We have good news for you. You can have a cool career and make a good living. No need to choose between loving your job and paying your mortgage. The following profile, part of the BlackEnterprise.com Cool Jobs series, offers a peek into the nuts and bolts, perks and salaries behind enjoyable careers.
Milla Thomas, 36, owner and lead aesthetician at Milla’s Treatment Boutique in New York City, had her sights set on a career in show business, until an itch to be her own boss led to what she sees now sees as her calling.
The University of Miami graduate—and self-proclaimed former club kid—took on the Big Apple to pursue singing and acting gigs, but found a love for natural beauty after beating the faces of clients during her side hustle as a makeup artist. Now, she stands as one of few African-American spa owners near one of the city’s biggest business hubs (Grand Central), and continues her passion for bringing out the essence of multi-ethnic skin for women across the Tri-state area.
BlackEnterprise.com caught up with Thomas to talk her transition from music theater to the beauty industry and her tips for young careerists looking to break into the industry.
BlackEnterprise.com: What sparked your interest in the beauty industry?
I actually went to school for musical theater, and after coming back to the city and running the auditions circuit, I needed a way to make money. I began doing a bit of makeup here and there, and within a month I found myself attracted to the skin beneath the makeup. Within that month, I enrolled in skincare school.
You couldn’t have told me when I was in high school or college that I was going to end up doing facials for a living, but that’s certainly what happened. I feel truly blessed that I was able to find another professional love of my life.
What was your process in transitioning careers?
I remained focused in skincare school, and I actually wrote in my notebook during that first week of classes, that I’d open my own spa within five years. True to form, I feel very very blessed that with hard work and diligence I was able to do that.
When I started doing makeup, I wanted a career where I’d be able to be on my own. I didn’t necessarily want to have to work for various employers.
When I graduated, I made sure to align myself with great professionals. I ended up working for a few doctors in New York and Miami. I wanted to soak up as much knowledge about skincare, new procedures and technology.
After working for a couple of doctors, I ended up learning about laser procedures. I really wanted to make a difference in my clients lives and also, I wanted to focus on ethnic skincare specifically.
How have the skills you learned from your time as a performer and artist helped you in your current career?
I’ve always been a social butterfly, and because of my education in music theater, I was used to having a platform and being vocal. So in opening a new business, I wasn’t afraid. I found this to be my new platform. I’d let my confidence and positivity flow through and in turn, hoping that it would rub off on my clients. The experience in music theater definitely helped for sure.
What truly drives you to get out of bed in the morning and continue doing what you do every day?
My clients. I love doing facials—someone laying down as I put the steam on and get the gook out. It sounds crazy, but I really do love it.
I have a few clients who have come to me over the years with full beards. I never thought that could even be possible, but that’s what drives me, to see the improvement and their reaction. One client cried through her consultation. When I saw all the hair on her body, I cried with her, but I promised her that I would help her make a change with her skin. That is what drives me—to have my clients feel better about themselves than did when they walked in.
What advice would you have for other young women of color who seek to be successful in the beauty industry?
Find a focus. Once you’re in skincare, there’s so much you can do. You can go into a spa, laser clinic, get into makeup or go behind the scenes. You should really find one area and hone in on that.
Figure out what makes you happy. That’s really important. There was a chance I was taking going to skincare school. I was doing film work here and there, singing backup for groups in the city, and I could’ve really made that work, but I really found myself led down this path. So it’s really about being in tune with yourself and ask, ‘Where do I see myself in 6 months, a year, five years.’ That’s really important.
Keep a journal and speak things into fruition. I would always write my goals and thoughts down and really think positively about my dreams coming true.