Blanche Macdonald Centre News from Blanche Macdonald Centre PRO HAIR GRAD SARAH KROOK BRINGS ECO-CONSCIOUS STYLE TO VICTORIA AT INSPIRE HAIR DESIGN Top Hair School Graduate Sarah Krook, Inspire Hair Design in Victoria

For budding hair stylists and entrepreneurs searching for inspiration, look no further than Blanche Macdonald Pro Hair and Makeup graduate Sarah Krook. Her personal and professional journey has taken her across much of Western Canada, eventually landing in Victoria, BC. Which is where, when presented with a chance to open her own salon, she seized the opportunity. Now Sarah heads a team of six stylists at one of Victoria’s greenest and fastest-growing salons: its name, appropriately enough, Inspire Hair Design. 

“Our idea was to have a salon that was as eco-friendly as possible,” enthuses Sarah. “Our whole mentality is beauty with an eco-conscious mind. We just celebrated our two-year anniversary and it’s been amazing! We started with just two stylists and took on more people from there. We put a lot of thought into who we wanted to bring into the team. Every one of our stylists are wonderfully talented and genuine, awesome people. I feel like every hairstyle that walks out the door has my stamp of approval.” 

Top Hair School Graduate Sarah Krook, Inspire Hair Design in Victoria

Managing a thriving business in a big city like Victoria comes naturally to Sarah. Still, she’s not forgotten her small town roots. 

“I grew up on Quadra Island, three hours North of Victoria. I don’t think there was a hair stylist on the Island when I was growing up. At 12 I moved to Port Hardy. I started picking up my first beauty influences from my friends there. I remember inviting a couple of the girls on our volleyball team over and colouring their hair with red box dye in my bathroom. The results were, let’s say, questionable. And my bathroom looked like a murder scene!”

Sarah was living in North Vancouver when her friend Faye Alexander became the first member of her social circle to take the Makeup Program at Blanche Macdonald. Sarah volunteered to be Faye’s model for the Hair Module of the Makeup Program. What she experienced opened her eyes to an entire world of possibilities. 

“I fell in love with it,” explains Sarah. “What Faye could create was crazy. She introduced me to the world of Kevyn Aucoin and his book, Making Faces. I saw what you could do with makeup. It was so fascinating to me.”

Sarah enrolled on the Makeup Program. She loved it, of course, and was pleasantly surprised to discover the instant confidence she felt with a different kind of brush in her hand.

“In the Makeup Program there was a six-week hair course. I just felt like I had a natural ability for it. One of the instructors, Sharlene Gill, came into our classroom and told us that she needed some help with hair for a wedding. My teachers put my name forward. That gave me so much confidence!

“Honey Dawn Faircrest was my one of our instructors. When she was grading our final projects she told me that mine was camera ready. I never forgot that. I put everything I had into the hair of that final so it felt awesome knowing that an industry professional thought that it was that good.”

Top Hair School Graduate Sarah Krook, Inspire Hair Design Victoria

These were the days before Blanche Macdonald had begun its industry-leading Pro Hair Program. Which was fine for Sarah, who was happily starting her beauty industry career as a Makeup Artist.

“I moved to Lloydminster, Alberta following a boy and got a job on the Clinique counter. That’s when I received a letter from Blanche Macdonald saying that they were starting a hair program. I moved straight back to Vancouver to start the program and left the boy in Lloydminster!”

Sarah remains a proud member of Blanche Macdonald’s very first Pro Hair class.

“We couldn’t have been luckier,” she insists. “We got to work so closely with [Program Director] Phil Loiselle. To be able to work with someone who doesn’t just know hair, but the business with it, was amazing. I was always the first person in class and the last person to leave. It was so exciting for me. I was able to be creative. It was great!

Top Hair School Graduate Sarah Krook, Inspire Hair Design Victoria

“One of the biggest things that Phil taught us was that 50% of the job is the technical aspect of hair and the other half, maybe the more important half, is how you connect with people. If clients are comfortable they can tell you what they’d like you to work on, what they’re happy and not happy with. He stressed that from the beginning. People didn’t know Blanche Macdonald had a Hair School back then so we had to learn how to persuade people to come sit in our chairs. This was before the Q&A salon at CurliQue opened. That’s phenomenal! It’s such a beautiful facility. I’m sure they get lots of walk-ins straight from the street.”

Sarah graduated and was instantly on the floor of salons in North Vancouver, then Port Hardy and eventually Calgary, where a volunteer job provided a connection that would change her life.

“I responded to an ad for a volleyball team looking for an assistant coach. Kathryn Genereux was the head coach of the team. We became good friends instantly. She’d had a lot of terrible experiences at salons and felt that she could never connect with her stylists. I started doing her hair and she could see the passion I had for it.

“Soon after that I was visiting my family in Victoria. It was minus 40 in Calgary and warm and sunny in Victoria so I decided to stay!”

Visiting Calgary for the Stampede, Sarah was reconnecting with Kathryn when a friendly brunch morphed into a life-altering business meeting.

“Kathryn announced that she was moving to Victoria, told me that she wanted to invest in a small business and that small business was me! Of course I said yes!”

Top Hair School Graduate Sarah Krook, Inspire Hair Design in Victoria

Two and half years later, the ideas discussed over that brunch have turned into Inspire Hair Design. As the head stylist and one half of the business partnership, every day Sarah is implementing the lessons she learned at Hair School, especially when it comes to recruiting and training her team. 

“Attitude and personality are the most important things. Skill and the drive to do this is a close second. I still talk to Phil and Jeff Ranger every three or four months. When we were starting Inspire I would ask them questions about everything to do with salons, licensing and getting the business running and they’d always get back to me with the right answer. It was Phil who first pointed me towards Davines, which is our primary line. Phil said we would have the best education and support with Jessica Ruth, their amazing representative, in our corner. He was right! She created the Ambassador program, which lets me participate in Davines educator training classes in Vancouver. There I get to work closely with some pretty fantastic Davines Educators like Ana Luisa Valdes. She’s the perfect example of someone who loves what they do. 

“Right now I’m concentrating on the business development side of things – growing our social media, and arranging a spring/summer photo shoot. But I love seeing clients too, knowing the details of their lives and getting their looks perfect. I never want to lose that connection. The creative side is great. A few days ago I turned a rainbow Mohawk into a lavender Mohawk. An all-over colour correction is so fun and exciting!”

Sarah is refining that balance between business and creativity as Inspire Hair Design continues to grow. Part of that task is leading and building the next generation of stylists and entrepreneurs. In her mind, it all begins with education.

“The first thing is go to a good school. Coming from Blanche Macdonald and having dabbled in the fun and creative sides of cutting and colour made such a difference. It helped me build my clientele really quickly. 

“You also need passion. As much as I love the creativity of being a hair stylist, I do this because I get to make people feel good. Then they pass that positive energy onto the next person they meet. When that happens I feel like I’ve done my part!”

Hairstylist Sarah Krook's Top 5 Pro Product Picks 

Tue, 21 Apr 2015 00:00:00 PST

Creativity. Character. Commitment. 

Rebeccah Delchambre understands what it takes to reach the top of the Film and TV Makeup industry. The Blanche Macdonald graduate has a long list of major movies, TV series, Leo Awards and Emmy Nominations on her résumé and is now in her second year as the Co-chairperson of the Makeup Department of the IATSE Local 891 Union in British Columbia and the Yukon.

As Designer, Head of Department, Key Makeup Artist or part of the team for projects including Elf, The A-Team, Alcatraz, Scary Movie 4, The Chronicles of Narnia, Are We Done Yet, Freddy vs Jason, and dozens more, it’s no surprise that Rebeccah has tales to tell. She’s a natural storyteller.

Her own story began in England with a talented fine artist for a mother and an inspiring drama teacher. At 11 years old Rebeccah and her mother moved to Toronto, launching an incredible behind-the-scenes journey in film and television.

“My Mom, Dinah Delchambre, is one of the best artists I’ve ever met,” promises Rebeccah. “She would go on set and paint portraits that would appear in the movies. That gave me a taste for film. I had opportunities to work behind the camera doing art pieces for the sets and storyboards, then in front of the camera doing background work, which led to an agent, and auditions. I soon realized I loved film with every cell in my body. However, I just found acting wasn’t as fulfilling as some other aspects of theatre and film. I’d done some makeup on myself and other cast members in theatre. I decided that I wanted do more.”

Top Makeup School Graduate Rebeccah Delchambre

Rebeccah had left Toronto and headed west to become part of Vancouver’s booming film and TV industry. With a job at The Body Shop, she was using her self-taught makeup skills every day. Even then, Rebeccah knew she was never going to master her art without learning from the best. The time had come to find an industry-recognized Makeup School.

“I asked around and people I respected had gone to Blanche Macdonald. My experience at Makeup School was great. Jennifer Folk was one of my instructors. I honestly wasn’t thinking about becoming a TV and Film Makeup Artist. I just thought that I should try it out and see if it fit.

“I loved doing a beauty makeup, playing with ideas and the interaction, but my favourite element of the program was character building in the TV and film classes. Creating characters was what inspired me. I still have the binders and all the work I did at Blanche Macdonald!”

Rebeccah immediately took a position working at The Bay for Niko Cosmetics, and was soon headhunted by Dior. As her retail career was blossoming, Rebeccah was learning about the wide variety of products now available to her, trying them out and exploring new creative avenues.

“I would do makeup wherever I could,” she laughs. “The doors started to open. I volunteered at The Carousel and Arts Club Theatre Companies. I would do fashion shows at Holt Renfrew. I wanted to do everything. My attitude was ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’ When I wasn’t earning money to pay the bills I would take any opportunity that came up.”

Top Makeup School Graduate Rebeccah Delchambre

Those opportunities included music videos and short movies for the UBC Film Program. As the Head of Department on those shorts, Rebeccah brought her positive attitude to the challenge.

“At The Bay we were taught the phrase, ‘Yes I can.’ I still think like that. Let’s make it happen! In one UBC film the actress had to burn a cigarette out on her hand, which is a big effect fresh out of school considering the safety of the actress. I took a blister plaster and glued tin foil under it, applied it to the palm of her hand, covered it in latex and coloured it. Voila! A safe and dramatic out of kit effect! That’s how my career has been ever since. You give me a problem. I do my best to figure it out. I still love pulling the rabbit out of the hat.” 

It didn’t take long for Rebeccah to become a member of the IATSE Film and TV union. As her role in major shows’ Makeup Departments began to grow, so did her library of great stories.

“I’ve had so many great jobs working as part of a big team of talented people. Freddy vs Jason was a super campy matchup of two iconic characters. It was mayhem. Sometimes we worked so hard I didn’t remember driving home, which from a safety standpoint is not a good thing! Working with Bill Terezakis on his team was amazing. On the second unit we were taking care of Freddy’s stunt double Doug Chapman, Ken Kirzinger, who played Jason, and his stunt double, Glenn Ennis. There were no limits to the blood letting. It was epic!” 

Top Makeup School Graduate Rebeccah Delchambre

“On The Santa Clause 2 I was teamed up with Leanne Podavin to do the Stunt Santa, and stunt Toy Santa. Another memorable moment! It was so great to work with Barry Koper and Charles Porlier who took care of Tim Allen’s transformations.

“Meeting challenges on shows for various Head of Departments has given me a wealth of experience that I treasure and a great resource that I bring to work every day. On the TV movie Murder Unveiled as the Head of Department I coordinated the design of ventilated facial hairpieces for Sikh characters with wig maker Stacey Butterworth. Our big challenge was to conceal the lace from the eyes of the new High Definition cameras. I won a Leo for this job! On Elf I applied elf ears, a gnome makeup and fun aging makeups on little kids’ hands for Victoria Down. On Scary Movie 3 and 4 we did all sorts of fun gags like a scalping and laying in extra chest and armpit hair for Taylor Roberts. 

“On Steven Spielberg’s mini-series Taken I was creating aging makeups over three generations with Charles and Patricia Murray. We received an Emmy nomination for that. And of course, working on Howard Berger’s team in New Zealand for The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe was an out of this world opportunity and such a fantastic project.”

Top Makeup School Graduate Rebeccah Delchambre

Rebeccah is rightfully proud of her incredible work. But even more illuminating than her behind-the-scenes stories are her insights into what makes a successful movie makeup artist.

“We work in such small spaces. We’re next to each other all day long, so we need to be able to work together, be professional and hopefully enjoy each other’s company in support of what we’re trying to do – tell the story. We need to be able to get along as part of a big team. Finding a graceful way to do that with positive energy will take people far. If you’re on set smiling, being attentive, honest and showing that you’re able to do what the Head of Department or First Assistant needs, you’ll get the call next time.  Gossiping or grumbling won’t serve anyone. You can be on set for 18 hours on the side of a mountain in the pouring rain. It’s not glamorous. It takes an inspired and passionate person to be on set.”

Think that Beauty and Film and TV Makeup are two separate disciplines? Rebeccah will convince you otherwise.

“Makeup effects are the same as beauty makeups foundationally,” she insists. “The principles are the same with how you build your structure, the use of highlight and shadow, layering of colours and then finer painterly elements that create a look that’s organically part of the face. You’re telling the story with paint, brushes and sometimes appliances. Beauty and prosthetic makeups complement each other and both have complimented my growth as an artist. A prosthetic, a bald cap, covering a tattoo, beauty, it’s all the same to me. It’s about doing what’s needed.”

Top Makeup School Graduate Rebeccah Delchambre

Rebeccah is now doing what’s needed in the role of IATSE Co-Chairperson for a second year. When she’s reviewing union permittee applications, she’s searching for talented, motivated and creative artists to join the IATSE 891 membership.

“There are ebbs and flows in Vancouver for makeup opportunities, but if you’re a go-getter, organized, professional and have a positive attitude you will go far. To become a permittee grads need experience on set. They need to build their experience and show the ability to work well with different people and in varied work situations. I was insanely enthusiastic and would not be deterred. Whatever I was working on, I would give it my all.” 

One last amazing thing about Rebeccah, alongside her incredible experience and stories, is her generosity when it comes to sharing her knowledge. And although you have to be an IATSE member or permittee to attend one of her master classes, everyone is welcome to her wisdom. You just have to ask. 

Top Makeup School Graduate Rebeccah Delchambre's Top 5 Favourite Products

Click to Request Info!


Tue, 14 Apr 2015 00:00:00 PST

We are on opposite ends of our daylight. As the sun makes its morning spill into the streets of Vancouver, in Hong Kong it is already past one a.m. the next day. Despite the late hour, the voice coming through the speakers is bright – radiating energy. This doesn’t come as a surprise from Blanche Macdonald Fashion Merchandising graduate Brian Chan – after all, you would probably be chipper too if work meant spending your day in the smooth gloss of mega-luxury shop Louis Vuitton, in Hong Kong’s premiere Times Square shopping district.

“As a Visual-Merchandiser-In-Charge, I conceptualize the store, design the layout and arrange the presentation of the collections. It’s definitely fun but with great power, comes great responsibility,” says Chan, dropping his voice ominously before cracking into a laugh. “I take a big fashion risk every rotation. Sometimes they’re rewarding, and sometimes they’re not right-away, but they always teach me something!

“At Louis Vuitton, we do things a little bit differently; I hold many responsibilities within the store. I look at reports every day from all over Hong Kong and we compare the products or the product lines that are doing well, and those that are doing not-so-well at each location. For Visual Merchandising I lead a team of twelve people to do window and store rotations. We use my insights from the reports to decide on a merchandising plan.”

Top Fashion School Graduate Brian Chan

Such a position requires a deft maneuvering of a wide array of skill sets. The interplay of hands-on creativity and business is one that Brian thrives in as Visual Merchandiser In-Charge, Client Advisor, and In-Store Trainer at Vuitton, but there is a lot of hard work, as well as a diligent awareness to his everyday.

“Perspective varies with different people, and even if there’s a guideline for you to follow it will never work for every single store, in every single moment. You have to truly understand what or who you are dealing with in order to put something together that is an effective business driver. You have to be well-rounded. As a Client Advisor you learn quite a lot about the customers’ buying patterns. It definitely helps with making both business and visual decisions!”

The importance of versatility in the diverse industry-meets-artistry of Fashion was instilled in Brian at Canada’s Top Fashion School. It was a life-changing decision that came about through unusual beginnings.

Top Fashion School Graduate Brian Chan

“I thought that my parents would want me to study a science, so I just went for it. I chose Geology because of two big reasons: one, that it was the most non-scientific science and two, because it was the least math-involved,” laughs Brian.

“I knew that I wouldn’t be able to survive six months in the field when I graduated. Still, I stuck to the program and I finished the degree, but I knew that I needed to pursue something that I really liked afterwards. I watched a lot of Fashion Television growing up; mass media really opened up my eyes to something new that was going on in this world. At the time I had a part time position at a boutique, and one of my coworkers had gone to Blanche Macdonald. I looked into the Fashion Merchandising program and decided that that was what I needed to do.”

It was a big shift that would go on to bring big, thrilling changes for Brian. Seizing at every volunteer opportunity on offer while he was at school (“Working runways and events... there were so many things that I wouldn’t have been able to try had I not gone to Blanche!”) it was one internship in particular, secured through Fashion Career Director Mel Watts, that set the wheels turning on what would become an international luxury career – a coveted slot in the Menswear department of Holt Renfrew with Tom Ford.

Top Fashion School Graduate Brian Chan

Brian’s devotion and passion for the sales floor quickly led him to being hired on as a seasonal employee for Holt Renfrew’s Louis Vuitton nook, scaling the ladder to a full-time position within months. His new high calibre setting meant high calibre run-ins.

“Vancouver is Hollywood North and so we had lots of celebrities that would come in. I’ve helped one very undercover one. You won’t usually be able to tell who they are until they come up to pay – they’re very low key. We do have stories where we have had to shut down the store for them to shop, though. It does happen!”

In addition to providing ample opportunities for celebrity sightings, Vancouver’s luxury retail scene groomed him for the next leap of his career. Brian took initiative and asked for an international transfer; the Louis Vuitton team, recognizing his talents in Visual Merchandising, supported him all the way. Off he soared to China’s buzzing core.  

“You might think otherwise, but there is not a huge difference between Vancouver and Hong Kong in terms of customer. It’s intensified; let’s put it that way. In Hong Kong, like in Vancouver, we need to cater to a high percentage of overseas clientele. It means faster service, and attention to their specific needs. Though, Hong Kong’s out-of-town Chinese clients do prefer more flashy items; they want obvious Louis Vuitton rather than the subtle Vuitton of Vancouver.”

Top Fashion School Graduate Brian Chan

Beyond market profiling, Brian’s not much concerned with comparing the two cities; he is head over heels with where he is at, and infinitely grateful for the beginnings that brought him there.

“I am very blessed to have lots of friends and family around. I grew up in Hong Kong, so working here is like coming home. All the same, I still consider myself a Canadian!

“To this day, my Fashion History classes with Peggy and Donna are very valuable to me, and I really appreciate their teachings! Because of them, I know what La Belle Epoque is, I know what Art Deco is, I know about Art Nouveau. When I was training for the store I was able to use the correct terms, understand the concept, and bring in tear sheets for my team to be inspired by. Fashion is always taking inspiration from the eras before us; and this is especially true for Louis Vuitton.”

For anyone with monograms and dreams of lush window dressings twinkling in their eyes, Brian urges them to go for Fashion gold.

“Don’t be scared. It’s always hard to take that first step, especially when you know that that internship or volunteer opportunity isn’t necessarily going to pay you. However, it’s bringing you a lot of experience, exposure, and expertise. Try it, do it, and it will definitely be rewarding in the future. It really helps to have a good network - build it up with your volunteering, your classmates, your teachers. And don’t be a meanie. Be a good person.

“It takes a lot of work, but if you really love luxury brands and retail, then you can make it happen at Louis Vuitton!”

Top Fashion School Graduate Brian Chan

Top Fashion School Graduate Brian Chan Top 5

Tue, 24 Mar 2015 00:00:00 PST

The phone never stops ringing.

Every five minutes, without fail, Jesse Hamade’s in-store cellphone bleeps into life. That’s entirely normal for one of the three Cosmetics Sales Managers at the Vancouver branch of Holt Renfrew, Canada’s leading luxury department store. She’s in high demand.

The continual stream of questions and requests doesn’t faze Jesse in the slightest. An ability to deal calmly with the issues at hand comes with the territory.

“It’s chaos!” she laughs when we bring up the question of what a typical day at Holt Renfrew looks like. “This store has the highest volume of sales in Canada. We have 80 associates in our department and if I’m the only manager on duty it gets busy. My phone is always on and my team is always calling me for something. I’m dealing with vendors, buyers and our staff on any customer service or development issue. I never know what I’m walking into. It’s crazy but enjoyable. My day is never boring.”

Jesse is Holt Renfrew’s Cosmetics and Skincare department’s swan, gliding serenely on the surface but working hard underneath all the same. And a major part of that work is ensuring that Holt Renfrew’s many associates are as well-prepared and supported as possible. 

“To me luxury means that our associates come first,” she explains. “We don’t throw people on the floor without an extensive training program. We want to do everything we can to help our staff succeed. My door is always open. There’s a lot of mentorship that happens.”

Top Esthetics School Graduate Jesse Hamade

Jesse is happy to provide that mentorship, but it all starts with recruiting talented and enthusiastic makeup artists and skincare specialists. Which is why, when Jesse is looking for new recruits, her first port of call is the same Makeup and Esthetics School where her own story began.

“We want commitment, drive and a desire to give great customer service. We want people who’ll go above and beyond and get their clients to keep coming back. Blanche Macdonald gave me a great start to my career and there’s still a connection there. Their grads know how to sell themselves really well. When I call Jen Brown and Heather Sosa in the Blanche Macdonald Career Department I can tell that they care and really want their students to succeed. Not every school is like that.”

Jesse speaks from experience. The programs, instructors and even the location may have changed, but Blanche Macdonald’s educational standards remain as impeccable as they were when she was a student. 

Top Makeup School Graduate Jesse Hamade

“My Mom studied esthetics in Paris for a year. Once she told me about her experiences the bug had been planted. Through my teens I was always doing my friends’ makeup for graduations. I would tell people, ‘That doesn’t look good. You should try this.’

“Blanche Macdonald was known as the best School even back then. I arrived thinking of taking the Makeup program. But when I spoke with Robyne Nessel-Smoot she thought I’d benefit from the Esthetics program. She was right! It ended up being more of a passion for me than makeup. The skincare portion of the program was like the first year of nursing. That was my favourite part of the program. I was learning about all the systems of the body. It was more than learning about just putting on makeup or skincare products. There’s a science behind skincare.”

Top Esthetics School Graduate Jesse Hamade

Esthetics School gave Jesse more than an education. It also provided the springboard for her entry into the industry she was passionate about.

“When I was still a student I did a facial on a woman called Peggy Sinclair who had come in on a friends and family day. She said to me, ‘When you graduate call me and I’ll get you a job.’ And she did! My first job was doing facials for her at The Bay Downtown. Strangely enough, now Peggy works here!

“Once I started working I loved the one-on-one intimacy between myself and the client. I realised that I was good at it too. I would get great feedback from clients and could see how happy they were. I would educate myself on the products’ ingredients, what each one could do for my individual clients, and how it would make them feel as they saw their skin improve. Changing the way a woman feels about herself, and knowing that you played a part in that, is huge.”

Top Esthetics School Graduate Jesse Hamade

Jesse loved the industry and the industry loved her right back. With her interpersonal and skincare skills paired with a flair for sales and marketing, Jesse was repeatedly recruited to exciting management roles, stopping at Adrien Arpel, Clarins, Elizabeth Arden and Chanel at Eatons where she stayed for five years, eventually rising to the position of Business Development Manager overseeing the entire cosmetics floor. When Eatons closed its doors the industry wasn’t going to let her talents go to waste. Jesse was immediately recruited for the same position at Sears.

“I loved it. I was in my 20s and had 80 associates working for me, many of whom were older than me. I had to prove myself, but I could always generate the dollars. I could always come up with events that would help drive business. I wasn’t sitting in an office then and I’m still not. Even now as a Sales Manager, I don’t have to sell to clients but I always do. That doesn’t change.”

Top Esthetics School Graduate Jesse Hamade

Always eager to take on new challenges, Jesse took a lengthy break from the beauty industry to sample working life in another field she’s passionate about – fashion. After many successful years across Eastern Canada with Louis Vuitton, Le Chateau and BCBG, Holt Renfrew in Ottawa came knocking on her door. Now Jesse’s back in Vancouver, bringing her mix of motivation and marketing to one of the city’s most luxurious cosmetics departments.

“I’m still fascinated with coming up with marketing plans and how I can help get the associates to the next level. There’s an art to selling and an art to repeat business. Associates have to understand that this is a business and it’s not just about putting makeup and skincare on people. You need to build a loyal client base. You have to be passionate about what you do.

“This has never been a job for me. It’s a career! There is opportunity to grow. I love showing the team that if they put in the hard work they’ll get the rewards. They understand that I started at the beginning and eventually became a manager. They know they can do the same!”

Top Esthetics School Graduate Jesse Hamade Top 5 Products

Learn more about Blanche Macdonald's Esthetics Program!

Mon, 16 Mar 2015 00:00:00 PST

For Blanche Macdonald Makeup graduate Sharon Rai, every day is a labour of love. The lavish ado of marriage was once youth’s sweetest daydream; now, that daydream has grown into the swoon-inducing reality of her workaday, as Canada’s premier bridal Makeup and Hair Artist.

“I have been mesmerized with brides since I was a little girl,” Sharon enthuses. “To me they were as close as I could get to a princess. Now, I am honoured to be able to work with them, and to be included in the most special day of their lives. It’s been nine years since I worked on my first wedding and each one still has the same excitement for me – I still get those butterflies in my stomach!

The feelings are mutual. Brides are infatuated with the beauty mastery of Victoria-based Sharon Rai Hair & Makeup Artistry, which whorls through everything from blush-kissed natural, to the full-blown opulence of South Asian tradition. And this year, the wedding industry was ready to make their adoration for Sharon’s finesse known.  

“It was an amazing feeling to hear my name as the winner of Best Makeup Artist! Especially being mentioned in such an esteemed group. Even more amazing was hearing the excitement in the voice of the host when she read my name again for the Best Hairstylist in Canada award,” says Sharon, her smile beaming with the emotional vestige of her DOUBLE nationwide-win at the prestigious 2014 Canadian Wedding Industry Awards. “It was pretty cool!

“I’ve worked very hard this past year. 2014 brought new challenges, new opportunities, and I was able to find the balance of being a mother and being a business woman. That’s what made this such a great accomplishment: having a baby, being able spend time with her, and still working up to being one of the best artists in Canada. It was huge.”

Top Makeup School Graduate Sharon Rai

Sharon is nothing short of a multi tasking marvel. Between being BC’s most sought-after Bridal Hair and Makeup Artist, traveling to accept awards – an outstanding ten this year alone – as well as forging and heading Victoria’s first alliance of esteemed wedding businesses, Women of Weddings (WoW), this woman-wonder still (somehow) found the time to throw a lavish first-year fete for her petite treasure Naiva.

But busy is just the way she likes it.

“My parents are entrepreneurs, and I started working when I was nine years old. I loved it!”  

As she grew older, Sharon found that this same enterprising spirit was blooming within her. Having always had a love for makeup, but not yet knowing how to make a career out of it, she enrolled in business school in Vancouver. She flourished in the fast pace, but she couldn’t shake her artistic intuitions.

“I had this creative passion but I didn’t know how to release it. I had met my husband – then boyfriend – and I was telling him about my passion for beauty. And he said, ‘Well, you should go for it!’ I didn’t know where to start. I started research into many Makeup schools, but I recognized Blanche Macdonald as the one that would best prepare me for the career I envisioned. At that time I was working in business, and the schedule of the program really fit with my lifestyle. I contacted the school – after that first phone call I knew that it was exactly what I needed to do.

“What I loved about Blanche Macdonald was that the teachers were all living, breathing, and working in the industry. This was the most exciting thing for me because I was a sponge in school. I was the keener, always sitting in the front, all about learning. I was always asking questions, picking their brains, and not only did they have answers, but they could all relate to the industry at that moment.”

Top Makeup School Graduate Sharon Rai

Sharon’s openness to the teachings of her instructors, and the ‘real-world, real-time’ experience that they could impart meant that she was one step ahead of other emerging artists upon leaving the creative cocoon of Canada’s Top Makeup School. And having the Blanche Macdonald Centre seal on her resume only fortified her foothold in the industry.

I had instant credibility. The challenge that I find most artists face is in just convincing people to believe in them as artists. I had a head start because I was a Blanche Macdonald graduate. From there I only had to focus on working hard and proving myself to be the best.”

Proving herself after school meant maintaining the will to continue learning – and a lot of hard work.

“I volunteered with Make Up For Ever, Nars, Bobbi Brown, Laura Mercier, Shiseido, Clarins and Stila; at Holt Renfrew, The Bay, Sears and Shoppers Drug Mart. And worked retail at MAC. I also did a lot of assisting with Makeup Artists, Photographers, Hairstylists and Stylists for fashion shows and photo shoots, which were all trade-for-print!

“I would get paid nothing and still I would stay the entire day at shoots making sure the hair and makeup was perfect. And I did that again and again so that I could build my name. I wanted the practice – I would do anything to improve my skills. I kept working with dedication and a commitment to my passion. Now I’m making a career out of it, and loving every single day.”

Top Makeup School Graduate Sharon Rai

Practice makes a tenured artist, and Sharon’s indomitable will for mastering her craft led her to be accepted onto MAC Cosmetics’ illustrious Impact Team – also known as the ‘best of the best of BC’ – placing her in a leadership role educating and training her fellow artists, as well as teaching consumers about product and makeup styles.

Yet even this grand and alluring position could not keep Sharon away from her first beauty love. The beckons of bridal were too sweet to bear, and Sharon Rai Hair & Makeup Artistry was born.

“We like to think of ourselves as the Bride’s Backup Bridal Party because we do everything! Our top priority is to make sure that our brides can enjoy their day in a relaxed, stress-free environment while we take care of every beauty detail. Though, there have been times when the bride has fainted, and we’ve been the ones running to grab her water and take care of it all,” says Sharon. “I always tell our brides that they have an everlasting touch-up. They don’t even have to worry about looking in the mirror. The photographer is always seeing the big picture; that everyone is standing correctly, that the composure is right. We are the real life Photoshop; we’re zooming in to check for flyaways, un-fluffed dress skirts...anything at all out of place.

“When they book with me they have me from ‘I will’ to ‘I do,’ and I am their pampering, makeup, hair and styling service for any event leading up to, and including the wedding day. I really like to make that connection with them. Most brides become great friends of mine afterwards  because they are welcoming me in to such a special day in their lives.”

Top Makeup School Graduate Sharon Rai

Sharon and her team specialize in both Western and South Asian weddings. For her South Asian brides, it’s not only about the beauty experience, but about the care, attention and honour placed on the rich traditional intricacies of a culture-centric wedding.

“Born into a Sikh family, I can truly relate and understand. In addition to training my team for hair and makeup, I teach them what I learned growing up, and through my more recent experiences with South Asian weddings, such as detailed dressing techniques and beauty rituals. I’m not only fostering my team to be the best in beauty, but to appreciate what matters to each of our brides specifically. It’s about connecting with each of them as individuals to learn about their personal cultural and family traditions.”

Many of the artists in Sharon’s ever-expanding, and carefully curated team are scouted from the classrooms that first knocked Sharon off her feet and set her on her own path to success. She knows that the graduates of Blanche Macdonald are “at that standard” – that they’re ready to be tossed into the variable and demanding world of weddings.    

“Living in Victoria, you never know when you might get a warm day in January, or a rainy day in July. You can never know for sure what’s going to happen, but we make sure that no matter what, they are looking and feeling their best.

Top Makeup School Graduate Sharon Rai

This is no easy task. When you’re working with an environment buffeted by high emotions and rife with unpredictable moments, there are simply too many eventualities to be prepared for. In her seventh year since she founded her company, Sharon has more than a few of these contingencies-turned-realities under her belt, including one particularly sweltering exotic destination wedding in the Dominican Republic.

“I had never worked with that sort of heat before. The bride had booked me for the days leading up to the wedding, and so each day I would practice makeup on myself to see what would work; what would withhold that heat. By the time the wedding came around, everyone was sweating bullets and she looked AMAZING! She didn’t break a sweat. She looked radiant in all of her shots.

“Now I can say with confidence that my makeup will last through anything – though any surge of emotion or weather. It’s one thing to see the before and after, but as an artist, being able to see it live through different happenings and moments allows you to become stronger in your craft. You can constantly be striving to improve your skills.”

The brides of the West Coast certainly need no more convincing when it comes to Sharon Rai – her passion is contagious, her portfolio brimming over in glowing faces and heartfelt testimonials. Having now been titled the Best of the Best in Canada for Bridal Hair and Makeup, you may be surprised to hear that learning is still high on her list of priorities. Then again, it’s learning that’s brought her to the thrilling pinnacle she currently holds.  

“I still educate myself and hold education high: as a master artist, as a business owner, as a leader and as a mother. It’s always good to keep learning, to inspire others. My advice for any aspiring artist is to work hard, set goals for yourself, practice, listen, learn as much as you can, and you will master your skill.

Top Makeup School Graduate Sharon Rai



Sharon Rai's Top 5

Wed, 04 Mar 2015 00:00:00 PST