I think a lot of people, myself included, were a little surprised and confused when I did not go back to MMA after I healed from my last surgery. This wasn’t to say I was the top athlete or anything, but I was considered a top ranked contender at one point and had made a name for myself before the injuries caught up with me.
I had been involved in mixed martial arts for around a decade when I had to start considering retirement due to a lingering shoulder injury I accrued from competing in a jiu jitsu match against a higher ranked male that had at least 80 lbs of muscle on me. He got me pretty good with a head and arm choke that I should have tapped out from, but my ego stepped in as it had a way of doing back then, and although I heard it tearing and I almost passed from the pain, I of course refused and proceeded to break free while also breaking his ribs in the process. I had to secure the win. However, his ribs healed and my shoulder didn’t for another 4 years or so.
It affected everything I did more than any other injury I’d ever had. We did multiple X-rays and scans on it, and although my chiropractor told them where to look it was not showing up on any of the images until many years later and in of all places small town in Idaho. I had numbness in my left hand and excruciating pain & migraines literally every day, and the prescribed medications continued to go up in amounts but down in efficacy. I was building a tolerance towards them but was becoming intolerant of life.
Even prior to this injury at the height of my athletic career I had started to build a resentment towards the sport. The amount of harassment and stalking incidences had been escalating along with my bad attitude towards being treated as an object or as something subhuman that did not have actual feelings or value aside from my appearance and performance. I had a great community of fans and support but all it took was one comment about my weight or ability to make it to spin down into a hole of self pity and pure rage.
I had always tried to be taken seriously and not utilize sex appeal too much but it was unavoidable. I would have managers book me for photo shoots that would make me uncomfortable and one even told me I should not be vocal about my relationships with women. It pissed me off and I would swing back and forth (no pun intended) between being authentic and playing a role in order to try out suggestions that were suppose to make me more appealing to sponsors and organizations, and between being open about my life or completely private due to my growing paranoia and fear of judgement.
I also was battling between being seen as a true athlete or an appealing female that was easier for audiences to digest. It was hard to ignore the breast implants I had gotten before I started taking the sport seriously. I would sometimes be seen as someone welcoming attention in that way, when in fact I just wanted to be appealing to myself & partner after I had gained and lost so much weight during and after my pregnancies. I had to work pretty hard to stay in shape and take care of my skin as these things did not come naturally to me nor was I blessed genetically like so many people assumed that did not know my families very unhealthy background or lifestyle. Not to say that they’re an ugly lot, but the women in our family lean more towards the heavy side and no one else had been involved in sports to the capacity at which I had nor did they work out on a regular basis so I was kind of a unicorn in that area. Which I’m hindsight explained why so many of them resorted to stimulants like crank or meth initially to get their weight down or their energy up and led to the inevitable reality of addiction and drama. I wanted to be different. But in so many ways like so many of us do I went in the same direction, just on a different path with different scenery that gave me the illusion that I was somehow superior to them and their choices.
They did have a lot more skill in the beauty area than I- mostly my aunts and cousin on my moms side. They were very feminine and could work magic with a curling iron and makeup and I learned a lot from them. Prior to sports I gave that a go for quite sometime and got really good at makeup. But I knew nothing about skincare.
While I was still in my twenties though after launching my Mma career I started getting sponsorship for things like BOTOX and fillers which I think was my managers way of hinting around that if I was going to continue down the more natural tomboy path like I was headed down, that I still needed to look good without makeup on since you couldn’t wear it during training or competitions. It helped replace the youthful look I started to lose from so much unhealthy weight cutting but it still did not address the damage I was doing to my face and the constant stitches. I continued to get BOTOX and fillers and ate very healthy never thinking that any type of facial or product would truly make a difference. That’s what makeup was for when it was needed.
A lot of the wmma (womens mixed martial arts) community and athletes are divided in this area. There’s the side that is opposed to the need of being seen as attractive and the side that finds value in it for whatever their reason may be. I supported both and at the time felt a lot of pressure and confusion from what seemed an impossible position at attempting to BE both. It’s a lot easier now I think but this was quite a few years ago.
My health and appearance had seriously started taking a toll a few years after my shoulder injury and by the time I had to have knee replacement surgery, which actually happened 2 years prior to my shoulder surgery due to it being a lot more obvious, I knew my career needed to be done. I still attempted one last fight though despite having a torn knee and shoulder which prevented me from even making weight. Along with a serious thyroid problem from the years of unhealthy cutting, this lead to a serious depression and even more harassment and judgement from both sides of the community. I was done. A sport that I had loved for so long became my biggest source of resentment.
I didn’t have anything else though, or so I wrongly believed. No job skills or degree to fall back on. I had worked freelance as an athlete for so long I didn’t know anything outside of that. And at that time I had no interest in anything else let alone the beauty industry. Side note, from both sides of these industries I have heard so much criticism towards either profession in the form of comments about them being involved in by individuals lacking intelligence and of course that’s not true. I have friends in both arenas that have multiple degrees and masters and vast military and educational background and it pisses me off especially when they voice it towards the other being someone who has to defend their own profession themselves. That shit needs to stop. Annoys me to no end.
I gave it a go as a personal trainer but what a joke that was. It definitely wasn’t for me. I had a pretty horrible experience at a major gym franchise that not only led me to believe I would be given all of my leads but also I just was never paid. I guess as a form of punishment after I brought that up up to my manager. He had switched it up on us about not having to track down our own leads and that we would be expected to bring them in ourselves despite the original contract. So his way of punishment was to withhold our pay. A few weeks later he was arrested for a DUI and possible embezzlement which helped me feel a little less like a failure on top of all of my recent failings, but it left a really bad taste in my mouth for the industry as a whole.
I truly enjoyed helping others look and feel good. I did not know how to do that while monetizing it. Even the more successful personal trainers made less than a quarter of what I did while I was competing. It was depressing. It drove me crazy how the leads that I was eventually able to generate on my own later on would rarely do their workout programs properly or consistently and the frustration it would give me to invest in them more than they did in themselves would overshadow the money they were paying me. Leading only towards more resentment and bitterness.
One of my aunts I was talking about before suggested that I start getting into lashing and spray tanning. At the time I had no capital, and I had moved back to Idaho to work for my dad and detox, and it took me a while to see the value in what she was saying. Which was essentially that as opposed to the long term work and effects fitness and nutrition entailed, people liked the idea of a quick fix and were willing to spend the $ on it – and that was in the beauty industry.
I had to acknowledge the truth in this as I myself was always involved in the quick fix of neuromodulators, fillers, and makeup. I had to admit that I played a role in this collective consciousness. So I started to consider it but still did not have the $ to do so, and any $ I did have went to my boys and the guardian they were staying with back in California. Even when they lived with me their entire lives I never received any child support and had blown through my huge accumulation of savings once I incurred all of my injuries and dui and could no longer work or compete.
My aunt then suggested Microblading and that there was a course that would provide financing. I was somehow approved but due to my fear of telling my dad even tho I was 36, I had to push it off until I finally found the courage to pull the trigger. Only after realizing & admitting that I could not keep up the pace in the wood shop that he needed from me because the shoulder injury was still making me miserable. At that point I had my knee surgery but my back and shoulder were still not addressed. I was sober but in excrutiating pain every day.
It was kind of a no brainer once I looked at it her suggestion objectively to start down this career path as I had been a great free hand artist growing up, and had an eye for anything esthetic. Plus by all of the research I did it projected that the $ would eventually equal out to what I made during my Mma career without the pain and discomfort. This is not to say that it’s easier, just different.
I finally made my one on one appointment with a trainer out of Utah. After training and doing my first few clients for my portfolio I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown. It was so much harder than I had anticipated. And having only a little bit of sobriety behind me, less than a year, my brain was still foggy and distracted at times and it did not seem like it was something I could pursue despite taking out a loan of more than 4K. Fuck what was I thinking.
Shortly after I enrolled in a lash training course that was still pretty pricey but had great reviews. It was still hard but not nearly as bad as microblading. They’re two different animals. My wife paid for it right after her work incident and then helped me move out to be with her during this time and enable me to have a side hustle so I could save up to have the boys move back from California so we could all be together.
It was slow going at first but with the support of her family and established community in such a small town it picked up momentum in a very short time. You were allowed to work from home in Idaho and also lash and do multiple practices without an actual license, whether it be esthetics or cosmetology. And that worked for me as I saw it as only a hustle and still didn’t really love it but I did love the $.
The salon and booth rent in the area was ridiculously low. Less than $200 a month and the salon I ended up in was literally two blocks from my house. My books were full in no time to the point it was causing problems as I was working constantly and yet again tying my worth to the amount of money I made. I had finally found a surgeon that knew what to look for on my shoulder scans and he found the injury that had plagued me for 6 years and had led to the largest part of my prescription medication dependency. Which at the time had been removed from my life ,by the grace of god, for almost 10 months. But I was still in pain and irritable even when lashing.
Lashing and esthetics were a lot easier on my body than fighting of course but it still took its toll from sitting in the same position for sometimes 12-14 hour days. My back and shoulder were in constant discomfort. I welcomed surgery and looked at it as the final stamp to close the last chapter on my past life.
It went smooth, aside from a few days of crazy that I don’t remember, that was due to pain medication being introduced into my system after having it be a non factor for almost a year. Of course I got weird and we knew it was a likelihood and the family knew to keep the meds locked in a safe and to not take my erratic behavior personally. I don’t remember at least 3 days during that period, but the time following it was such a relief now that I knew the pain would start to lessen and we would not have to deal with that side of me anymore, god willing. I had to make some amends for my behavior though that’s for sure, despite my not remembering it – it was no excuse and I had to put my program into action more than ever.
I healed up relatively quickly and was back to lashing within a week. It was a game changer. I was so grateful but could not help but think how differently life would have gone had I had the surgery sooner. I may still have been competing and continuing to fight for Bellator and eventually the Ufc like so many of my teammates and competitors, many of which I had beaten repetitively during practice and in fights and ranked higher than them even in the down side of my career. Another sore spot that made me realize I could not watch Mma on tv anymore or follow it on social media. I needed to focus on my new path and that was beauty and helping others feel beautiful.
It started off as a hustle but I quickly realized not only was I good at lashing after a while, but I was good with people and genuinely liked them. I had prior to that been such an introvert and filled with bitterness it took some time to shed that and realize a lot of my clients were coming to me simply because of me! So weird. They said it was their therapy. And my being a lesbian covered in tattoos in a very conservative Mormon culture made them feel they were free of judgement finally. And they liked picking my brain for advice on relationships, fitness and nutrition. I finally felt I was useful and being of service in a way that fulfilled my soul along with helping to provide for my family.
When one of my best friends from California tracked me down to tell me she too had switched her career path to esthetics I was so excited! She had always been such a source of knowledge and inspiration for me in the Mma world and now we both got to go down this journey together in a way. She informed me about her latest endeavor which was fibroblasting, other wise known as the plasma pen, and I started saving up for the best device on the market at the time and to make a trip there to be trained by her.
What did I know about skincare though honestly? I barely wore makeup anymore and ordered all of my skincare off of amazon. Which is a huge no-no. I didn’t realize a lot of product is counterfeit or expired and I probably would not have cared. I was introduced to the world of skincare products by another wrestling mom who worked for an mlm, and that’s when I started seeing the value in it, and suggesting it to my clients while I continued to my goal of fibroblast training.
I started considering going to esthetics school. Also weird. I heard the horror stories. At this time however we were faced with the opportunity to relocate to Las Vegas for my wife’s company and with the possibility of that happening sooner than expected, I pushed off going to school in Idaho in the event she was relocated during the time I was enrolled. Which was the right decision. I had my training for the plasma pen and started offering it along with the skincare line in my lash business and it started taking off. I was learning so much about skincare and Esthiology and I became obsessed with the science behind it and the satisfaction that came with seeing the results in my clients and their self esteem.
After quickly being relocated to Las Vegas in June of 2019, I had already had over a year of experience in lashing and brows and 6 months in fibroblast and skincare product. I was so excited to start school and quickly signed up for the one I was most familiar with which was Aveda.
Talk about a shit show. The same month that we lived here was the same month that state policy had changed and required anyone that wanted to do lashing legally would have to have a license in esthetics or cosmetology. The licensing requirement was fine by me. But they said it skyrocketed their class numbers and the quality of their students. It was pretty obvious too. Talk about drama. And ghetto. I felt like I was back in jail again – no joke. I can’t even tell you how many times I had to talk myself down from getting verbal or physical with some of these characters, mostly the bullies that picked on the nicer girls. It was not my finest hour. But thank god they shortened the state board required hours since I felt I definitely had an advantage in comparison to the majority of the students as I came from a state where I was already able to operate a small business and had hands on experience. I was pretty disappointed though that so many of the certifications and trainings we were led to believe would be provided in the curriculum had been removed and I had to continue my education for chemical peels, hyaluron pen fillers, dermaplaning and microneedling on my own time and dime. I had also taken two courses in spray tanning back in Idaho but was able to get one more training provided through Aveda so I was grateful for that.
I met my Vegas esti bestie at Aveda which was probably the brightest point during that experience. Between her and my girl back in California we learned and trained in more than would have ever been possible on my own or through esthetician school. I went from questioning what I had gotten myself into and how I was going to make it in a state that had implemented so many new regulations that would make it seemingly impossible to start off on your own, to being excited and starting to believe I might be able to pick up where I left off back in Idaho to some capacity.
I could not imagine myself working in a corporate setting again like I had at the franchise gym while personal training. The cattiness in the beauty industry was something I could not stomach. Nor being someone else’s pawn. I truly believe I was meant to be an entrepreneur even during times of self doubt and fear, the thought of being controlled and manipulated by someone that only had more capital and experience in a lot of cases as opposed to genuine love for the industry and seeing others around them succeed terrified me. Not of them, but of how I would respond to that type of crap. I still had a temper and a chip on my shoulder despite having 2 years of sobriety.
Before graduating I did go through a time of wanting to throw in the towel at the thought of starting off on my own right after school and I applied for various positions close to where we lived _ which is as far away from the strip as you could get. It was where Jess could have the shortest commute to her position out at the site even though it was still over an hour. It’s a relatively new neighborhood and area and options were and are still limited. After having no viable offers I figured that was a sign to get over my fears and continue with my original path, which was to open up my own suite in a good area of Las Vegas hopefully with 20 minutes or less of our house. Which still gave me anxiety with how crazy traffic and drivers could be in stark comparison to east Idaho. It was a different world in every way but still better than what we dealt with in California, so for that I was grateful.
When I found an ad on Craigslist for a small room for less than half than anywhere else I had seen, I knew it was the one. It’s located in a great area of Las Vegas, Summerlin to be exact, inside of a medical building. And since I was given the option of part time, the rent was low enough that it wouldn’t cause me too much stress with the pressure of finding clients in a place where I knew no one.
Another huge difference from Idaho was the way you market here. Facebook marketplace wouldn’t cut it. The Instagram algorithm had just recently switched on us so thank god for such low overhead because now I had to create a website and learn the technical side of Facebook and google ads. My esti bestie made the mistake of utilizing the paid yelp ads services and quickly had to shut it down. I’ve had minimal luck with Groupon-yes I did Groupon despite being warmed- but it did bring me a few clients that became regulars so it actually kinda worked out for me.
The competition, if you buy into that notion, (I know a lot of us have the mantra of there being no such thing as competition but I don’t mind having a little competition), can be extremely steep here as this is one of the hot spots for esthetics. It’s Vegas. And although people here see the value of investing in their appearance there’s a lot of options, not to mention a lot of technicians operating illegally out of their homes. It’s been a huge learning experience and curve but one I feel excited to face head on every morning when I get out of bed. I see the challenge like I see life. It’s a game, and those that have the ability to adapt, problem solve, be resourceful, and last the longest, are the ones that will survive and ultimately thrive. Not unlike combat sports actually now that I think about it.
I was only officially open for one full month before the Covid-19 epidemic swept the world and shut us down in Las Vegas on March 16th, 2020. I had just started gaining some traction and regulars and starting seeing my income become similar to that which it had been back in Idaho. This was due to being able to do higher ticket services, so in comparison, I was actually making more for the amount of hours I was working.
We were blessed by not having to pay rent while we are mandated as a non essential business. The anxiety and sadness that ensured the first few days after having to close our doors was intense. I had no idea how I was suppose to transition my business online to such a small amount of clients in comparison to those that are seeing success with online consults and home facial care packages with much larger and established audiences and clientele. It’s something I’m continuing to work on and hope to offer custom kits and online consultations while I’m working on my additional dream, which is this podcast and community. I have a goal for offering a subscription type product in the future that correlates with all of my aspirations involving beauty, sobriety, and wellness that gets me just as excited to get out of bed, for which I’m very thankful for.
I am extremely excited about tying together the things which light my soul on fire and make me and my life feel beautiful and aligned in every way, along with the thought of being able to extend that to my clients and future clients. It’s seriously lit a fire under my ass and I feel a little closer to it becoming a reality day by day, despite the affects this quarantine has had on all of us. It’s an idea and project we have been working on since before I even was half way through esthetics school and it’s ironic that this time in our history has made it seem like an even more attainable reality! It could not happen soon enough! The dream project not the quarantine. The logistics and financing is now what I have to figure out and with the ability to get loans and grants being a possibility now more than ever, I know is not a coincidence.
This has been a time for me to exert creativity, critical thinking and flexibility along with being audacious I’m my dreaming and goal setting. I know that without the trials I have faced in my past that I would not be in such a positive and ambitious mindset, and I do not take that for granted. I feel that those skill are the very essence of being an entrepreneur and I finally feel that I’m not a fraud by calling and considering myself as such like I had felt off and on since starting this journey. I’m still faced with those lingering feelings of doubt, lack of confidence, and simply not always knowing what I’m suppose to do next, but it’s also what drives me to figure it the f out. Like Marie Forleo is famously known for saying – everything is figureoutable.
I hope that my sharing my personal experiences and growth is applicable to at least one person and that you realize you too can figure it out if it’s something that truly calls and compels you regardless of the industry you are currently in or want to explore. Despite the state of our current situation we have to continue to remember that we are meant for more, we are not alone, and we did not come this far to only come this far.
Until next time have a beautiful day!
-The Sober MomPreneur