The world has never felt so small. On such a connected planet, where we share everything in real time and have every service at our fingertips, it’s no surprise that COVID-19 has affected everyone and everything in an unprecedented way, and has taking a toll on industries worldwide. The beauty community is no exception, and the freelancers within are feeling its effects first-hand. I was slated to travel to Europe for Paris Fashion Week but decided a few days before my departure to stay in New York.
While the news of the novel coronavirus had been circulating since December 2019, life in the U.S. continued as usual. That is until it all came to a screeching halt. On March 3rd, I went to see Taryn Clarke-Dean of Taryn Brows, unaware it would be my last appointment for a very long time.
Clarke-Dean, who closed her salon on March 18th, began taking extra precautions before the "shutdown." “Before the decision to close we had hand sanitizer available in the waiting area and emailed all clients to please refrain from coming into the salon with any additional guests including children,” she says. “As always, all technicians rigorously washed and sanitized their hands in between clients. Our salon chairs and frequently touched surfaces were wiped down with Lysol throughout the day.”
She knew this wouldn't last very long. “Despite my salon being located in NYC, I live in New Jersey currently," she says. "I learned that the mayor of New Jersey ordered all salons be closed effective March 16th, so I knew New York was next. This has not been an easy decision especially having a staff who relies on bookings to maintain their livelihood.”
As information and updates about the virus are unceasingly changing, the growing concern on how this will affect the industry seems to be looming over the heads of beauty professionals everywhere. I reached out to friends and colleagues in different parts of the industry for first-hand insight into how coronavirus has affected their lives, and the ways in which each of us can take care of ourselves during this difficult time.
Lakeisha Dale, licensed esthetician and owner of Melaskinstudio, cancelled a total of 18 appointments that were scheduled for the 3rd and 4th week of March. She was only one month into operating her business out of her Midtown studio, and only launched her business in November 2019.
“I think that this time of stillness is going to produce new ways of connecting with each other and our audiences," she says. "I think something as simple as doing your makeup or giving yourself a facial at home will be taken more seriously as a form of self-care and therapy, and we are definitely going to come out of this more knowledgeable as beauty professionals and entrepreneurs.”
Visit her website here.
“Forever Young” facial on @yagirlstar by Dale
Facial on @styledbyreece by Dale
Being a makeup artist myself, I know my peers were also feeling the uncertainty, fear, and anxiety about what this means for our income. Our jobs simply cannot be done with the rules of social distancing. A makeup artist's role includes almost everything that we've been warned not to do—no touching your face, eyes and mouth. While artists like myself usually take precautions by regularly sanitizing our kits using brush cleaners, alcohol over 70%, and products like Beauty So Clean, taking the risk was no longer even an option.
Bill Nye during New York Fashion Week, grooming by Irwin
Photograph by @orianalayendecker hair by @nikoweddle, makeup by Irwin
Isadare is a New York City based artist who was on a commercial job in Los Angeles when COVID-19 hit her hometown. “My work has been impacted because all of my jobs have so far been canceled or postponed," she says. "I mainly do personal clients, so any upcoming events or jobs were immediately put to a halt when they said people should start working from home. I don’t have the type of job that allows me to work from home, which means I won’t be making any money during this entire pandemic." While remaining hopeful, when asked what she believes the aftermath will look like for the industry, she says; "I do think that either two things will happen once this is all over— everyone will become really busy playing catch-up and getting booked for lots of work, or it will be a thing where depending on how long we’re down, beauty might not be something that people have the extra funds to splurge on.”
Visit her website here.
Malala Yousafzai for Teen Vogue, makeup by Isadare
Kelly Rowland, makeup by Isadare
We saw several events get canceled at the very last minute, like The Beauty Experience NY (IBS NY) and the International Esthetician, Cosmetic and Spa Conference (IECSC) which has also caused significant losses in business for tons of beauty brands and freelance artists. Other events includes the CFDA Awards, while some others are postponed like Beautycon, The MET Gala, and Bridal Fashion Week, which is now going virtual.
Karl T. Payton
Karl T. Payton, who is now in his 12th day of quarantine, traveled to Paris for 12 days for work during Paris Fashion Week. Payton is a fashion and session hair stylist. “I returned to NYC right before Covid-19 hit hard," he says. "I went through normal security in the airport in Paris, but when I came back it took 2 and a half hours to clear customs.” Now he's finally home, and without work for the foreseeable future.
“Until this is fully under control, no appointments," he says. "I have however been flooded with DM’s on hair care since everyone is stuck inside” he says.
Visit his website here.
Miu Miu FW20 Runway
Photographed by @_emilyteague
Another professional who is also receiving tons of hair and makeup related questions is Laura Mitchell, a hair and makeup artist with over 15 years experience. Mitchell, who occasionally grooms Anderson Cooper as a freelancer for CNN, is worried that this pandemic will forever alter freelancer's opportunities.
“CNN works with full time staff and freelancers, but because of coronavirus, minimal full time staff are being used because of stay-at-home orders and the increasing number of reporters staying at home," she says. "My concern is that freelancers would be seen as redundant while reporters are doing their own hair and makeup—I can only stay positive that some type of normalcy will be restored.”
Makeup by Mitchell
Hair and makeup by Mitchell
Weddle, whose clients include NARS and Laura Mercier, was supposed to shoot a music video in Jamaica before it was cancelled because of flight concerns. Subsequent jobs were also pushed out because of the current situation.
“I’ve seen artists banding together and sharing links for resources and helpful material on social media, sharing articles and helpful info as its being updated so everyone stays informed," he says. "On a more personal level, I see people sharing their other skills on social media. It’s great to remind ourselves and others that our creative abilities transcend the world of fashion and can be applied to everything in life and everyday life.”
Photograph by @juliacomita, makeup by @raisaflowers
Chan, a freelance manicurist who rents a table inside of a hair salon, decided to shut down after March 19th, “because the confirmed cases in NYC raised to over 5000," she says. "As much as I love money, I also love my daughter and my family. But the salon officially closed after Governor Cuomo decided the last day was March 21st.”
For 4 out of 5 days of the week, Chan creates intricate nail designs at the salon and spends the rest of the week doing odd fashion and beauty shoots. But her most important role is being the full-time caretaker of her young daughter. “This whole situation is bad for me," she says. "Bad for me because it is my main source of income, and as a freelancer we do not have WFH options.”
Once we return to normalcy, you can book an appointment with Narina Chan here.
While Taryn Clarke-Dean will also have to put her entire business on pause, she does believe that there are ways that we can all take care of ourselves and upkeep our beauty routines for the next while. Even though she can't do her client's brows, she still wants to spread helpful information for everyone.
First things first, she suggests you put the tweezers down. "The best advice I can give to those wanting to upkeep their brows is don’t touch them," she says. "I know that’s a tough task but if you absolutely must, tweeze only the super low hairs and really try to refrain from shaping your brows and only clean them up. Stick to hairs below the brow bone and if a unibrow is starting to creep up, tweeze only the hairs directly above the bridge of your nose. And whatever you do, don’t trim your brows."
Clarke-Dean at work
The question lurking in beauty freelancers minds and those of their clients alike is “how do we move forward?” The only thing that is sure is that there are valuable lessons to be learned from this, all of which can only strengthen the industry and allow us to be better and, no doubt, more precise at what we do.
Mary Irwin suggests to reach out to your local and state governments. "Every freelancer I know has been reaching out to local and state government to make our voices heard," she says. "Don’t let them overlook freelancers with all of the bills getting passed, as there’s 56 million of us in the United States, and we don’t have the same protection as others. I’ve also seen, and greatly appreciate, many artists sharing information on Facebook about how to stay afloat in this time."
Lakeisha Dale thinks we need to adapt for the future. "I feel that in the beauty industry we need to discuss more ways of creating financial stability for ourselves," she says. "If you’re someone who has a background in finance, or has some financial knowledge that can help another in our industry, share it. Reach out, check in, because this can affect our mental state. We need reminders that we are going to be okay, and that there are things that we can all implement to ensure we can survive it financially should there be a reoccurrence of such a pandemic."
The Freelancer's Union has shared tons of resources on how to help freelancers, especially in NYC. Fellow makeup artist Shennel Patrick and I have even started a Go Fund Me in order to aid NYC freelance beauty professionals in this trying time. If you can, reach out to a freelance beauty professionals you follow and admire and ask them if you can pay them for a service in advance, or buy a gift certificate for their services.
So many of the freelance artists in our community are mothers, or take care of other family members. With schools being shut down across the nation for 8 weeks or possibly more, it has left parents with the added worry of providing childcare and extra meals and activities during this time. We're all aware of the exorbitant costs that come along with living in New York City, and everywhere else. Artists and their families are facing a laundry list of economic and emotional hardship in the coming months, but when this shift is over, I hope we all come out on the other side with our fellow artists standing next to us.
The Supergreat team stands behind freelance beauty professionals during this difficult time. To help out as many of them as possible, we will be hiring hair stylists, makeup artists, nail technicians, and estheticians for virtual gigs, where they will teach our community some of their valuable skills. You can watch their tutorials on the app and be sure to tune in to our upcoming IG Live's so you can follow along and help support these hardworking creatives. Our first tutorial will be during the first week of April, staring the author of this piece, Jaleesa Jaikaran. See you there and stay tuned for more!