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One of Valentina Chistova’s greatest esthetic inspirations is her grandmother. Emphasizing the continually changing nature of life, Chistova, now the owner of Aquamedica Salon & Day Spa in Long Branch, New Jersey, explains, “My grandmother always said ‘You learn all your life and you die foolish.’ ”
As an esthetician herself, Chistova’s grandmother provided skin care and homemade products to local residents in the Ukrainian village of Kharkov, where Chistova grew up, and although Chistova was around skin care much of her young life, it wasn’t her intention to go into it as a profession of her own. She took up studying history and opera in college, as well as medicine as part of her military education requirement. This medical education marked one of Chistova’s first steps back toward esthetics, becoming a nurse through Kharkov State University. She notes, “At that time, I don’t think you could be an esthetician without being a registered nurse.”
Not initially using the training for skin care purposes, Chistova got married, had two sons and moved to Moscow, but still longed for something more. In 1991, her family immigrated to the United States as Jewish refugees, settling in Old Bridge, New Jersey., Knowing little English and having no job, Chistova began cleaning houses to help support her family. “I definitely met with a lot of challenges when I came to the United States,” she says.
However, Chistova was still set on chasing her American dream and enrolled in a nail technician program at the Rainbow Beauty Academy in North Plainfield, New Jersey, eventually also studying esthetics at the Capri Insitute while learning English and continuing to work. She earned her esthetic license in 1995 and began working at a series of small spas and salons.
With time, her clientele grew and became dedicated enough that people began questioning why she didn’t open her own spa. “My English was still not strong, so I thought it was not a good time yet,” Chistova says.