Esthetics & Nails
Hollywood doesn’t make biopics on estheticians yet. There are still a few rock stars and revolutionaries to tick off the list first. When they do get to estheticians however, they’ll probably begin with Simona Gozner.
25 years ago she was a refugee in a foreign land. Now, after a triumphal career with some of Canada’s biggest spas and skincare lines, Simona has made a home for herself as Director of Esthetics at the same School where she once shone as a student.
“A great teacher is a student!” she insists. “We learn from each other and aspire to become better. One thing I’ve learned since I returned to Blanche Macdonald is how important it is to work as a team. That means the Esthetics Instructors, the faculty of our other departments, the Admissions Directors and students.
“As Instructors we’re continually learning, taking different educational ingredients and connecting them in a way that creates a unique formula specific for each group of students. It’s a very creative art.”
Simona’s creative journey to Canada’s #1 Esthetics School began on another continent, where the violent overthrow of dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu in her native Romania forced her to make some dramatic and unscheduled life decisions.
“I wanted to be a doctor but when the revolution happened everything changed,” she explains. “I fled to Switzerland as a refugee. I had to learn German and did odd jobs. It wasn’t easy, but it made me stronger. I learned how important it was to pay attention to small details at work to create a high standard. Swiss precision really exists!”
Five years after Simona left Romania, now married and mother to a nine month-old son, she braced herself for another momentous upheaval. Her family’s immigration papers had come through and they were moving to Vancouver, Canada.
“I could barely speak any English,” she recalls. “The three of us came to Canada with two suitcases full of diapers, baby clothes and big dreams.”
Simona was raising her son and working as a room attendant at Vancouver’s Fairmont Waterfront Hotel when she began the Esthetics program at Blanche Macdonald.
“Coming to Blanche Macdonald was one of the best decisions I ever made,” she insists. “The standard was so high. It taught me who I was, encouraged me to bring the best out of myself and think outside the box.”
Still in her twenties, Simona had moved to two countries where she didn’t speak the language, and was working cleaning hotel rooms to help support her family while training for a new career. And yet, listening to Simona speak, there’s not even a trace of bitterness or ‘you-think-you-had-it-tough’ swagger. Instead, there’s a modesty and calm confidence emanating from her every word. Spend a few minutes in Simona’s company and it becomes clear that you’re in the presence of a remarkable individual.
“Some of the teachers at Blanche Macdonald told me I had leadership skills,” she recalls. “They saw I had potential. I didn’t feel like I’d changed, but when I put it all together I could see the end result.”
Straight after graduating Simona took the first step in a meteoric career – a job with Vancouver’s Absolute Spa. After only a handful of months Simona was offered the position of Director of Esthetics, leading a staff of fifteen estheticians. After three years as Head Esthetician and Trainer at a pair of independent Vancouver spas she became Account Manager for The Stal Group, covering British Columbia as the representative for French skincare line Darphin. And her successes were again recognised when Nordic Selfcare approached her for the prestigious position of Development Manager across Western Canada.
Along the way, Simona developed a deep understanding of the business of Esthetics and a passion for teaching. Which made her the perfect candidate to head Blanche Macdonald’s Esthetics Department.
“I was overwhelmed and humbled when Debbie Nickel asked me to be Esthetics Director. I was honoured and scared too. But Debbie told me that she knew who I am and what my values are. She has been a gracious and great mentor to me, allowing me to find my own voice in this leadership position.
“My first task was getting to know the strengths of our team of instructors and how I could create opportunities for all of them to shine. It’s important to remember that we accomplish things together. It’s never about me. It’s about us. I’m blessed to be their colleague.”
The faculty is only one part of Simona’s team. Equally important are her students. And she takes as much care with every one of them as she does with her instructors.
“I get to know students on a daily basis,” she explains. “Every interaction is important. When I ask students to come see me I always remind them it’s not like going to the principal’s office. It’s an opportunity to get to know each other.
“My door is always open. The only thing that’s predictable about this job is that everything we do is scheduled at least four months in advance – whether it’s classes or guest speakers. But there are always unpredictable situations that we have to deal with at the same time. We don’t view them as problems. We view them as opportunities for people to see the same situation from different perspectives and come up with solutions. Even if I can see the solution, I have to make sure the student sees that answer for herself. We all have a story. We’re all trying our best.
“The connection with students is my favourite part of the job. I love, love, love it a hundred times! It forces us to look at things differently. Whether it’s hearing about them getting jobs or just giving them a hug when they need it. The students inspire me. They remind me to never stop having dreams.”
That connection with students doesn’t just last the duration of the program. Simona understands that once you join Team Blanche Macdonald, you’re family forever. She speaks from experience. Her connection brought her back to Esthetics School. Now she’s sharing the love and the wisdom with a new generation.
“I teach the business classes so I always remind students and grads that I’m always here to help them. We’ll give you the best advice we can. I’ll drop grads a message every six months to see if we can offer any help. I’m always inviting people to come back to say hello and share what they’ve learned since graduating.
“Students are always surprising me. They’ve taken a leap of faith by coming to Esthetics school. So often they leave to begin a career beyond their original expectations. Seeing that change in one year is such a blessing to me. Can you put a price on seeing someone who was once shy blossom and turn their life around by starting a career?”
Starting careers is what Simona does best. Under her leadership, Blanche Macdonald’s reputation as a starting point for great estheticians has never been stronger. For her, it’s not about producing cookie cutter graduates. It’s about sharing knowledge and letting individuals find and nurture their passion.
“We have students in the middle of their skincare modules who have already been hired by Skoah, Eccotique and Absolute Spa. Our students’ level of expertise is already there. That’s a compliment but also a responsibility. We can’t just maintain those levels. We aim to surpass them. Before I came back to Blanche Macdonald I did presentations at other schools and I could see that some of the programs were so rigid. Here, if you can do it your own way, you’re encouraged to do it. You need a great team to do that. It’s about being respectful to everyone as an individual.”
Respect and modesty are just two of the factors that make Simona such a beloved member of the Blanche Macdonald family. She came to Canada with little more than suitcases full of diapers and a willingness to follow her dreams. Now she’s inspiring others.
“Be courageous and always have the right intention with yourself and others, and the rest will take care of itself. I truly believe that.”
Hollywood still hasn’t approached Simona but it’s only a matter of time. And in the starring role?