L.A. Hair: Episode 1 -- Naja's Take on No Nail Station

OH MY STARRY-EYED SURPRISE! I walked into my first day of work at Kimble Hair Studio, and there is nothing. I mean NOTHING here! No nail station anywhere to be seen. No pedicure tub, nothing. Ahhhhh...“All I see is signs, all I see is dollar, dollar signs escaping me.” I am literally frozen.
Right from the start I question if this salon is right for me. To me, the front desk is CRUCIAL. It will literally make or break you. I mean that! I don't care how talented the beauty professionals are that await to service clients behind that desk -- if the front desk is not on point the salon will fail, period!

(Naja note: I’ll put in one of my pet peeves here, in hopes it will change you for good. I am so not a fan of walking in somewhere -- anywhere that has a front desk, including a beauty salon, doctors' office, production office, or anywhere else -- and someone (friendly or not) says, “Are you Maggie?” Ummmm, no! Do NOT assume my name. I know that if it is 8:59 a.m. and there is only one 9 a.m. appointment it is a safe assumption that the person coming in would be Maggie, but just don’t do it. It sets everything off on the wrong foot based on an assumption. If you are not 1,000% sure, take initiative and introduce yourself first with a smile or handshake, then ask the person's name. More on my front desk protocols to come.)
Anyhow, this Anthony at the front desk is not a good fit for ANY salon. He was chewing gum and lost in space, not to mention had a little attitude. Kind of like the staff at a high-end store like Gucci, where the clerks act as if they own Gucci but I always want to remind them, “Hey, you work here! You are making a wage. You are the help. Get a grip and go get me my dust bag for this bag I just purchased.”
Prior to filming I discussed how it would work with my clients. Would I pay rent, would I receive commission  when servicing my clients? In an e-mail I was told I would receive 100% commission for all services provided to my clients, and it would be left up to me what to charge because services may take longer than normal due to the filming process. I was pretty excited about that. No rent, no splitting of commission. I thought I was gonna be balling.

Well, let me insert another one of my business principles: If it sounds too good to be true IT IS. ALWAYS! See what they said was technically true BUT how could I actually do any of my clients without a proper station. I  wasn't going to put my loyal clients who’ve been with me since the beginning of my career through that. They’ve seen me as a commission manicurist to salon owner to doing major pop stars on a daily basis who patiently  dealt with my switching appointments around and/or going to apprentices of mine in training who were not at my service level in performance. Now, I am filming a reality show, and I’m going to invite them to get their weekly or monthly mani/pedi under these hot lights (hottest lights ever: think human rotisserie chicken) with cameras in their faces AND NO PROPER comfortable furniture. NO!!! I won’t do that. I couldn't have them come here. I was panicked. In the end I went to many of their homes after filming and in between my on set work for Target commercials and music videos. It was brutal. I’m tired just thinking about it. I was hoodwinked, bamboozled…..and I won't go quietly. Don’t mess with my money!
To paint you a complete picture, let me tell you what happened in the weeks before this day. A year before I sold my salon of 4 years -- Extremedys Hand & Foot Spa -- an L.A. hot spot with celebs like Missy Elliott, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Eve, and Brandy as frequent clients, to concentrate fully on my freelance career. Always having a brick and mortar location to take clients I felt like I was floating and needed to rent a nice space.  I found one on Sunset Boulevard called Salon Republic, filled with about 70 different rooms of hair professionals. Moving in I had my own clientele plus an instant flux of new clients from all the hairstylists.  I wasn't the most reliable or there that often because at a moment's notice my agent or a celeb client would call and, since that was my main focus, I would reschedule appointments. That is why I sold my six-station salon in the first place.  

Salon Republic, a group of individually rented beauty professional spaces, are amazing! (On a side note, if there are places like that in your area, definitely look into them. For one rent price everything was included, even the towels, Wi-Fi, toilet paper, etc.) I see a lot of unhappy techs in their current salon situation and they want their own place. Not many of them think of things past nails supplies and how they will to decorate. You have to think of the mundane things too, like toilet paper, light bulbs, cleaning supplies, the electric bill, heating and air conditioning, trash services, insurance, internet etc.  It is a lot: Be prepared for anything.

Oh yeah, let me also insert that I was moving from my apartment of three years into a temp situation (three months) until my other apartment was ready. A lot of moving. A lot of stress. A lot of boxes. So here I am in a new living space and a new workspace. I absolutely froze when I saw the completely empty space and those pipes sticking out of the wall for FUTURE pedicures but no where to do my scheduled clients today sealed the deal of the actual situation I was in.

I entered with my hot boys, my bags and...well,  We ain't in Kansas anymore, boys!
Kim said she e-mailed me that it wasn't ready. That information is in no way just an e-mail, Kim. I told her that is a phone call or at best an e-mail (in writing is always a good idea) but with a note asking to confirm I received that e-mail. I could not believe my eyes really. If the lights were not so hot I would have thought I was dreaming. I did have a client on the books in ONE HOUR! (Another actually called CJ, my assistant, to book later that evening while Leah, Kim, and I were trying to do something, anything, to accommodate my client. She was leaving for vacation early the next morning so I HAD to do her in one hour. In the end she came in and I gave her a great mani and a waterless manicure with extra reflexology for the lack of quality and comfort she was used to. She was happy. Her toes were painted bright and ready for Hawaii. I was not happy.
The next day I come in and nothing had been done. Why am I even here?! Leah, taking the position that she, as the manager -- let's repeat that again, AS THE MANAGER -- admitting that she didn't know I was coming in and not willing to accommodate me was unacceptable. I have  few clients already scheduled  for day 2. To my amazement it’s like midday and the pipes are still exposed. Any action, no matter how small, would have shown me some respect. Kim and I  compromised the day before and came up with a temporary manicure table and chair, but my clients would still be facing the pipes. I always take a minute and stop after I walk in the front door and  look around, plus I sit in my client's chair to see what they see. My client's chair would be facing the pipes. Leah did not even  offer a solution to covering the pipes in the salon -- that is poor performance in my book.  

On day 2, I did come in with a more esthetically pleasing solution. I let Leslie (Leah, whatever, at this point I’m not concerned about her proper name -- all I see is dollar signs escaping me due to poor management on her part) know that I have a solution that will work temporarily. I have furniture in the car that she and Anthony can help me carry in, and I would let her have the control of where those things could be placed.

I didn’t want to bring that furniture in. Furniture was part of my agreement with Kim. If I were to bring my own chairs I would have had my assistants bring them in on our first day. It was all the custom-made furniture I had in the Salon Republic space and had donated to a photographer friend. I had to go get  and “borrow” the  things I gave  from that photographer’s house. I am a “make it happen” kind of person. Scout's motto: Be prepared for anything. I came prepared not depending on anyone for my success and my clients' needs, so I bring furniture.

If I were just starting to build a clientele, then maybe I could be more patient or wait for the ideal equipment that Kim was having custom made, but in this situation I could not turn my clients away. So I offered to bring in the things after we had a heated discussion on why she wasn’t providing temporary furniture. I offered that, and she told me to leave. At this point I was livid. I was not leaving. I just packed all my stuff (remember from home and salon) I was done with moving, boxes, and packing tape.
I snapped. I admit it. It takes a lot to shock me. I live in LaLa Land, after all -- land of show biz and make believe. This was just beyond what I could handle. So I snapped and was not going anywhere. You were going to make this right, Leah. I won't lose any dollars due to poor planning.
In all my years of salon and spa work I have never had an episode in front of clients. In fact I even told the show's producers that I would not or could not act foolishly in front of clients. I am a servant when it comes to customer service and my clients. I saw black and just wanted my station so I could do my clients and make money. I needed to walk away. I needed to remove myself. I wanted to get away from Leslie so I went to the hairstylists, thinking she would leave me be on the floor. She and her unprofessional self followed me, and at this point it was her salon. I didn’t even know if I could be there or if I could take any kind of authority (especially not inefficient authority).
I thought she was kidding  about calling Kim when I actually heard Kim’s voice on the phone I felt frozen again. I could not believe she called Kim on-set. What? Seriously?!
I definitely felt in the hot seat and way out of sorts. When will I get to paint nails and do reflexology? Why are these cameras in my face? Why do I have to fight to bring money into your salon? Why did I just say all that in front of a packed salon of client’s :( Ahhhhhhhhhh -- I need a cupcake!! Or a hug.

I did  personally apologize to each client in their giving them a complimentary five-min hand reflexology and offered them gift certificate for complimentary pedicure when and if I the piped get connected.
Keep filing keep smiling

Editor's Note: We're thrilled that celebrity nail tech Naja Rickette is blogging exclusively for NAILS Magazine during the second season of L.A. Hair. Read her past posts by clicking on the L.A. Hair (We TV Reality Show) link under "Post Categories".

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