I grew up in the culturally rich Romanian seaport of Constanta, where I was exposed from an early age to the diverse heritage of the Greek, Roman, and Byzantine empires, which extended their influence over this region at different times in history. As a child I helped my parents run a successful tailor shop, and it was here that I first learned how proportions apply to the human body. Later I broadened my field of interest with studies in architecture, engineering, drawing, and mathematics. In college I studied the Fibonacci sequence, as well as Leonardo Da Vinci's drawings of the Golden Ratio, as it applies to Nature and the human body. I've always strived to combine my artistic interests with my technical skills, so it was just a matter of time before I managed to acquire an Aesthetician's License. Soon after, I left Romania with my family and settled in Los Angeles.
It was tough going in the beginning, as I tried to get over the culture shock and the language barrier. However, with a bit of luck and a lot of persistence I was able to find work as an aesthetician in various beauty salons in Beverly Hills. A hard-working mentality has been instilled in me from an early age, and I thought nothing of pulling twelve hours shifts on a regular basis. Pretty soon, though, I felt like I was stuck in a rut. My mother kept telling me, more often than I wanted to hear, "If you keep doing what you've been doing, you're gonna keep getting what you've been getting." My head was bursting with ideas but I was getting no opportunity for a creative outlet. It wasn't the money, or the job itself, mind you, that bothered me, but like many people approaching a certain (middle) age I heard a voice in my head telling me that it was time to start marching to the beat of another drum. I decided it was time to open my own business.
I only had one day off a week, back then, and I took full advantage of that precious little spare time to pursue my interests. I made frequent trips to the public library, researching books on aesthetics, Da Vinci's drawings, the Golden Ratio and the Fibonacci sequence, trying to figure out how proportions determine the way people perceive "beauty". I would take my daughter along with me and while she was doing her homework across the desk from me, I was studying on my own, often staying there until closing time. While working at that beauty salon in the mid 90's I couldn't help but notice that there were no eyebrow products on the market, so I always had to create my own make-shift line (mixing Vaseline, aloe vera, eye shadow, etc) for lack of a better solution. However, this opened my eyes to the possibility for something creative. On the one hand, my studies in aesthetics and the Golden Ratio suddenly connected with my experience in eyebrow shaping. On the other hand, the need for eyebrow products in the beauty industry assured me that there was a niche there waiting to be explored. This sparked in me an idea that I knew I had to pursue to the very end. And the only way to achieve this dream was by opening my own salon and creating my own beauty product line.
But how do you do that with very little money saved and no credit? Well, one thing I've learned from my mother (aside from that favorite saying of hers) is to be fearless. My job also had a great advantage in that I came into contact with a lot of extraordinary women on a daily basis, and I always tried to learn something from them. One girl in particular comes to mind, as she taught me a great deal about being focused and determined. She was a dancer on a small TV show and she walked to work every day (and nobody walks in L.A, really!), just to save enough to give herself a better chance at pursuing her dream of Hollywood. I was so impressed with her that I never charged her for my services. She is still my customer after all these years, but she is famous enough now that people just call her by her initials. Finally, there was one other lesson I had learned from another extraordinary woman, Oprah. I used to watch her show religiously, my first couple of years here just trying to pick up on the English language, then later trying to absorb life lessons from women like myself. And one thing I've learned from watching Oprah is that whenever you accept a new challenge you always, somehow, find the resources to accomplish the job.
So, armed with fearlessness, determination, and positive thinking, I was able to convince a loan officer that the bank's investment would be secure in the hands of this "crazy" woman from Romania who thought she could pay it all back by just shaping eyebrows. This was unheard-of at that time and it raised some eyebrows at the bank, for sure, but to me it was just business as usual. Finally I was able to open my own salon: Anastasia Beverly Hills. Early days were very tough, but when you choose to do something that you love doing you just don't feel it-- rather, it's immensely satisfying knowing you're on your life's journey. Besides, I had my daughter helping me and together we made the salon an instant success.
Now, to complete my master plan all I had to do was create an eyebrow product line to go with the eyebrow shaping technique I invented. With that in mind I made several trips to Italy to talk to manufacturers about creating eyebrow products according to my specifications. I went through hundreds of companies just to find the right manufacturer that could produce the eyebrow tweezers I wanted. I got thoroughly involved in the process, overseeing every aspect from the content of the eyebrow powders, the colors, the design, the packaging etc. When I finally came out for air I heard someone tell me that I needed $2 million to launch my product line!!
Obviously this must have been all I was talking about in the days following the bad news, because a client of mine jumped to the rescue. She offered, on a trial basis, to put up an initial investment in the company, while I acted as Creative Director. Business took off, newspaper and magazine articles followed, and my salon was chock-full of celebrities on any given day. Even Nordstrom's came knocking on my door, asking to carry our line of products. I was constantly booked for out-of-town appearances, spreading the gospel of eyebrow shaping seven days a week.
Then, just when everything was going so well, my investor decided to back out of the deal and it all came to a screeching halt. I was facing a tough decision -- either drop the product line altogether, or keep plugging along with NO experience, NO warehouse, NO man power, etc. I sat down and asked myself "What would Oprah do?" So, naturally, I jumped in headfirst, I bought out the investor, rented a warehouse, hired employees, and learned from scratch everything there is to learn about production. All in less than a week's time. It was a decision I never regretted. Now our brand-name is known worldwide, and our beauty lines are found at Nordstrom and Sephora stores, as well as in our sister salons in Japan, France, Italy, Sweden, etc. I even got to meet my idol, Oprah, in person, and I was a guest on her show several times.
No successful person is ever alone in his or her journey and I am no different. I've always had my daughter by my side. She sacrificed vacation time during college to help me start up my business and has always been there for me, from our daily talks about the future of the company, to the dinners that somehow always ended up looking like business meetings, to her working the front-desk job at the salon when we were short-handed. So much so, in fact, that she once complained to me that I made her look like a 40-year old woman, stuck in a rut. That sounded familiar. I decided then and there to offer her the position of vice-president of our company, a job I knew she was well qualified for. In the way of easing myself into the big announcement, I told her "Claudia, if you keep doing what you're doing, you're gonna keep getting what you're getting." She said I sounded just like my mother.
I believe there is never a time to stop growing. While it is true that I've come to be known as an "eyebrow specialist", I always see myself pursuing a wider goal, that of helping women achieve a balanced, natural beauty. To this end, I recently developed a line of skincare and color products. My search for a new and healthy approach to beauty took me to a yearlong journey back to Romania. There I discovered the healing botanicals found in beauty recipes passed down from my grandmother. I then used these herb extracts to develop a unique infusion that became the key ingredient in my new make-up and skin care products. The irony wasn't lost on me that in order to create my new product line I had to find the rare plants that only grow in the rich soil of my native Romania. I've indeed come full circle.