On Instagram, it can seem like artists have always been practicing permanent makeup. It rarely appears that an artist was once new and fresh out of training which is why we took the opportunity to chat with Grace Kang of Bare Vanity in Vancouver, BC about being new to PMU. There’s something so special about taking the leap into a new field with all of the risks and rewards involved. We hope you’ll join us from wherever you are on your journey.
Tell us about yourself! Your background, history & the nitty gritty of all things you!
I’m from Seoul, South Korea and grew up there until I was 15. My parents had this vision of sending me to a foreign country. I was like, no way. But I came over to Canada by myself and started grade 10, did university in Vancouver Island, and when I graduated from high school, I went to Toronto to study dental hygiene. I had been a practicing dental hygienist for 9 years until I decided to hop on this journey.
How did you first get into the beauty industry? The PMU Industry?
YouTube was huge when we were teenagers and in our early 20s. I got into watching those makeup tutorials. I used to not wear makeup much but I started doing brows and filling them in. I spent anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour perfecting my brows, the perfect fade. I found myself doing my friends’ brows. It was my pride and joy. When microblading came in, I thought there’s no way I’m letting another person do my brows. But I did end up getting microbladed. At the time I was considering Is this something I can do? There’s a lot of pressure on success and making a living as an immigrant. I thought I would never be able to make a living doing this.
Can you tell us about what that decision was like to move into permanent makeup? Where did you start? What is some advice for someone trying to decide if they should make the switch?
Being a dental hygienist, I was working so close to people one-on-one, dealing with sanitation and sharp objects. The creation and art in PMU really interested me. There weren’t many courses in Vancouver, so I was looking in California and Alberta. That stopped me from moving forward because now I have to travel and find accommodation. But then two of my favorite artists happened to host a class in Vancouver. That’s when I stepped forward. If anything, I’ll make the money back and go back to dental hygiene. I took the course in November 2019 with Hoi Tattoo and Thuy of BrowNude. They were so different but so on page at the same time.
The journey through entrepreneurship is such a rollercoaster. How do you manage all the things when you’re just trying to hold on?
I started checking studios online and visited a few to check out their facilities. I’m in the suburb of Vancouver, so keeping the dental hygiene job to support the new business was important. I wasn’t going to have a fully booked day every day. If it’s close to home, I can easily drop in and out. Looks of the studio is very important, but at this point, availability and accessibility is more important. I now rent a chair from a salon that’s close to home.
Choosing a name was a tough one. I had a list typed out, searching on Instagram who has what already. Everyone’s opinion is so different. What I thought was witty, some people thought it was lame. One day I would love to open my studio, but that’s another big challenge to come.
Can you tell us about a time in this permanent makeup journey where you felt unsure about a business decision? How did you handle it?
I gave myself a month to do the research to figure out my license and insurance. Having a list of what I need to order, pigment and supplies -- all the little things that make up the whole procedure. I only had one portfolio from the class. I told friends that this is what I do now, and was even hesitant to tell the people close to me. I was afraid people would doubt me. I started texting my girl friends, and started my Instagram. One or two people started coming in, then their mom or coworker. It’s mostly word of mouth.
What are some ways you build your confidence as a new artist? What is your advice to other artists or business owners struggling with feeling confident?
It’s a lot of internal battle. You can see people’s reaction as soon as you’re done with the procedure. With hair and eyelash, it will grow or you can wipe it off. But with something permanent, it takes a toll on you. You do have to make a decision to jump in. Knowing it’s not going to be easy or people lined up wanting your services. I’m still battling telling people about my business and feel cringey sometimes. I meet new people everyday at my dental hygiene job, but in my head I feel it’s so irrelevant to dental, how would I bring up eyebrows? Would my long term clients find it strange? It takes courage to jump in.
Follow Grace on her journey!