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Making His Way in a Female-dominated Industry

By: Cathy Christensen
Posted: September 25, 2009, from the October 2009 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

When soul singer James Brown crooned about it being a man’s world, he probably wasn’t thinking about the spa industry. A notoriously relaxing and accepting industry, the spa has been and remains a sanctuary that has often catered to women more than men. And although many spas are working to create more men-friendly environments for potential clients, it often can be a different story when it comes to male estheticians. Lawrence Ferguson, lead esthetician for Urban Body Studios in Atlanta, a wellness studio that offers fitness options as well as a spa and salon, has experienced the challenge of breaking into the industry from a male point of view.

Ferguson began his career in the beauty profession as a hairstylist near Washington, D.C., where he graduated from the Graham Webb Academy in Arlington, Virginia, in 1991. “I got out of hair because I hated standing up all day. It wore on me,” laughs Ferguson. “I enjoyed what I was doing from a creative standpoint, but financially, it wasn’t paying off.”

After leaving the hair industry, Ferguson decided to work for his father in information technologies (IT) in order to build more financial security. “When I was in high school, I would go to work with my dad and watch what he did on a daily basis. When I asked to start working with him, he said I could on the condition that I become more familiar with IT,” says Ferguson. In order to do so, he took Web classes at local community colleges and became certified in IT from the Computer Career Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Columbia, Maryland in 2003.

In 2005, Ferguson decided he wanted to get back into the beauty industry because he missed it and fondly remembered studying skin and nails as a part of obtaining his cosmetology license. He moved to Atlanta and began attending the Aveda Institute. “While I was at the institute, I knew this was what I wanted to do because I was using the gift of touch. It went well and I got it. I knew this was exactly what I always needed to do and wanted to do,” he says. Unfortunately, excelling as a student did not make it any easier for Ferguson to find acceptance in the real world.

“In the process of graduating, a lot of the other students were getting job offers left and right. I went to every venue I could, and I got turned down right away because I was a guy,” explains Ferguson, who remained persistent in his job search and soon found the perfect fit at Urban Body Studios. “I set up the spa and salon, interviewed and met with reps, helped set up the spa menu and design the physical layout. I had behind-the-scenes input in the development of the spa. It gave me a lot of insight for when I want to open my own place in the future,” says Ferguson, who has developed a wonderful reputation in the area and has been profiled in the local media.