Va-Va Varnish Salon talks on how they entered the industry!

October 16th, 2014 by Amy Masini

Elizabeth Morris, Owner/Operator of Va-Va Varnish, San Diego’s destination for cutting edge nail design, tells us how she got into the industry, what trends she loves for 2015 and more.

Q & A with Elizabeth Morris

Va-Va Varnish Tell us why you’re in the beauty industry:

I officially joined the beauty industry in 2010 when I decided to leave my corporate finance job in the hopes of doing something I truly loved. I have always loved nails and have been doing my own and those of family and friends for a long time, but I didn’t become a licensed nail tech until about four years ago. In 2012 I opened my own nail salon downtown called Va-Va Varnish and it is one of the greatest decisions I ever made. I love everything about this industry. I think the thing that makes it so different is the fact that it is so artistic, passionate and the people and professionals in it are obsessed with beauty. It’s something you choose to do and can be proud of.

Which 2015 nail trends do you think will be most requested at the salon?

Every year more and more people are getting into nail art. One of the biggest trends I see is using texture to bring out designs. Things like gel foil, 3D gel art powders and mosaic art are really getting big. Even our most conservative clients are now coming in and asking for more advanced and elaborate things on their nails.

Any you’re not a fan of?

One of the trends I personally don’t like is bubble nails and hump nails. This is a very recent trend to come about. I personally prefer a more streamlined, natural and beautifully sculpted look so these super thick nails just don’t sit well with me. But to each her own!

What is your favorite nail polish color (brand and name)?

We don’t use a lot of regular nail polish at my salon (mostly gels) but I would have to say one of my favorite brands is Morgan Taylor. It’s a newer brand that was started by Danny Haile and David Daniel from Gelish (Hand & Nail Harmony).  It’s hard to pick just one color. I really like all their colors, bottle design and consistency, but if I had to pick one it would be “Sweetest Thing”.  It’s a really pretty rose gold glitter polish. As far as gel polish I am obsessed with Akzentz. It’s a Canadian company that makes all of its products in house and they are best I have found to date. I use all of their gel polishes, soak off and hard gels. My favorite color from Akzentz is “Bluebelle”.

Tell us about the most outrageous manicure request you have ever received:

The craziest manicure request I ever received was actually a request for duck feet nails. I had only ever seen them in pictures but I got a client that wanted electric yellow duck feet nails with tons of glitter. It was a challenge as I had never done it before but they turned out really nicely and the client was super happy. Not my aesthetic but it’s good to know how to do just about anything and do it well.

Why do you think nail artistry is finally getting the attention it deserves as a key player in the beauty industry?

Nail art in my opinion is kind of like tattoos. Tattoos started out as a major taboo that were reserved for lower class individuals, criminals, sailors, etc., but now is evolving into an accepted art form that allows people to express themselves. Similarly, for a long time the traditional views of society have deemed nail art to be outlandish, unprofessional, low class, and outspoken.  A lot of clients used to tell me the same things, “I could never wear that to work,” or “that’s too wild for me.”  Even I would get judged sometimes for having neon green toe nail polish or blue glitter. But what I end up seeing now is the mere quantity of nail art we see in magazines, on celebrities, on friends, is now driving a higher comfort level across the board. The more people are bombarded with the idea of nail art, the more it becomes something that seems fun and acceptable.  People crave ways to differentiate themselves from others. They want to be able to show their personality and express themselves and I think nail art is a great and temporary way to do that. You can switch up your nail art every day if you want to and use inspiration from outfits, seasons, holidays, or just about anything to spice up your day.

Tell us about your Crystal Culture class.

Crystal Culture is one of the many classes I offer.  The cool thing about this class is it’s backed by Swarovski (the official and amazing Austrian crystal company that we all love).  The class was started by two amazing and award-winning nail techs, Viv Simmonds and Gina Silvestro. The class teaches nail techs how to integrate high-end Swarovski nail art into their appointments as both a money maker and a wow factor. It gives nail techs a competitive edge and invaluable skills that can be used to apply just about anything onto nails. I really like this class because it doesn’t just focus on technical skills. It also focuses on being a better business person which is just as important when it comes to being a successful and professional nail tech. The intent is to nurture, mentor and assist nail techs in building their businesses by teaching retail skills and additional services to add to their treatment menus. It also assists them with troubleshooting and perfecting the salon style nails in various mediums. Each attendee receives genuine Swarovski nail kits, tools and training to expertly create this high end nail art. Crystal Culture certification is given at the end of the session and it is open to all education levels. Registration is available each month via the following link:

French manicures: timeless or tacky?

Definitely timeless. French manicures and sculptured french nails I think will always be a classic and mastering them is one of the most important skills for any nail tech. Why?  Because there’s no hiding a bad french manicure. It must be clean, well-balanced and beautiful, or it will look sloppy. A lot of affluent clients love french manicures, but if not executed well you can lose business quickly, so I recommend everyone practices them regardless of whether you prefer them or not. They are also a staple in most nail competitions.

Who is your dream client and why?

My dream client isn’t really a specific person but more so a type of person. I prefer someone who loves the experience of being pampered. They value the health of their nails, they yearn to express themselves and experiment through color and art, and they want a high quality experience. Just like choosing a doctor, they take their salon choice seriously and enjoy high quality service. I also love bringing people “to the light” so I guess to pick one dream client it would be Theresa Caputo (the Long Island Medium). Her nails need a major update!  :)

What advice do you have for aspiring nail industry professionals?

My top bit of advice would be STAY PROFESSIONAL.  I can’t tell you how many young aspiring nail techs I see that burn bridges with coworkers, employers and clients by acting unprofessional or getting too casual at work. You never know where each opportunity will take you so it is important to maintain your reputation and consistently show people what a high-quality individual you are. Even if you want to quit a job, make sure you do it professionally and never resort to acting out or succumbing to your emotions. Everything comes full circle and I can’t tell you how many major opportunities have come my way because people rely on my professionalism, loyalty and honesty. Good reputations are very difficult to build but they are extremely easy to destroy.

For more information about the chic nail salon in Downtown San Diego, visit:

Q&A with Allison Andrews of FWSD

September 25th, 2014 by Amy Masini

Allison Andrews Allison Andrews, the beauty and brains behind Fashion Week San Diego, has been bringing fashion week to San Diegans since 2008. She filled us in on what it takes to work backstage, her favorite FWSD moments ever, how she stays chic during the chaos and more! Don’t miss “The Beauty Behind Fashion”, FWSD’s kick-off event showcasing 2015 Spring/Summer trends, on Tuesday, September 30.

Q & A with Allison Andrews

1. When did you start Fashion Week San Diego?
I began planning for the first Fashion Week San Diego in 2007. The first event was a year later in 2008. It takes about 8-10 months to make it all come together.

2. Explain your role within the event.
I’m the Founder and Director. So, the one with the most pressure.

3. Why did you want to bring this concept to San Diego?
We are the eighth largest city in the country, known for being a FAB place to have conventions and only we’re only an hour south of LA. For emerging brands, which is what FWSD supports and shows, SD couldn’t be better as far as manufacturing and locations goes. SD is a border town and to do production in LA or Mexico is only a short drive away, and extremely accessible without having to live full time in those areas. In addition, San Diego has a wonderful climate and is extremely supportive of entrepreneurs, innovators and startups. It’s a perfect place on the West Coast to have a traditional fashion week that supports emerging designers form around the world. This is why I created Fashion Week San Diego.

4. What is your favorite portion of the week?
I have two: the first night when the doors open and the music starts pumping and I know I have about 30 minutes until the start. It’s such a rush. There is no turning back; all the year’s work comes down to the next days. The second is at the trunk show when I see the faces of the designers when the audience is LOVING and BUYING their items. That’s what it’s all about. That moment.

5. How do you stay polished during the whirlwind week?
That’s easy, Team Bellus has my back. They always make sure before I step out on the runway that my makeup and hair is on point. I actually used two of their expert instructors, Kristina Monique-Cotez and Latera Pugh, for my wedding and I’m thrilled that they are a HUGE part of FWSD’s backstage team. I’m lucky to have such an amazing team of experts backstage, including the independent stylist that tried out to be backstage and the Gila Rut Salon Team.

6. Name your favorite salon or spa treatment.
I LOVE a good facial. There is nothing better. Your skin care and face is so important. Not only do you take care of your face during a facial, but you also get a nice massage – it’s perfect!

7. If you were to empty your bag, what beauty/hair products would we find?
My favorite hair tool is a pick. I always have one and it’s perfect for any size of purse. Also, MAC Lipstick, EOS Lip Balm, a NARS Blush Duo (the best blush out there) and lip liner to match my lipstick.

8. What is your favorite look to-date you’ve seen come down the FWSD runway?
This is so hard, I don’t have favorites at FWSD. BUT my favorite show was done by DIOR Haute Couture S/S 06. I really still find it hard to take my eyes off of. I’m looking at more than the clothing – I’m taking it all in and I want to be moved and have an experience as it comes down the runway.

Here is a link:

9. Has makeup application and hair styling always played an integral role in FWSD?
I created our signature event to start off every week of FWSD because beauty is so critical to fashion. This night is called The Art & Beauty Behind Fashion. This night pays tribute and shines a light on the beauty artists that make the looks complete on the runway. They are a huge and appreciated part of Fashion Week San Diego and any fashion week around the world.

10. Describe what a future Bellus student can expect when he or she works FWSD.
This is the icing on their beauty cake. Working a real, traditional fashion week is not only an honor, but a huge experience that can influence his or her career. I can tell you, before I meet any of the chosen students, I know they are the best of the best from all the Bellus campuses – that’s a big deal!

11. What piece of advice would you give an aspiring fashion or beauty industry professional?
Challenge yourself to put it all out there and get involved in everything. Experience is growth and to grow in your career you need to have experience to reflect on good and bad. This is how you become an expert in your industry and know the path you will want to stay on towards your success.

Darin Giglio talks externship at The Doves Studio in Los Angeles

August 28th, 2014 by Amy Masini

Darin photo2 Our very own, Darin Giglio, was selected for an externship at The Doves Studio in Los Angeles, where its namesake founders offer future leaders in the modern hair industry an outlet to further their craft in a professional salon setting.

 Here’s what Darin had to say about his time at Bellus, what inspires him and why he found himself in the industry.

 Q&A with Darin Giglio:

Tell us why you’re in the beauty industry:

I’m in the beauty industry for a few reasons. First of all, I’ve always had an eye for fashion. I wanted to be able to translate the ideas and looks in my head into something real. I’ve always been good with tools and consider myself a builder of sorts. I decided that my artistic and creative abilities were being stifled and that I could express them through doing hair.

What brought you to Bellus Academy:

I came to Bellus because of the academy’s reputation as one of the best beauty and wellness schools in the world. After my initial interview and tour, I didn’t think twice about where I wanted to learn the ins and out of this industry. The overall vibe at Bellus is amazing. The students are friendly and helpful while the instructors are all so knowledgeable and talented.

The wildest thing you’ve learned at Bellus thus far:

The number of different steps, techniques and combinations of products it can take for one look/style is shocking!

Your favorite part of your externship at The Doves Studio in Los Angeles:

My favorite part of my externship was the amount of knowledge and talent I was surrounded by. I could tell they all wanted to be there and were very passionate about their work.

What was the most unique piece of advice you learned during the experience:

I learned an incredible amount about sectioning and different color formulas. It’s definitely something I will carry with me when I start my career.

Would you do it again if you could:

I would definitely do it again if I could.

A quote that gives you that “I Can” inspiration:

“Beauty changes lives” is a quote that gives me the “I Can” inspiration.

Name a celeb who is just doing it right when it comes to beauty:

Salma Hayek always presents herself as a classy woman and is always beautiful.


Bellus Academy’s Autumn Macias Talks Trend Vision

July 25th, 2014 by Amy Masini

BellusBlog-AutumnMaciasTrendvision-r1 Bellus Academy’s Autumn Macias Talks Trend Vision

Our very own Autumn Macias from the Poway Campus took Bronze in the Student category at the 2014 North American Trend Vision! Read up on her experience as a finalist.

Autumn had not been signed up for any advanced academy so it was fantastic to have this great extra training as she prepared. She gathered inspiration from last year’s trends and saw this as a chance for more education and training.

The process was a wonderful one in terms of finding a model. The trend she had chosen to go with was Borderline Beauty which is full of an organic meets mechanic feel. She planned to go with the darker, more muted tones that were textured. Often the stylists will find a model and base the look off the model as well as the trend. However, Autumn had a vision first and wanted to find a model to fit it. She found a student at Bellus who was understanding and supportive of her vision for extreme crazy colors and exploratory hair styling.

Autumn started off on this journey just barely out of color and cut without any client experience behind her. She worked away on her doll head and stayed extra hours to get ready. She would bring Diego drawing after drawing for feedback and advice. He would say that he saw what she was going for but that she could do better. She was evolving her work with more than twenty drawings a day. They finally chose one and started working on the cut.

Autumn talks about how exciting it is to have people behind her to encourage her to do better. She put in the hard work with her doll heads and focused on making the look the best it could possibly be. She knew that being so young with a small amount of experience meant she was here for a reason. She asserts that beauty school is tough. There are a lot of girls going for similar dreams. Autumn has felt overwhelming support and acceptance, especially from the staff. She says she wouldn’t have made it this far without them.

Her advice to other students is to remember that it is all about how you present yourself. It makes a big impact on people who judge you and interview you. It matters who you are and how you want to be known to stand out in the industry. Be confident and show the world what you want them to see.

Congratulations, Autumn!

How Our Education Translates To The Professional World

July 17th, 2014 by Amy Masini

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 12.53.08 PM Are you wondering what comes next after school?

Do you want to learn about how your skills can transfer into the real world?

Jennifer Blackwell shares her experience from Bellus Academy and how the education translates to the professional world!

Jennifer attended Bellus in a time when they were really ramping up the program and moving everything in a great direction. The program was getting better and her excitement matched the movement. Jennifer has been involved in the clinical side of massage as well as massage therapy. She is a TA for Bellus and works as a massage therapist for a chiropractor.

After her education she was prepped and ready to communicate with the doctor in terms of findings in client sessions with her medical background. Bellus gave her great information about the field she was interested in.

Jennifer speaks highly of the Bellus Academy career director. The department is always receptive to helping with resumes and looking for different types of jobs. She has continued to find immediate help from all of the offices and was supported by staff members who helped her get where she wanted to go.

She encourages students to check out the alumni posted career options on a consistent basis. It is important to always look past the education piece of it and find where your passion lies in the end goal of a career. It is not just about passing a final, but about what the final is going to help you know in the future. With that, Jennifer advises students going through program to keep an open mind and work hard. Students may start out wanting to work on the clinical side, but perhaps the physical demand of it may change your mind. There is a lot to know but also a ton of resources so you must keep at it!

Moving forward in life, Jennifer always has a plan B in mind. She loves massage therapy but knows that one day her body will break down. She would love to teach and she might become an instructor for massage therapy with her experience as a TA. She knows what it is like to go through the program and how important it is to implement the hands on job experience. The students have a wonderful opportunity to grow together with their ideas

Jennifer is so happy to be where she is now. She can go to work having a bad day and leave so happy. It does not even feel like it is a job as she enjoys every second in such a fulfilling job.

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