Julie Farley’s small business in downtown Spokane, The Make-up Studio, where women come for makeup lessons and sessions, will celebrate its ninth anniversary this year.
Two years ago, Farley, 53, also founded a nonprofit, Project Beauty Share, which distributes donated makeup and hygiene items to Inland Northwest women living in homeless shelters and in low-income housing.
In a recent Wise Words interview, Farley talked about how survival in tough times is grounded in hard work – and looking out for others.
• I was probably 16 when I started. I worked at McDonald’s – the one on Monroe Street, the very first one in Spokane. They pounded into our heads: “Time to lean is time to clean.” Meaning you have a job and when you weren’t serving a customer, you were cleaning. There was always something to do. That stayed with me all my life.
• After graduating from high school, I moved to Seattle and was at the Clinique makeup counter and it was actually (actress) Hedy Lamarr’s daughter selling makeup at Southcenter. She said, “You should consider modeling.” I was very tall, but it was never something I thought of doing. I loved to travel, and I thought, “Why not?”
I pursued it and had an offer to move to Europe. I was there in the early ’80s for two years. I was based in Paris. I traveled all over. I worked in Germany, Italy and Greece.
Being an American in Europe made me appreciate what we have here. But I also learned that the Europeans have a zest for life. They take their hour lunches. They eat off their best china. They don’t wait for a special family occasion. Life is too short.
I remember being in Athens with my roommate’s boyfriend’s family. They lived very modestly. After dinner, they handed me one of their fine dinner plates and said, “Break it on the floor.”
Also in Greece, I remember going to a dentist, the dentist for people with money, and this dentist looked like something out of “Little Shop of Horrors.” He had blood specks all over his jacket. I walked down the hallway by the dentist for those in socialized health care. People were lying on the floor.
I always recommend to young people that if they can study abroad, or make a trip abroad, do it. You really appreciate America.
• The latter part of 1984, I moved back to Spokane. I had all intentions of moving back to Seattle, but I met my husband and got married. I say it’s the salmon returning to its original spawning ground. I don’t think I could have moved back to Spokane had I not lived elsewhere.
• I worked next as a freelance makeup artist. I worked doing commercials, television and movies. I did the first movies with North by Northwest (Productions, in Spokane). I learned that celebrities are just like us, except with more vulnerabilities and issues. It’s a very narcissistic world.
Ernest Borgnine was the best. I met him when he was here working on a movie. He was so genuine. He embraced everybody on the set. We would call him “Mr. Borgnine.” He’d say, “Don’t call me Mr. Borgnine. It’s Ernie. Got it?”
The bigger the star I worked with, the nicer. I got along with all of them, because I treated them normal. I don’t think they were used to it.
• Let’s talk about Hollywood. Let’s talk about all the cosmetic procedures being done. To each his own, but I see many women who are unhappy with themselves and doing the procedures, and they’re still not happy.
I offer an alternative. Let’s bring out our good features and go that route, rather than changing it all, so that when you’re older, your daughter still recognizes you. I say: “Bangs or Botox.” I choose to have bangs.
• One of the reasons I started The Make-up Studio was because of 9/11. I remember seeing all these people at the top of their game, and their lives were cut short. I turned to my husband and said, “I’ve always wanted to own my own makeup studio.” He said, “Well, do it.”
It was one of those moments like, build it and they will come. Here we are (nearly) 10 years later. Success isn’t always how much money you make. It’s doing what you love to do.
• How did I get the idea for Project Beauty Share? Well, at the end of this one woman’s makeup lesson, we went back through her products and there were many that weren’t age-appropriate.
I said, “I don’t know what you want to do with these products. Do you want to give them or throw them away?” She said, “I’m going to donate them where I volunteer at Our Place Community Ministries.”
The light bulb went off. I’m thinking we can give (low-income women) makeup and the basic needs of hygiene – deodorant, toothpaste. We officially launched it at a beauty bash in October 2009, but we’d been doing it for almost a year. We donate to 10 shelters across Spokane and North Idaho.
We donated over 15,000 pounds last year. Donations come from all over. We get boxes from Seattle, California and Nevada. We got a box from Florida. No note inside, just the donations.
• Basic hygiene items give women a sense of dignity. They need hygiene items to get a job. To get a job, you have to smell good, bottom line. You have to look good, bottom line.
The makeup is an added luxury they could never afford. I always say makeup is medicine. It makes you feel better. If they have the tools to improve how they look, maybe they can rise above their situation, which many times is a domestic violence situation.
So many of us could be one financial disaster away from being in their shoes. We owe it to our fellow sisters in this community. That’s why Project Beauty Share is so successful. It’s a way for women of all demographics to directly help someone in their community.
• We had a woman here the other day. Her sister had died of cancer. She was a homeless woman. She saw our shop. She came in the door and said, “My sister loved red lipstick. So I want to wear red lipstick at her funeral. Do you have any red lipsticks?”
I’m unsure if she even knew we were Project Beauty Share. She had the obituary and she said, “I want you to know I’m telling the truth.” I said, “I can help you.” I let her pick two or three lipsticks. I told her we don’t normally do this. We give it out at the shelters. She said, “Thank you.”
• What has Project Beauty Share done for me personally? I’ve always wanted to volunteer, but when you own a business, you work 24-7. It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve done.