A native of Liberia, Maisie Dunbar was working in the corporate world of Washington, D.C, but beauty was calling. She loved doing her own nails so much that when a co-worker signed up for nail technician training, Dunbar went along, too.
“Growing up as a child in Africa, I was always fascinated with fashion,” says Dunbar. “We had to wear uniforms to school and I would always do a little something extra. I would put pleats in my skirt, I would polish my nails when I wasn’t allowed, I would shine my shoes with Vaseline. I got my license to do nails because I liked doing my own but I soon realized that I had so much to learn. I sought out continuing education and my passion went to a whole different level.”
Dunbar is a “triple threat” –a salon and spa owner, an accomplished nail, makeup and skincare artist and an entrepreneur who started her own line of cosmetics, Bluffajo. To get to this level, though, she displayed the perseverance and commitment that has made her an industry leader.
“I was working with the FDA during the day and doing nails at night to make ends meet for me and my child. I even traveled to New York to work in a salon there. I did what I had to do. After a year and a half, as I continued to educate myself, I kept meeting all these women who were so excited and happy about their job. I decided I wanted to do this full time.”
Dunbar opened a nail studio, expanding it to a wellness center. She pursued an esthetique license, took massage classes (hoping to provide healing touch to help her ailing mother) and also became licensed as a makeup artist. She was poised to start her cosmetic line, Bluffajo.
“I know that I am going to do beauty until my last breath so in addition to training and speaking, BluffaJo is something I want to do as I learn and grow. In my language, a ‘Bluffajo’ is a person that is always well put together. We tested the market with lip glosses and then, typical of my overzealous self, we launched a full line. “
At her Masie Dunbar Spa Lounge in Silver Springs, MD, regular wellness events are held where Dunbar shares her blessings. “I feel like I’m a vessel and that means I open up myself to people. I’m very cautious, nonetheless, and I pray for discernment so I make good choices because the energy is very important. I wish I had a dime for every time someone came into the spa and told me how calming and restful it is.”
Last year, Dunbar partnered with a homeless shelter and did makeovers. Leading up to the event, she asked her guests to clean out their beauty closets and she gathered boxes of products to give to the women from the shelter.
“The way I saw those ladies walk in and the way I saw them walk out is why I do these things.”
If all these accomplishments were not enough, Dunbar also works on editorial shoots, runway events and red carpet galas. She was also the first manicurist to represent the beauty industry to the lawmakers on Capitol Hill as part of the "Welcome to Our World" event established by the Professional Beauty Federation, an organization comprised of professional salon industry companies and associations including AACS, ISBN, ISPA, JCPenney Salons, OPI, PBA, and Sexy Hair, WTOW involves hundreds of salon pros who volunteer their skills and services to this event, offering manicures, haircuts, makeup applications and chair massages to Capitol Hill staffers.
"I want to be part of showing what we as an industry do to transform lives."
Dunbar’s advice for professionals entering the industry:
1. Surround yourself with good mentors, people that can lead, guide and direct you.
2. Choose a salon cautiously. You want to be in a salon that will pour something into you as you pour something into them. You have to be the perfect fit.
3. Be patient. Be the best you that you know how to be every hour of every day. Develop your excellence. Strengthen your weakness and your strength.
5. Don’t be afraid to fail, because it’s not about your failure it is about how many times you get up.
6. If you want to make money, you have to get up. Have a conversation with your boss if you are sitting down every day. You have been given an opportunity and it is up to you to turn it into success.