One of the trickiest things in my career is telling people what I do for a living. I know how it sounds to some people if I say, "I write about lipstick." In fact, these days I say, "I write about skin care, how to keep skin healthy and comfortable and things like that," because it seems less frivolous than lipstick. If I have the chance, I throw in names of magazines I've written for, as well. To non-industry folks, the subject of beauty is easily dismissed as superficial, even demeaning, especially by women who wear no makeup as an invisible badge of superiority. Nonie Creme had to tell people she was a manicurist.
nonie creme inspires new college grads
When writer Randye Hoder discovered the speaker at her daughter's college commencement was to be Nonie Creme, founder of nail polish brand Butter London, she was underwhelmed. "It’s not that I have anything against polishing one’s nails; I wouldn’t dream of missing my bi-weekly mani-pedi," she writes in a column for Time.com. "Still, I couldn’t help but wonder whether having someone in the beauty business send the graduates of an all-women’s college out into the world might send the wrong message."
See? Right there. Dismissive.
But Nonie Creme, who is in the midst of launching her second beauty brand, Nonie Creme - Colour Prevails, surprised Hoder by giving a stirring speech that dished up "the kind of practical advice that any parent would be thrilled to have their child take in."
Anyone in the business of writing about beauty knows the name Nonie Creme. Her work as said manicurist eventually led to interviews and features in publications such as Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Vanity Fair, W Magazine and Women's Wear Daily, as well as top Canadian magazines Fashion, Elle Canada, Flare, Canadian Living, Chatelaine and more. And in 2004, she co-founded Butter London, which became a multi-million dollar success and a cult favourite of nail colour enthusiasts.
But in her inspiring talk, Creme admits that in her early days of deskside manis booked each morning outside a London subway exit, she felt conflicted about her career choice. "I was 23. I loved what I was doing. The cash was addictive. But my overarching feeling was shame. I was well educated, upper-middle class, and here I was doing this job that required little more than a grade-school education, and was what people ended up doing when they had no other options."
Note: to my friends at Tips and any other nail artists who might read this, don't freak out. Creme, who quipped that she's the first straight-C student to speak at the Scripps College commencement, goes on to say that "this time taught me a hugely important lesson: we are not better than anyone else."
Here, watch the video of Nonie Creme's encouraging speech at Scripps, from which she graduated in 1994 with an art degree. Every new university grad should see this. So should anyone who pooh-poohs the beauty industry -- and anyone who feels judgement about his or her beauty-industry career.
Knees Up manicure and photograph by Karen Falcon ©2013 BEAUTYGEEKS/imabeautygeek.com. Nonie Creme backstage at Vena Cava ©Rachel Scroggins/thegreyestghost. Vena Cava nails 2011 image via Refinery29.com.