Industry Leaders:

Most Popular in:


Email This Item! Print This Item!

A Casual Sit-down With Michelle Obama's Esthetician

Posted: March 5, 2013
JoElle Lyons-Lee, esthetician for Michelle Obama

page 2 of 13

I was always into beauty, even in high school. I would go to the drugstore and buy the masks, the cleansers, the body products, and my Mom used to comment, “What are all these things you’re buying?” I didn’t grow up in a family where the women got facials or spa treatments. But I would watch my Mom putting on her makeup; she would always say, "Never go outside without your face on." She made doing her face a ritual. My grandmother was big on that too, so “getting ready” was my first introduction to beauty.

What was your first introduction to spa?

I’m originally from Ohio, and when I moved to Chicago I lived in the Gold Coast area. The first week I was there I walked into a salon, and the esthetician who came out to greet me was a woman of color. She introduced me to treatments and I started getting facials regularly. At one point she recommended that I get my brows waxed too, so I said okay and I hated it. Of course a few weeks later when they started to grow out they were looking crazy. I went to a brow specialist/esthetician who was a Latina. So at the beginning, my introduction to esthetics was all coming from women of color.

I never encountered any other black women in the industry so your experience was very different from mine.

Yes, in the beginning everyone that I was exposed to was of color and had been in esthetics for about 10 years. One of my first mentors owned Bettye O Spa; my instructor in school was African-American, CIDESCO-trained; and the surgeon who came to our school to teach and whom I later worked with was black. The whole timing of my arrival in Chicago aligned me with experts who were people of color. And even my classroom situation was predominantly black. So I’m thinking that esthetics is a black thing. It wasn’t until I left Chicago and attended my first esthetics conference that I discovered differently.

See JoElle Lee speak at Face & Body Midwest!

Join us at theFace & Body Midwest Advanced Education Conference Program, where JoElle will kick off the day with an inspirational presentation! She will talk about her career trajectory and motivate you on how to make the most of your journey; how to remain successful in this ever-changing industry; and how to set attainable goals while increasing your self-confidence. Register now!