Our Agency in Isolation

As we slowly work our way out of isolation and begin to navigate the new world and figure out what the new norm is going to be, I take time to reflect on “what the heck just happened??” We have spent over two months in isolation and now the doors have opened. It is back to business in a whole new way. I wanted to check in with our artists to see how they were doing. Below, are just a few of their stories.

Makeup & Hair Artist: Michael
Photographer: Christina Lazar-Schuler Photography
A COVID-19 photo project. Contactless photoshoots on FaceTime!

An Artist in Isolation

For Michael, his attempt to move on from Vancouver, have some “me time,” and go on to conquer Toronto got completely kiboshed by COVID-19. I can definitely say that from my own experience, having the idea to move countries or provinces is one thing, but actually doing it takes a major burst of self encouragement and confidence. Michael had been dreaming about his big move for years; I can recall countless conversations with him regarding this. He and I dreamt about the possibility of Faye Smith Agency contracting him out for makeup and hair jobs all around the world, and most specifically in Mexico. He was finally doing it!

Michael was still in Mexico when he got the news that he needed to come home to Canada. He had been there for two months and was due to spend another two before moving on to the next part of his adventure: the big move to Toronto with a fully booked wedding season ahead. He booked his flight back to Vancouver just before Justin Trudeau said “come home now.” He had already given up his apartment and most of his belongings so, upon arrival in Vancouver, he went into quarantine with some friends who had also returned home from a trip. Later, Michael made the tough but obvious decision to go and stay with his parents in Vernon, BC for the foreseeable future. The Toronto dream was gone for now.

Though it has certainly been nice to not worry about business, for Michael, his inner struggle has been his greatest challenge. His journey of personal discovery was quickly replaced with the ghosts of his upbringing. How confusing?! Michael has been doing his best to look ahead and use his new found spare time wisely. He has focused more on learning business tools to be a better business owner, as well as gaining interest in Transformational Coaching and is looking at ways he can blend it in with his existing work. We all know your beautician is also your Agony Aunt, anyway! On a serious note, coaching is something he can do online or in person without as much risk as styling hair and makeup, so it seems like a smart choice. Onto the next adventure!

Makeup & Hair Artist, Yumi Lash Lifter: Beatrice
A visit with a friend.
Agency in IsolationWhen I zoomed with Beatrice, she was in high spirits, cracking jokes and bursting with laughter from the moment the cameras were on. She was in the middle of moving apartments and painting her new space a beautiful shade of blue. Her new and improved apartment was only a tad more expensive than her last. What a win! This is one good thing that has come from this pandemic: more apartments are available and for slightly more reasonable prices.
This photograph was taken closer to the beginning of isolation when Beatrice got to see her friend for the first time after she had been in quarantine for two weeks. This was a visit very different from times in the past with no hugs and distanced two metres apart. This is a strange feeling that I know we can all relate to. Beatrice’s friend was visiting family in Italy when she heard the news from the Canadian Government telling travelling Canadian’s that they should return home to Canada. Her friend, who has dual residency, chose to come back to Canada rather than stay with her family in Italy. Funnily enough, this was a question I was itching to ask Beatrice, an Italian living in Canada, “did you ever consider moving back home to be with your family?” I wanted to ask this question for myself! I chose not to move back home to be with my family in England because Canada is now my home. It turns out Beatrice had made the same decision. Her reason was because of the extremity of the outbreak in Italy. She had to stop watching the Italian news because it was too hurtful. She knew she could not go back, though she did have some Italian friends who resided in Vancouver, choosing to move back to be with their families. In the beginning, there was a big panic and it is interesting the decisions that people made whether it be moving back to their native country, folding their business, or starting a new one. This initial panic is likely what caused the empty apartments!

For Beatrice, the first month of quarantine was iconic. Of course it began with getting used to the new life of extreme measures. “Going to the grocery store is the worst,” she said. Taking all the precautions and going through all the steps to properly sanitize yourself and all of your belongings when you come back into your home is certainly time consuming. After that, Beatrice’s first thought had nothing to do with her business and all to do with her mind. She enrolled in an online university course on Coursera, “The Science of Wellbeing,” a course that studies mental health and positive psychology. She knew right away that she needed to set a schedule for herself and ensure that she didn’t feel like she was on holiday everyday. Yoga became a part of her daily routine and she even explored meditation. I was so impressed to hear that this is where her mind went when she, along with everybody else, was told she had to isolate for an unknown amount of time. She was preparing to be in isolation for a while and knew that she needed to look after herself, both mentally and physically. Being stuck at home and unable to see anyone is taxing on us in many different ways. This decision to care for one’s self was so smart and she will gain from this practice for as long as she can keep it up. Beatrice hopes to keep Yoga and meditation in her routine post isolation.

Kseniya is one of the few people I know who has continued to work as normal through this pandemic. She temporarily lost her contract work with us here at Primp & Proper since personal services were ordered to close, but her job as a receptionist at the veterinarian and beauty advisor at Shoppers Drug Mart remained. At Shoppers, she received a pay raise along with more responsibilities. The specific store she worked at chose to keep their beauty counter open and I think we are all surprised to hear from Kseniya that customers were still coming in to buy makeup, skincare, and perfume! Naturally, top sellers were hair clippers, home manicure sets, and hair removal kits. Kseniya’s biggest challenge during this pandemic has been the ongoing difficulty to get to work. She doesn’t drive and relies on transit to get around. The lack of people on the bus has been a blessing since social distancing came about, but the lack of buses was a real bother.
Now that Primp & Proper is open for business again, Kseniya is our most sought after beautician. Due to high stress levels at the Veterinary Clinic that she worked at, she no longer works there and has opened up more availability with us at the salon. Yay! Coming out of quarantine has never been better because we now offer discounted one-stop-shop beauty packages. I asked Kseniya if she has any concerns about coming back to work or if there is anything she will adjust. She makes a good point that in the beauty industry, sanitization has always been at the forefront of our minds. We are trained in health, safety, hygiene, and sanitization. It is literally the very first course we take in beauty school and it is a part of our assessment with every physical exam we take. The only additional step we can really add into our routine is wearing face masks, face shields where needed, and gloves wherever we can. Styling hair with reusable gloves on is simply not possible! Trust me, I have tried it and it ended with a static mess, forcing me removing the gloves so I could deliver the quality of work that my clients expect of me. Hand sanitizer is our best friend!
Just as I asked Beatrice, I wanted to know, “did you ever think about moving back home to Russia to be with your family?” Her answer was, “no!” We are receiving help from our government here in Canada. In Russia, it has not been the same. She recognizes how fortunate we are to live here, and on top of that, Russia lifted the quarantine at the peak of the curve, which is a scary thought! Our curve here in Canada and especially in British Columbia is already flattening and there are now few daily cases. Here, it is much safer to allow people to slowly ease back into work again.

Makeup Artist & Lash Lifter: Victoria
Cuddling my companion.

Victoria is currently living in Vancouver with her fur-baby, Quinn, who you can see in the photograph above. Like many who took part in this interview, she opted to remain in Vancouver and not fly back to Toronto to be with her family. Victoria works with beauty supply distributor companies, and like Kseniya, has continued to work through this pandemic. She has been helping small businesses with building their e-commerce, online marketing, social media support, and well needed emotional support. She is proud to be in an industry where we can all support one another through such a struggling time.
For Victoria, beside the challenge of not over-eating (which I can certainly relate to), her biggest challenge through this pandemic has been to keep her spirits up. For a small business owner, it is unnerving to not know what the future holds and how deeply this will impact our industry as a whole. The beauty industry has always been a fast paced and hustling environment. This phase of isolation has forced us to slow down, and again, I can relate to Victoria when she expressed that she had a certain level of appreciation for that. Slowing down the pace of life gives us time to reflect and reevaluate everything! It gives us time to think about what we have been doing and what we want to change for the future.
So what does the future hold for Victoria? She believes that the beauty industry is going to see a drastic shift: FaceTime consultations, virtual education, online shopping, etc. Zoom meetings have become the new coffee date, family catch up, and business meeting; however, as much as we can evolve in the digital world, certain things have to happen with human touch. Beauty services and physical pampering simply cannot be replaced with a computer. For we Beauticians, our world may be changed forever.

So what have I learned from interviewing four members of the Faye Smith Agency team? Though we all work in the same industry, we have very different personalities and live very different lives and our experiences through this pandemic have all been vastly different. We have all experienced one thing in common: self reflection. Life as we knew it changed over night; our social lives were taken away from us, our businesses were ordered to close, our careers were put on hold, and we were given more time for ourselves. The time offered to us by a global tragedy has allowed us all to assess the life we had and learn about what we want to change moving forward. What does that change look like for you?

Faye Smith
Owner & Lead Stylist

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