d.n.a Beauty School Episode 1


Meet Your Teacher Makeup Artist- Danielle Neiswender

In this episode, you’ll learn all about Danielle’s history and experience in makeup, skin and beauty. Spoiler alert, after 13 years in this industry there is a lot to learn about her.

Makeup Artist- Danielle Neiswender; Photographer: Michellelippert.com

DNA Beauty School is a bi-weekly podcast hosted by Danielle Neiswender, a beauty professional with years of experience. Topics covered in the podcast will include makeup, skincare, product knowledge, and the business of beauty, with a focus on education and understanding the why behind certain choices. The ultimate goal is to provide timeless information that can help listeners make the best choices for their clients or themselves!

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Show Transcript:

Hello friends, it’s Danielle again with the DNA Beauty School podcast. I am so glad that you’re here.

In today’s episode, you are going to meet your teacher, which is maybe the most Midwestern way that that phrase could even be said. If you’d like to know where I get the audacity to tell you the right way to do makeup. And for those of you listening and not watching me talk, I’m doing air quotes right now. Then this is the podcast for you. Let’s get into it.

So we will sum up most of my years before being a makeup artist, as I was a creative kid that did not have a lot of access to formal art education. And then I was an adult working dead end jobs that I hated, and I couldn’t figure out why I was the only person alive that, like, absolutely hated working 40 hours a week on someone else’s dream.

Turns out, I definitely was not the only person who feels that way. I just didn’t know that I was meant to be an entrepreneur at that point. What I did know is that I was not built to sit at a computer all day. Even just sitting here writing these pod episodes requires like six hours of procrastination and fidgeting the entire time to get one episode written.  

So it’s 2011, and I had just moved back to Michigan from Los Angeles, where I lived for five years and had no idea I was good at makeup. I was working at a credit union, which on its own was a fine place, but as a job for me could not have been any more wrong. I was so bored and so unhappy. Basically, every payday I would go on my lunch break to the local Sephora inside JCPenney that was just down the street, and spend an hour looking at pretty stuff and talking to the staff.

Fast forward a few months and probably an unhealthy amount of spending given the amount of my paycheck at that point. And I think the manager just finally took pity on me. She asked me if I’d be interested in working there, and I was like, oh, that would be really fun to do on weekends. So imagine my surprise when I went in for an interview and was offered a management role.  

Realistically, this was a pivot point in my entire life. I didn’t know it then, and I didn’t know it probably for 3 or 4 more years. But being brought in to management at Sephora literally changed my entire trajectory. And even more than that, interacting with the beauty educator for our store, her name was Tracy was what changed everything for me. I met her on day two.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I am a big fan of Sephora. I get that it isn’t for everybody. I get that a lot of estheticians are not into it, but it definitely was for me. I spent almost a decade in that world, and while parts of it were really tiring, like Christmas time and clients that were like mine for no reason, the bulk of my time there was very happy and it was a great learning experience for me. They literally made me into the business owner that I am today.

I worked inside the Sephora and JCPenney in my teeny little town and Burton, Michigan for two years. Then I got promoted into store leadership. I hit some really big sales goals, and then I promptly got bored again.

When I first hired in, I was the assistant manager position. I basically handled all the education for the in-store team and coach them on things that they needed on a day to day basis. This job literally could not have been more perfect for me, but promoting was a milestone that I needed to hit and frankly, I was really excited about the pay bump. So I took the beauty manager role on and basically immediately, I hated writing schedules and hiring and firing people and taking care of clients that were pissed about things that are dumb. Like, literally, this is just lipstick. What is there to be mad about?

Anyway, I lasted in that store manager role, I think for like nine months or something close to that. And then I just needed something new. So I went to Estee Lauder as a field coordinator. And again, Estee Lauder is a nice enough company, but it wasn’t Sephora. And I think I realized the first week I worked there that even though it got me into the field, which I really, really, really wanted, I was not a good fit there. There was just something about the leadership structure and even more coaching. People working on commission just kind of gave me the ick.

I feel personally like commission based jobs sort of forced the employee to sell and recommend product based on what’s best for them and their paycheck, and not what’s best for the client. And it was just a huge block. I couldn’t I literally couldn’t do it.

So I called up my old field manager, and this is a great example of where it’s really important to maintain relationships with the people that you work with, even if you feel like you are never going to go back somewhere, which I don’t think I ever thought that about Sephora. But even if you do feel like this is the end of the road for you with a certain company, stay in touch and be a good quitter, just like you were a good employee so that you can go back with. A previous boss and get help again.

So anyways, I called up my old field manager and I was just like hell, I hate what I’ve done to myself.  I like begged her to let me come back, and I was prepared to go back into store as an education assistant again, which would have been a really big pay decrease. But that’s how much I missed Sephora. She basically told me like, hey, calm down. Have you talked to Tracy? That was my field educator prior to leaving.

It turned out Tracy had been promoted and she was being moved across the country to Texas and vacating her field education role that she was doing for the store that I was in. When I heard this, the like just. I couldn’t believe it. It was like a record scratch moment, you know? I was so ready to be in that job, and I will spare you all the details about interviewing and waiting for weeks to hear back. It was a real nail biter, but I did get the job and it was the perfect thing for me.

I worked in that job for I think, seven years, so it was the longest I had ever worked anywhere. Ever. That’s how good it was. And let me tell you what was so good about it.

I had 10 to 12 teams in Sephora inside JCPenney across Michigan, basically every year, somewhere between 10 and 12. So I was employed by Sephora. I actually reported into their, FSC, which was basically their headquarters in San Francisco, but I would go in and train the teams that were employed by JCPenney. So it was a very unique situation.

I would go in every month, usually once, sometimes twice, depending on the stores, and I would train the teams on all kinds of different stuff. So if you’ve ever worked in a freestanding Sephora before, the job I had was kind of a blend between the field education manager job that’s at freestanding and account executive jobs with brands.

So I managed the education needs for all those teams, all those people inside the JCPenney doors. But I also represented every single brand in the store for those teams. Which, as you can imagine, required a lot a lot of education about each of those brands and all of those brands. Ways of being. Which required me to get a lot of training directly from those brands. Which, if you know me at all, and probably not many of you listening do. But if you know me at all, you know that learning things is my favorite thing to do in all of life. I love to learn, so being trained constantly was kind of like the best case scenario as far as I was concerned.

When I tell you that Sephora at that point had a focus on education, that was and maybe still is completely unmatched in the entire industry, that’s no exaggeration. I went to eight day trainings at least twice a year, every single year, where brands would send their pro teams or their education teams, or sometimes their founders to teach us about new product launches or artistry knowledge or skin science or just everything. Lots of years we’d have a third week of training somewhere else. Somewhere else where a lot of brands were headquartered, usually like New York or LA. And then we’d get really in-depth, like extra training with those brands.

So one year we went to L.A., one year we went to New York. Okay. And here’s an example of a fun training we did when I was with Sephora. If you’ve heard of the brand Farmacy, they are a clean beauty brand inside Sephora. Well, one year the founders brought us out to their enormous home. I think they were in the Finger Lakes in New York. Having a hard time remembering. I just remember it was like a two hour trip from Manhattan.

But anyway, they brought us all out to this incredible property. It was absolutely stunning. And they hosted this beautiful luncheon for us that was wrapped around the launch of a new product. I’m literally blanking on what product it was, but what I do remember is while we were there, I got to see where they discovered their patented green envy echinacea. So. This plant had basically shot up, um, on its own in their garden, and they realized it because they were familiar with flowers. They recognized that it was special. And then they went and got it all patented and all that.

I also got to put honeycomb into their honey extractor and that spins all the honey out. And that process inspired their entire honey line. And by that process, I don’t mean me extracting it, but the honey on their site and the extraction process that they did.

So maybe you’re thinking like, who cares? This just sounds like bragging about events that you went to. And yeah, maybe that’s true a little bit, but these types of experiences with product and with product development and ingredient choices, you literally don’t forget those experiences. I mean, even now I can remember all those things about the location that we were at, what the place smelled like, the time of year. I can remember what I was wearing. The sad part is I can’t remember what product we were talking about. I have a feeling it was probably part of the honey line, but those experiences and that sensory experience, that sensory journey, is something that will stay with me till the end of my life, I think.

It is really hard to overstate the amount of education that was just poured into me while I worked there. And to top off all this beautiful product and skin and artistry and everything knowledge. Sephora also spent a lot of time and money on my development as an educator. So every year in December, we’d go to San Francisco for our development week, where we’d learn something interesting about how to be a better trainer.

And then my direct manager, Daphne, spent time with me every single week on whatever I needed. That woman deserves an entire episode for herself. She was pure magic. She passed away in early 2020, and to be honest, that was a loss. That leaves a little hole in your soul. And I know that many of my colleagues feel the same way about her. It is true that only the good die young, and she is a great example of that. I have never had a boss like her before or after, and I’ve had a lot of great bosses in my life. Somehow she could make me feel seen and heard and appreciated, like literally no one I’ve ever known. And as a result, I would have walked through fire for her.

I hope that you have someone like that in your corner. And side note if you don’t reach out to me and we can chat through some coaching or mentorship or something like that.

Anyway, all this to say, Sephora made me a very well rounded individual. I am so grateful to them. So grateful, in fact, that I stayed a lot longer than I’ve ever stayed anywhere, ever before. And in reality, what I got from them allowed me to launch what I’m doing now with a lot more confidence than I probably would have had otherwise.

At the tail end of 2019. All the travel and the retail and just everything left me feeling super, super burned out. I was so burned out, in fact, that when I decided to retire from Sephora, I thought I would never touch a makeup brush again. I think it’s clear that that really didn’t last. A global pandemic and isolation on a really grand scale quickly changes your mind about things. So in 2021, I had gotten pretty stir crazy and I decided that I miss the makeup chair. And here we are. I’ve been back ever since.

This year, I also opened a studio space inside the most stunning salon in all the land. It’s called Boho Aesthetics. It’s an historic old building in Holly, Michigan. I love it there. And when I went into a physical location, I got to finally start using my esthetics license. So now, on top of makeup artistry, I offer lash and brow bar services. I do custom skincare and then of course, I still do education.

And because of Sephora and all of the education and the training and the depth that I got from them, I am a very thorough trainer. So I’m going to be the type of trainer that you want if you’re looking for really solid artistry information and product knowledge and really a good understanding of skin. I really do consider myself a trainer or an educator before I’m even a service provider, and I do a lot of services every week.

If you’re looking for really in-depth business information, like a marketing plan or some SEO stuff for your website, I mean definitely reach out to me. I can answer basic questions, but I’m even more willing to point you in the direction of somebody who is going to really, truly make a difference for you there. So I’m happy to share the info that I have. Just reach out.

The last thing I want to talk about before I wrap this episode has to kind of do with where we are getting our information as humans. So what I want you to know is I come from a starting point of every person’s knowledge, including mine, is based on:

  • facts and experience with those facts about a certain topic.

  • Opinions that they heard from other people related to those same topics

  • and assumptions that they’ve made based on the previous two things

We can’t know everything. And that’s okay. It’s okay to rely on experts in topics for guidance, but please stop relying on folks that are using only the second and third things that I mentioned, Opinions and assumptions, to inform you.  

The authority throughout human history has oftentimes been the person that the group is listening to, or the person that is the loudest. Social media tricks us into believing that we are hearing an authority when we really are just hearing the loudest in this moment. So I want you to question everything you hear, even what you hear from me. See if you can dig in and get to the facts and the experience and not just the opinions.  

This was a lot of talking, even for me. Hopefully I get used to that part, but in the meantime, I would actually love to hear from you. So let me know what questions are still brewing for you. And you know, if there’s some things you really, really want to learn about, I’m happy to add anything I might have missed so far. And thank you again for being here.

If you’d like to listen to these episodes commercial free would like to see all the dumb things that I do and say that I edit out prior to uploading, or would like to access visuals, lives, and videos that support your learning for these topics, please consider subscribing to our private Instagram group. You can find the sign up process and pay for your subscription right through the show notes.

This podcast was written produced in edited by me Danielle. Nice wonder if you enjoyed this episode. Please subscribe on your favorite listening platform and if you’d like to help other beauty enthusiasts find me, please consider leaving a review or sharing about us on socials. It really does help. Thanks so much for being here.