Padma Lakshmi’s beautiful beauty salon in New York City was one of the few places where she could have fun and relax.
When Lakshmi was just 13 years old, she opened the salon, which she called “the place where everyone knows everyone,” to help her reconnect with her father, a doctor.
She was also one of those who knew what she wanted to be, and she knew how to create it.
“My father was always saying, ‘I want to be in the beauty industry.
But it’s not like I’m in the world of beauty,” Lakshmi said.
So, when she was 19, Lakshmi moved to New York to attend college.
“He came to the United States for his medical school, and he just said, ‘This is my dream.
This is where I want to go.
I don’t want to live in this world,'” Lakshmi recalled.
She worked as a beauty assistant at an art gallery, but was soon on her own and moving into a salon.
When she decided to become a full-time salon owner, she got an invitation to one of Padma’s classes, where she was surprised to learn about the importance of “care,” and how to do that without being overly clinical.
“I thought, I’m not going to teach you what I know,” Lakshmis said.
“It’s a way to express yourself in a way that’s more personal.”
Lakshmi had a unique perspective on the importance and art of care.
She knew she wanted more than just a good salon to offer the type of personal touch that Lakshmi wanted to see in her clients.
So she made her own personal style guide for the salon.
And while she was teaching, Lakshms mother died.
“She never talked about her illness.
She didn’t even look at me like, ‘Do you know how much time I spent in the hospital?'”
She went to work as a full time beauty assistant, and was just one of many salon owners to open their doors to women of color.
And because she was black, she didn’t get the same type of attention and respect.
But she kept on going.
And by the time Padma left to open her own beauty salon business in 2011, she was a global leader in her field.
“Padma was the first Asian-American woman to open a salon, and the first woman of color in a salon,” said Kim, who had been her mentor for a year before moving to New Jersey to pursue her dream of becoming a professional.
She said she always felt that Padma was more than the salon owner or the salon itself.
“If she was doing this, she had to know her craft,” Kim said.
She also was a mentor to other young women of colour.
“You can’t have it all, so what do you have?
So I think that was a huge influence,” Kim continued.
She started working with Padma after she graduated from her beauty education at the University of Maryland, where Padma taught.
She began by showing her the basics of care and how the art of beauty could be practiced, including applying a “care base” that included cosmetics, moisturizers, moisturizing lotions, facial oils, and hair products.
She would also share tips and ideas on how to make her salon more professional and more effective.
And in 2015, she launched Padma Salon in New Jersey, where the salon now has two locations in New Brunswick, N.J. and New York.
The first location, in the borough of Chelsea, opened in November 2016 and the second in December.
Kim, Lakshmas mother, was a pioneer of the movement, and in her early days, she wasn’t allowed to share her own art, because it was considered too controversial.
She wanted to open the salon as a way for young women to find support and advice.
“The beauty industry was really starting to be a safe space,” Kim recalled.
“So I was very protective of my craft, and I was looking for the right people.”
After a decade of leading the industry, Kim decided to leave her job as a makeup artist at a New York fashion house to start her own makeup line, which became Padma Cosmetics in 2018.
“This is the place where we’re taking care of each other, and making sure that we’re not losing our craft,” she said.
The company is now expanding internationally, and today, it has more than 50 makeup artists in 20 countries.
“We don’t even make makeup anymore, because we know we need it,” Kim added.
Padma is also one reason why the industry has grown so much in the last 20 years, with women of all races and nationalities starting their own beauty companies.
“In a very short amount of time, we’ve had the industry become very diverse, and it’s allowed women to get the respect and ownership that they deserve,” Kim concluded.