in 1980, Vogue beauty editor Andrea Quinn Robinson volunteered to be my model for the Four Layer Facial. I knew the future looked bright.

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT TO DATE: I’ve been happily married to the same man for 47 years, and together we have our children and grandchildren, who are the most important aspects of my life.

RELATED: Meet the Individuals Behind the Industry's Leading Brands

MIREYA VILLARREAL, Pink Pewter founder and CEO

MOMENT I FELT I’D ACHIEVED SUCCESS: Becoming a member of the Cosmetologists Chicago Board of Directors. I launched my brand at America’s Beauty Show many years ago, so this holds a special place in my heart.

ADVICE FOR SOMEONE STARTING OUT: Don’t be motivated by money. Instead, find the thing you’re passionate about— and overdrive it. For me, the passion wasn’t cutting, color or any particular technique, but rather about making people feel special.

YOU MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO LEARN: at I drink bourbon—neat.

Saphira Greenberg, Sophy Merszei

SAPHIRA GREENBERG, Saphira founder and CEO

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT TO DATE: I’m proud to have created a line of haircare products that help change women’s lives. Our Mineral Mud mask, for example, is made with 26 essential Dead Sea minerals. Women going through chemotherapy have shared stories about its nourishing benefits.

A MISTAKE I MADE—AND LEARNED FROM: When you’re a young woman starting out in business, it can feel intimidating to find yourself in what’s still predominantly a man’s world. I learned to have confidence in my voice—even when I was nine months pregnant and addressing a boardroom of 50 men.

IN 10 YEARS I PLAN ON: Making my brand a household name for U.S. consumers. We launched in Europe in 2012 and brought our products stateside in 2017, so now my goal is to continue empowering women while populating salon shelves.

PHOTOS: Colorist Kristie Kesic's Sunset Inspired Horizon Collection

SOPHY MERSZEI, NovaLash founder and CEO

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT TO DATE: Investing most of my time and money into creating an industry, rather than just a company. When I founded NovaLash in 2004, there were no professional eyelash extension services outside of Korea—no rules, regulations or education available either that first year.

MOMENT I FELT I’D ACHIEVED SUCCESS: The first time I saw an everyday woman walking down the street wearing eyelash extensions. I thought I might pass out because it had taken years to convince friends and family to try them. In the early 2000s, false lashes were acceptable for the stage, drag or Halloween.

WHAT I LOVE MOST ABOUT THIS INDUSTRY: The focus is now on people’s eyes, which truly are windows to the soul. When wondering if a person’s smile is sincere, look at the eyes instead of the lips. Beautiful windows deserve beautiful drapes to adorn them.

Artists and Educators

Ashley Streicher, Detra Smith, Hayden Cassidy, Lisa Finucane

ASHLEY STREICHER, R+Co Collective member

HOW I GOT MY START: I got my cosmetology license before I graduated high school, then moved to New York City, where my two sisters were living, to assist Edward Tricomi at the Warren Tricomi salon. Leaving my small Northern California town meant quickly donning big-girl pants.

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT TO DATE: I’m proud of STRIIIKE, the Beverly Hills, California, studio I cofounded with my sisters. It’s hard working with family, but it’s brought us closer together as friends and business partners.

YOU MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO LEARN: That last year I hiked Mount Kilimanjaro on a seven-day backpacking trip to the top. This year I’m tackling Mount Everest.

DETRA SMITH, Matrix artistic educator

HOW I GOT MY START: I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t styling hair. My favorite toy as a child was a mannequin head with plastic rollers, combs and brushes. By age 12, I’d graduated to cutting kids’ hair in my neighborhood. In tenth grade, I started a cosmetology vocational program.

A MISTAKE I MADE—AND LEARNED FROM: As a young adult, I let personal problems interfere with my work. But my coworkers and salon guests weren’t there to listen to my issues. Seeing the impact a proactive, positive attitude could have on others changed my perspective.

IN 10 YEARS I PLAN ON: Being debt- free, hosting private workshops and developing creative concept programs with artists of different genres.

HAYDEN CASSIDY, Andis international educator

HOW I GOT MY START: I’d been a student athlete, and my soccer skills led to a scholarship to America. After three years playing in the U.S. I broke my leg badly, which put an end to that part of my life. I then had to return to Ireland, and when I did, I was pretty lost. A friend who had just started barbering mentored me, and I fell in love with the industry. From the moment I picked up a clipper I felt as if I had found exactly what I was meant to do.

A MISTAKE I MADE—AND LEARNED FROM: I don’t see many obstacles as mistakes. Every mistake we make is an experience to help us grow and learn. The first time I went on stage I remember my voice croaked and my hands shook. I saw it as a challenge to make sure the next time I went up I would be stronger, more confident and more comfortable so that I could be in control.

YOU MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO LEARN: That before I was a professional barber, I did stints as a DJ, a dance teacher and a bartender.

LISA FINUCANE, Wahl US director of education

HOW I GOT MY START: Divine intervention! I decided to forgo college after high school and attend beauty school. at single choice changed the trajectory of my life.

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT TO DATE: I haven’t been full time in a salon since 1997, but I always maintained a customer base that’s now my family. Three of my former clients just invited themselves to my son’s upcoming bar mitzvah!

WHAT I LOVE MOST ABOUT THIS INDUSTRY: Watching the younger barbers and stylists come up. is industry fosters youth, and I love witnessing the products of young minds.

Missy Peterson, Sonya Dove, Stephanie Polansky, Vivienne Mackinder

MISSY PETERSON, Malibu C director of global education and artistry

HOW I GOT MY START: My mom has been doing hair longer than I’ve been alive, but I went to college to study psychology. After graduating and working retail management jobs for years, I found myself managing Mom’s two salons—and realizing this is what I’m meant to do.

A MISTAKE I MADE—AND LEARNED FROM: Thinking I knew everything when I got out of school. e truth is, I knew how to pass the test, not how to function in a salon. Stay humble; learn from everyone. WHAT I LOVE MOST ABOUT THIS INDUSTRY: The diversity. Artistry and science are coming together to make our industry stronger and more exciting than ever.

SONYA DOVE, Wella Professionals global artist and Ulta Beauty pro team member

HOW I GOT MY START: I originally wanted to be a nutritionist, but in England you need top marks in biology, which I couldn’t get. [Stylist] Christopher Dove’s mother asked what about that career felt most appealing, and I said helping people. She suggested going to technical college for hairdressing. I took her advice and never looked back.

A MISTAKE I MADE—AND LEARNED FROM: Not trusting myself and my ability is an ongoing mistake I still struggle to overcome. I tend to downplay what I can do—then feel shocked when I create a look I didn’t think I could achieve. An inspirational quote in my wallet keeps me on track in times of doubt.

YOU MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO LEARN: That I’m a “Burner!” I love Burning Man because my favorite things are dancing to house music and being outside.

STEPHANIE POLANSKY, Sexy Hair director of education and shows

A MISTAKE I MADE—AND LEARNED FROM: Listening to people who called hairdressing a fallback career. I was once embarrassed to say I was a stylist—now I can’t believe I ever felt that way.

ADVICE FOR SOMEONE STARTING OUT: Don’t be afraid to fail. I’m here today because I didn’t give up or stop growing when my soul got bruised or someone said I couldn’t do it. Wipe away those tears, and prove them all wrong.

WHAT I LOVE MOST ABOUT THIS INDUSTRY: It kills the stereotype that you can’t be a successful business owner and a strong mom. Women are powerful entrepreneurs in this industry that provides flexibility and freedom.

VIVIENNE MACKINDER, HairDesigner TV founder

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT TO DATE: The creation of HairDesigner TV, now enjoying its 16th year. With more than 900 educational videos, it reflects my life’s work and the learnings I’ve picked up along the way.

MOMENT I FELT I’D ACHIEVED SUCCESS: I believe feeding both your heart and pocket while achieving work-life balance is the greatest accomplishment. I haven’t yet arrived, but I’m getting very close.

IN 10 YEARS, I PLAN ON: A three-day workweek, more time with my husband and maybe owning a horse farm.

Influencers

Justine Marjan, Kristin Ess, Rebecca Taylor

JUSTINE MARJAN

ADVICE FOR SOMEONE STARTING OUT: It’s not as glamorous as it may seem. Amazing moments are layered with emotional unease, long hours, crazy call times, and no consistency. When I first moved to L.A. to apprentice with Jen Atkin, I worked for two years with no personal time and zero days off. Be humble, have a great attitude and never think you’re too good for something.

MOMENT I FELT I’D ACHIEVED SUCCESS: A few pinch-me moments include doing model Ashley Graham’s hair for the MET Gala, traveling the world with the Kardashians, teaching a master class in the Middle East, leading New York Fashion Week shows, and opening magazines and seeing my name or photo. IN 10 YEARS I PLAN ON: Vacations in Italy.

KRISTIN ESS

HOW I GOT MY START: Working as an apprentice at age 16 while still in high school. I felt excited every day on my way to the salon—I couldn’t wait to take three buses just to fold towels, hold foils and sweep floors. By 17, after graduation, I hit the floor as a stylist.

ADVICE FOR SOMEONE STARTING OUT: No one really prepped me, and that was the best thing that could have happened. Stay open to your own unique process, and find a mentor if you feel you need more guidance. 

YOU MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO LEARN: That I’m a human jukebox when it comes to ’90s country music. I know every single word to every single song.

REBECCA TAYLOR

HOW I GOT MY START: I did every head of hair I could get my hands on in school. On days off I styled models, then took photos of my work to promote myself on social media. From the start, my passion was fashion colors and bold, statement tresses.

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT TO DATE: Being able to travel the world and share my knowledge with peers. I’ve visited 29 countries in the last six years, and absorbing so many different cultures totally changed me as a human.

ADVICE FOR SOMEONE STARTING OUT: Be easy on yourself, and don’t compare yourself to others. Your path and timing are yours alone.

Nikki Lee, Riawna Capri, Sofie Pok

RIAWNA CAPRI AND NIKKI LEE

HOW WE GOT OUR START: We met at Santa Monica, California’s Fred Segal beauty school as assistants, and bonded after cutting foils for hours every day. at was 15 years ago. From there we always moved together, one salon to the next, until finally opening Nine Zero One in nearby West Hollywood.

MOMENT WE FELT WE’D ACHIEVED SUCCESS: I don’t know if we’ll ever feel like we truly made it. However, when the TMZ bus is pulling up outside of your salon ...

YOU MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO LEARN: Nikki Lee: at I love Taco Bell. My favorite meal is anything Taco Bell. Riawna Capri: That we can both roller skate backward.

SOFIE POK

HOW I GOT MY START: I was going to school for psychology and decided to take a break from academics to try hair. It didn’t seem too crazy since I only planned on doing it for one year. I never knew I’d fall in love with it. [Pok is now part of the BaBylissPRO team.]

ADVICE FOR SOMEONE STARTING OUT: Face your fears. If it scares you, that’s a sign to go for it. Fears are hidden gems of what we can excel at. All my old fears are now my strongest suits, which helped me build opportunities and travel the world.

IN 10 YEARS I PLAN ON: Having a moving education course branded under my name. Possibly a shop, too.

 

[Images: Courtesy of individuals and brands]

This story first appeared in the July issue of Beauty Launchpad magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

 

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