On the job training may seem like a good thing, and it generally is. On the job trial by fire not so much… My first job out of college was at Nordstrom, working the cosmetics department. As I had worked for Clinique in college, I felt confident I had the ability to demonstrate how to use different makeup products (like eye shadow). I mean, I totally rocked at using Q-tips to smear No-Show Taupes on customers. Q-tips are the same thing as brushes, I was sure. It was a little troubling that there were so many different types/ sizes of brushes, but I was/am a college-educated sorority girl. Also? I totally wear makeup. How hard could it be?
My job was to manage the Trend Cosmetics Department. Sounds really big and important, but not really. One of the claims to fame of the “Trend” lines (Urban Decay, Hard Candy (now at Walmart WTF?!), Too Faced, and Tony & Tina) is the high level of pigment in the products, i.e. a little goes a L-O-N-G way. (As I am sure you learning, I am not subtle, reserved, or afraid to ‘go big’, so this point was a little lost on me.) As any “Nordy” (dedicated Nordstrom shopper) knows, it is the job of all associates to go the extra mile for the customer. (The store has a policy to take EVERYTHING back. Returning a lipstick with a receipt from the store at the other end of the mall that is a direct competitor—no problem, m’am! Legend has it that one Nordstrom refunded a customer for a set of SNOW TIRES.) In the cosmetic department, going the extra mile means makeovers. (A lot of makeovers. For free.) We did a tremendous amount of bridal makeovers. As any self respecting bride knows, one must look perfect on her `Big Day. Hair stylists and makeup artists are vetted more carefully and thoroughly than many that hold political office. (Not going there.) The typical selection process went something like this: a bride would scope out a makeup counter before initiating any conversation. Once contact was made, the bride and the artist would do a ‘run through’ to see if the bride (her mother, sister, and bridesmaids) liked the look. After the run through, an appointment would be made for the Big Day.
One Saturday, we noticed a group of young women wandering around the department. (This particular store was in Indiana, and was the ‘big city’ for a lot of the residents of the farm towns that were relatively close.) After they made several passes around the department, they approached a counter and spoke with the salesgirl… turns out they were a bridal party and wanted free makeovers for the wedding, which was in 4 hours. What? Seriously? This girl needed to have her ‘bride card’ pulled! But, this was Nordstrom and we were going to make the customer(s) happy! The members of the bridal party were placed around the department at different counters. I luckily did not pull the actual bride; I got some junior bridesmaid/book signer person. Although I am confident in my abilities, I am a little nervous as THIS IS A WEDDING! I have watched my fair share of Bridezillas and My Fair Wedding; I am totally feeling the pressure. I led my ‘assignment’ over to my station, hoping that my walk looked authoritative and in control. The girl sat down, and we briefly discussed what ‘look’ she wanted. At no time did she indicate she wanted black glittery eye shadow from her eyebrows to her nose. Guess what she got. (Since the wedding wasn’t Goth, I was pretty sure she wasn’t going to appreciate this look.) I swung into Full On Panic Mode. I located the makeup remover, and after using half the bottle, I managed to eliminate the Panda Eyes she was sporting. (A couple of times she asked to see the progress- perhaps she was concerned when she noticed the amount of black eyeshadow on my brushes? I assured her everything was going according to plan, and that I wanted to ‘surprise’ her… I’m not sure why she didn’t push the issue and demand to see her face—perhaps I was authoritative? I’m guessing she was scared and just didn’t want to know. The girl wasn’t the only one I was hiding my work from during the ‘make over’. Other members of the department wandered by several times, wanting to make sure I was OK since I was new. Thankfully, I had stationed her behind a large display, thus blocking all lines of sight from the main aisle.) Somehow, I managed to get the job done. I credit my guardian angel and also my Grandma from heaven. When I was done, and I had handed her the mirror I gave my sales speech. She needed the lipstick, right? How would she reapply during the hours and hours of photos/dancing/eating? And really, I had just spent over an hour working with her and I was paid on commission. Of course, she didn’t want anything. She assured me that her lips were super sticky and thus the lipstick would stay put. All night long. Well, super. I was so glad that she had magic lips. The girl and her magic lips seemed pleased with my work when she looked in the mirror at the end of the makeover (ordeal). I mean, she didn’t scream, cry, or faint, so I am counting that as a win. She left the counter, taking some of my youthful optimism (over confidence) with her.
My time in cosmetics did not end that afternoon. I started hanging out with the department makeup artists, under the guise of wanting to be their best friend (but really to figure out what the hell I was supposed to do with all those brushes!). I don’t think that they bought my story, but whatever. And I can still tell you the difference between a smudge, crease, angle, blending, brow, and fan brush (to name a few).