Lauren Wireman
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Lauren Wireman

As Beauty Changes Lives introduces the Make Your Mark campaign, the nonprofit that equips and empowers beauty professionals will honor a new category of standouts poised to make their mark on the industry. The inaugural Make Your Mark awardees will be celebrated on Sunday, April 19, during the Beauty Changes Lives Experience at America’s Beauty Show.

Professional nail artist Lauren Wireman personifies just how dramatically the beauty industry can change a life’s trajectory. Prior to jetting off to Switzerland to judge a nail competition, Lauren remarked on an amazing journey — one she’ll share with attendees at the Beauty Changes Lives Experience on April 19 at Chicago’s The Geraghty event venue.

How did you get started in the nail business?

Wireman: I grew up in a world where everyone went to college after high school. But for me, I had a really hard time figuring out what direction to go in life. I was good at a lot of stuff, for example, art and math, which was a strange combination. I felt like my friends all had a very clear path ahead of them, but my path looked like a circus. To make things worse, I started using drugs regularly to self-medicate my anxiety and bi-polar disorder. I somehow ended up in beauty school after one year at college, and I earned my cosmetology license. But I was still spinning in circles. Eventually, I got addicted to heroin which didn't help my situation.

I ended up in a homeless shelter with nothing to show for myself at age 22 and I hit a crossroads. I was either going to kill myself or "give my life to Jesus (secretly hoping it would be like Sister Act lol)." The second option actually worked out rather well for me. When it came to the part where I decided what to do with my career, I prayed for anything but the beauty industry, and sure enough, the only door that opened was at a salon. I took the job because there was really no other option. While I was trying to re-build a hair clientele, the manicurist talked me into doing some nail art as an attempt to capture hair clients. The rest is history. I was hooked on nails!

What surprises have come along during your career?

Wireman: I didn't realize how many options there are in the nail industry and I have had so much fun exploring all of those avenues. The opportunities are endless when you understand what professionalism is, and when you strive to push your skills to the highest level possible. I mean, learn to show up on time with a positive attitude, and actually have your nails done — that's all it takes to stand out.

What advice would you give someone just beginning their nail career?

Wireman: Never stop learning. Learning not only improves your skills and gives you new ones, but it also becomes a much-needed fuel for your passion. It's easy to get burned out in the beauty industry; we have people sucking our souls as we work. Be sure to fill yourself up every day, or you'll have nothing to pour out for others.  

What do you say to those who don’t view beauty as a premier career?

Wireman: The beauty industry is one of the most flexible and exciting career paths out there. When you get tired of doing one thing, you can easily switch to another with a little education. It is very inclusive and nurturing, and the soil is just so rich. It's an industry where a homeless drug-addicted prostitute can go to school for less than a year and end up with a million-dollar company (talking about myself here). It takes grit, passion, determination, a little flair, and creativity, but all things are possible in this industry. And - you never get bored!

What does this award mean to you?

Wireman: There is so much that I want to see change in this industry — especially with nails. I just keep working and working and working, and I don't stop much to look around or look back. There are so many new beauty professionals coming into the industry every year, and my focus is on that first-year gap — the part where nail techs are "thrown to the wolves.” I have been really focused on bridging the gap for the new nail techs over the last 10 years, thinking of every creative way possible, whether through products and tools, education, mentorship — whatever I can do to get them through that first year, I do it. It feels very affirming and encouraging to receive this award and acknowledgment. I know that change doesn't always happen fast in our industry and that I'll probably be at it until I'm 90, but I am proof that anything is possible in the beauty industry. If success can happen for me, it can happen for anyone!

For more information on the Beauty Changes Lives Experience, go to www.beautychangeslives.org/bcl-experience.