The Entrepreneur Global
Life is art for me – The Beauty Industry through Nadiya Fernando’s Eyes
Based in Sri Lanka, Nadiya Fernando is known for being somewhat of a ‘Jack of all trades’. Whether it’s being a fashion designer, an entrepreneur, a hairdresser or even a beautician — the fearless Nadiya has a knack for it all.
Now a director at her own salon ‘You by The Wax Museum’, she also specialises in permanent makeup at Ninewells and is a freelance hairdresser and makeup artist at the Chagall beauty salon. With all the hats she wears, Nadiya truly embodies what it means to say the sky is the limit — and she urges us to do the same.
“I Used To Hate Makeup.”
Given that Nadiya is such a natural in the beauty industry, it is also just as natural for us to assume she’s always had an affinity for cosmetics and every little thing that comes with this line of work. As it turns out, we couldn’t be more wrong. She didn’t always know what she wanted to be.
“I never knew,” she tells us, “Not in school. Not when I left school. My initial degree is actually in Law & Management.” Like a lot of us, the end of school still left Nadiya with a huge question mark in terms of career. She goes on to emphasise, “When I left school I didn’t know what I wanted to do. All I knew was that I liked clothes. That’s all I knew.”
However this still isn’t the most astonishing factor in Nadiya’s journey. The piece of information that truly astounds us is that she didn’t just not think of makeup as something to specialise in — she actually hated it. “I used to hate makeup,” she says, before elaborating: “I’m a dark skinned girl, and at that time, when I was younger, there was no makeup for people like me. All foundation was for fairer-skinned people.” She didn’t know at the time that this personal struggle of hers resonated universally, and it was this gap in the local market that she would try to fill.
Watch the full interview here
The ‘Eureka!’ Moment
It was much later, after Nadiya completed her degree in Law & Management in England, that she found her true calling.
“I went back there [England] for a short course,” she says. “Then I saw all of this makeup, Bobbi Brown and MAC. They had foundation — and even the eye shadows — in colours that suited my skin tone. That really got me thinking [of how] we don’t have these in Sri Lanka. I wanted to change that.” Sticking to her vision for the future, she did change it.
Despite having majored in an entirely different subject academically, Nadiya didn’t see that as an obstacle in her decision to follow her passion and make a difference in her world. Everything she learned up till that point was just a stepping stone to get to where she wanted. Everything, according to her, is interconnected and shaped her into the entrepreneur she is today. “I don’t think that anybody is one person at all times,” she tells us, “I like to keep growing.” So she moved to fashion design, then to hair and makeup. “Then,” she says, “from there, I progressed to permanent makeup as well.”
“Let’s Not Make People Look Like Wax Statues.”
That is what Nadiya says when asked about the meaning behind the name of her brand ‘You by The Wax Museum’. She recalls, with much distaste, the times when her face was caked with makeup in an array of uneven tones and unsuitable colour palettes. It turns out that not even her Big Day was an exception to this sentiment. “On my wedding day,” she confesses, “I even cried.” Today she’s one of the key players in the business, making sure nobody else is put through that same experience.
Initially, the brand used to be called ‘The Wax Museum’, a sarcastic throwback to Nadiya’s past whilst delivering the promise to enhance a person’s natural beauty without turning them into a wax statue lookalike. However, as Nadiya grew, so did her brand, and it brought about the transition into ‘You by The Wax Museum’. After all, there is nothing that says intimate and personal like the word ‘You’ – which is what their rebrand is all about: catering to each individual with utmost care and assuring every one of their clients that ‘it’s all about you!’.
“Every Day, We Are Pushed With an Ideal Beauty Standard.”
Nadiya didn’t just stop at offering makeup and hairdressing services. She evolved into a specialist as well — in the permanent makeup department. Despite being lost at the end of her school years, after she found the industry in which her heart belonged, there was no stopping her. Nadiya knows what she’s capable of, and isn’t afraid to achieve them.
She still attends to her clients that need hair and makeup services, of course. “I’ve also gone into another speciality,” she says, “which is permanent makeup […] I work in a hospital. I work with plastic surgeons to do reconstructive cosmetic procedures.” Now attached with the Aesthetic & Cosmetic Centre at Ninewells, where she provides cutting-edge treatments, Nadiya has more than made a name for herself in this industry.
To this day, she hasn’t lost her authenticity, unapologetically letting her intrinsic nature be at the core of how she carries out her services. “I never push anything, on anybody,” she lets us know. While marketing is necessary, Nadiya firmly believes that free will is the essence of beauty. So she ensures that clients who want her specialised services do so because they want it — and not because they feel pressured to.
“Nobody should think that there is anything wrong with them,” she says, stressing on why it is important to her that her clients make their own choice. “Every day we are pushed with an ideal beauty standard — and today I think men are pushed with that as well.”
The New Normal
Nadiya admits that operating amidst a full-blown pandemic has its challenges: “It’s not like I was running a barber salon. We did specialist things. This is a time where people wouldn’t want to spend money on those specialist things […] I don’t think that opening another salon, paying rent, and paying overheads is now going to work in the future. You know, with YouTube, with people being on the computer all the time, we’re not going to have those same makeup clients who came to us to go to a wedding. I would think at least 75% of the younger generation would want to do their own hair and makeup, unless they’re the bride or the bridesmaid. So we’re going to lose that market.”
Despite her concerns, Nadiya is confident in her ability to tackle these curveballs thrown her way. “The other thing is, post-pandemic we are not going to go back – we are going to go forward. Things are going to be new.” There is always a bigger picture, and Nadiya always has her eyes on it.
Viewing this new normal as another learning point in her professional evolution, this optimist approach of Nadiya’s towards obstacles is an inspiration for all budding entrepreneurs. They have much to learn from her words—
“A good entrepreneur,” says Nadiya, “will have to decide how to change the business that they are in to facilitate the future.” She goes on to add, “They should probably evaluate their business, evaluate their position in the market, and make decisions depending on that.”
It is easy to see how her degree in Law & Management helps her in those aspects, proving that just as Nadiya believes, every choice has aided her inspiring journey to who she is today.
For there are no mistakes when reaching for your maximum potential — there are only lessons.