We got to speak with Zoë Hefter-Smith, kickass hairdresser and a personal friend, to talk about her experience working in a creative field. After moving to Bozeman, Montana, Zoë is finding her style as a young hair guru, all while supporting herself financially for the first time in her life.
Can you tell me about the process of deciding to choose your career path as a hairdresser?
I’ve always loved playing with hair, even though I’ve never done my own, really ever. I always loved playing with everyone else’s. In high school everyone was asking me to curl their hair for dances. And I was always braiding everyone’s hair, and I think that in the back of my mind it was something fun for me to do.
In high school my friend’s mom was in night school to get her cosmetology license. So I started asking myself, “Could I go to night school and get my cosmetology license while I was still in school? That could be something really cool to do”. But me being the type of person to always leave things until the last minute (laughs) it sort of slipped away.
Then towards the end of high school it felt like everyone was applying and getting into colleges, but that’s not something I have ever really been interested in. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I went to community college for a semester. Since I wasn’t that into it, the next semester I signed up for classes late and there wasn’t anything I wanted to take. So that’s when I asked myself, “What else can I do with my time?” Then I felt a spark ignite, inspiring me to get my cosmetology license, but it still felt like my plan B. I thought that I was going to go back to college. Three years later, almost four, I’m still doing hair.
I’m really happy with my decision and that I went for it, but I was always a little embarrassed that I went to hair school because to be honest it definitely wasn’t the norm. It wasn’t something that people did unless they weren’t good at anything else (laughs).
I definitely have felt more secure in my decision over the last year or two, though. I’m completely self-sufficient, I’m paying all of my own bills, and my job is giving me money to live my life away from home and my parents. Everything that I’m doing right now, I’m paying for by doing this career. I’m really proud of myself for that. I guess it really hasn’t been until I’ve been taking care of myself and that I’ve been proud of what I do. Not that I’m saying I haven’t been proud before, but it feels really good to be so independent.
What role does creativity play in your job?
I mean, my entire family are artists. I felt like I was lacking that artistic side. I felt disconnected in a way, from my parents and my sister because they all have that in common. That’s all they do, is art. I think that lately, though, I’ve kind of realized that my job is an art form, too. The hair world is turning more into an artistic thing. I get to take classes frompeople who inspire me. I get to push boundaries where I can tell myself, “Oh, I am an artist, and I can use my mind in this way”. It’s not easy, but the resources I have and the environment that I’m in is all about the artistry of doing hair and the creativity behind it. So lately I’ve been finding more of that within myself and within my industry and it’s been very inspiring and positive. Lots of creativity flowing.
What are some of your greatest challenges that you’ve faced, and what is something people should know about your profession?
My biggest challenge is that I question every decision I make. Especially with color, because color is all chemistry. I know what I’m doing but I question everything, and then second guess myself, and I think that confidence in general within my work is something that’s really challenging to me. Once I’m finished with a client I’m always like, “Wow! That looks really good! I can do that!” But the process of getting there is such a struggle for me. I’m getting better at it because I’m going with my gut. I’m really taking it step by step. The confidence in the process, and my process, is definitely my biggest challenge.
It’s cool though because in my workplace it’s really showing that I’m becoming more comfortable making decisions on my own, because I’m figuring things out by myself. I know what I’m doing but sometimes I feel like I need to ask someone if it’s okay. I have amazing mentors and my boss always tells me that she believes in me, she knows I can do it, she tells me to just go for it. She’ll give me a direction but tells me she knows I’ll figure it out and it’s going to turn out perfect, and she trusts me that I’ll make the right decision. I’ve been telling myself “I’m going to figure this out on my own.” And it has been working out amazing! I think it’s just needing that push of “you can do it”. It’s a really cool time in my life right now.
I want people to know that the energy that you put out into the world is what you’ll receive back. I did not seek out certain opportunities that came to me, they sought me out because I put out a certain energy. Just put yourself out there and good things will come to you. Also, the cool thing about my industry is that you can do it anywhere in the world. Anywhere you go people need their hair done. I love that stability and freedom.
Emerging artist, Sofia Hefter-Smith, is working to make a name for herself as a female in the art world. Her vibrant colors, use of mix-media, and dreamlike Picasso-esque figures makes her pieces extremely unique and interesting. We got to sit down with Sofia in her studio to learn a little more about her:
How old were you when you started making art?
I mean both my parents are artists so, my mom always said I was holding paint brushes before pencils. I can’t even tell you… since I was a baby.
What are your favorite mediums to work in?
I love painting. Recently, though, I’ve been really getting into gouache on top of photos. I’ve been using it to paint on top of books and magazines and old photographs that I find.
I know that you are typically painting, and you just told me about painting on top of old photographs, but what are some other art forms that you do?
I really really love collage. Ever since I was little, I was ripping up my mom’s magazines and she would always complain about how I was messing them up. Her cousin was visiting and I forced my mom to buy me a Nat Geo. After, her cousin filled out the slip and bought me a year subscription, which was the best thing in the world! I have a massive collection of ripped up photos. Now I buy my own magazines and have for a while; I would use my chore money (laughs) to buy them. So yeah, I love collage a lot. I get a lot of inspiration from photographs.
What does it mean to you to be able to pursue art as a career?
It’s honestly a dream come true. I’m fully baffled. I’ve gotten so much support from the guys that own Shit Art Club, which is the gallery I’m going to be showing my art in at this group show. Even my friend Alai, she put on this show called “That’s Just Reality” and she rented out this space in LA called Ghost gallery for the event. I got to install my own room for my art. It was really awesome, and I even did a live painting on some posters. The guy that owned the gallery saw my work, and we rented his space but he curates his own shows, and he told me he really wanted to do a show with me. He asked me to come back to do a show at his gallery. Just the feedback I’m getting and the fact that I can affect people like that, is just the craziest thing to me. Still being so young, the only validation I’ve had is from friends, and my parents and sister. I never really understood [until now] that I could actually do this, and it would somehow impact people to want to see more. And that’s just the craziest shit to me. It’s so empowering! It’s really inspiring and makes me want to just keep on doing more.
What do you think is the general perception of artists?
I think a lot of people see artists as bums or creatives that opted out of an actual job. But that’s funny, because it’s an actual job. I put in just as much work, or more, into my career as the person with a 9-5. I’m in the studio every single day from the morning until sometimes 1am, working on stuff. It’s not all fun, it’s really fucking challenging. There’s a lot of self doubt. I have to hold myself accountable because I’m not showing up to work for anyone else but myself. I have a deep-rooted connection, it’s something I have to do or else I’ll explode. I was talking to one of my friends who’s also an artist about how hard it is for people to actually buy art. They’re just seeing the finished product instead of all the effort of what goes in to it behind it.
Do you see yourself as a business owner or entrepreneur?
I do see myself as an entrepreneur. You know, as an artist you’re your own boss. I have to make a CV which is like a resume of all the shows I’ve done. I have to photograph and catalog all my work, I have to make a website to display my work. I have to submit myself to other galleries, and I have to push my work like crazy because no one else is going to do it for you. That’s what being an entrepreneur is, it’s pushing whatever you’re making and making sure people are seeing it and receiving it well, and then wanting more.
What’s your favorite part about what you do?
I think for me, it’s the reaction I get to my work. It’s super out there, but this is my universe. I’m putting my universe that’s in my head down on paper. So I get to share that with people, and getting the feedback from that is always really funny and really awesome. It’s not people who I would expect, either. The things that I put down are always in relation to what’s going on in my life. Most of my work is a self-portrait, as weird as the creatures are, it’s all a self-portrait. To have people connect with my weird creatures and come up to me and just have a conversation with me about my work, and ask questions, and having them see the little details I threw into a painting and have them notice it, that’s fucking awesome!
It’s really important that people get to see the process. People need to see the work that goes into the art because otherwise, they’re not seeing the whole thing. I want to be able to share that process with people so they can get a better understanding of how it works. It’s not just the doing of the painting, or whatever you’re working on, I sit for hours with a little sketchbook on me. I’m always putting something down on paper. Always drawing something, always working on something. The whole entire process is so long! I might make something that takes one day, but that same painting could have taken me a week to figure out. Even a year to get to that point of getting on a canvas. People are always like, “you drew this in a day, why would I pay this much money for it?” But it actually took me three years to learn how to draw the hand on that fucking drawing. You’re paying for all my education, to how I got to this point. It correlates with any other job.
Do you feel that women have a hard time getting their foot door in the art world, compared to men?
Oh 100%. I think just recently there’s been a lot more kickass female artist beating down the door in the art world. There’s this book we have in the studio that shows 3,000 years of art history, and we looked through the whole thing and there are only like 3 female artists in the massive book of influential artists over the last 3,000 years. So we drilled a huge hole in the center of it, and now it’s our little “fuck you” art piece to the art world. A lot of emerging female artists over the years ended up being assistants to male artists, and definitely didn’t get the recognition they deserved.
But you think there’s been a shift?
I think there’s totally been a shift. It’s really awesome. It has a lot to do with, as weird as this sounds, the internet. There’s more opportunity to be seen and heard by others. It’s not about being male or female anymore, and I think that’s how it is with everything right now relating to a woman’s place. I feel really lucky to be a female artist right now, because people are just giving less of a fuck. There’s still obviously a lot of men in the art world, but there’s more and more female artists getting recognition, which is really awesome.
Tell me something you want people to know about you
Something important to know about me, that’s also important for me to know about myself, is that I can’t stop making, creating, producing. It doesn’t matter if I “make it big” or get a lot of recognition for my work, or if I totally fail and nobody likes my shit. I will never stop. It’s seriously the reason why I’m still here, and I owe it to myself and to art (laughs), to keep on doing it. It’s my lifeline.
Julie Gomez, a Brazilian Jiujitsu (BJJ) purple belt, works as both student and teacher on her path to becoming a black belt. She and her husband co-own a BJJ studio, Gomez Jiujitsu, in downtown Los Angeles, combining sport, martial arts, self defense, and community to create a safe space to train and learn.
Starting in college, Julie knew that she wanted to work in the field of health and fitness, but didn’t necessarily know how that would play a role in her life. She started working out at a UFC gym and happened to stumble upon a jiujitsu class. “The moves that they were doing looked super cool, and I thought that might be something worth getting into. I wanted to try a class to see if I liked it. So I tried a class, and had so much fun that I just kept going back”. Fast forward five months, Julie met her now-husband Carlos, who was a BJJ instructor at that gym. They dreamed of opening their own gym together where they could teach and learn in their own space.
Julie was working as a teaching assistant, and had to make the decision to further that career and go back to school, or to leave her job and help out at their academy. Although a scary and tough decision, she ultimately knew what was right for her: “Obviously it’s not your average career choice, especially for a woman. My parents wanted me to do something that brought in money, and that I could support myself with. Which totally makes sense. But I wanted to do something I enjoyed. At first it was about wanting to make money, but then I asked myself, “why am I going to waste my time doing something that I’m not really interested in just for the money?” Life is supposed to be about living and enjoying it”.
Julie knew her passion was jujitsu. She took control of her life and didn’t let the opinions of others affect her decision to change her career. “I think that you should start doing something for yourself and work towards that. It will be tough sometimes. Sometimes you won’t be able to party every weekend, you’ll be working on your goals. You might lose friendships and you have to make sacrifices, because it’s tough running a business. But that’s okay because it’s something that you want make work, and that’s something that you’re interested in that will make you happy in the long run. Time is going to pass, and would you rather be working for someone else or working for your dreams? I would say if you’re passionate about something, then you should start now”.
Not only is Brazilian Jiujitsu a badass martial art, but it also combines discipline, creativity, and compassion for yourself and others. “There are over 2,000 different techniques in the sport. So there’s a lot of room for creativity. There’s a lot of different ways to advance into different positions, or escape into different positions, or to get certain submissions. There’s no one cookie-cutter method to advance. You start to experiment with different techniques, and eventually you find things that just work”. It teaches students valuable life lessons while providing the skills to defend yourself.
It was amazing to learn so much about this martial art and get Julie’s perspective because it goes to show that you can follow your passion and still be successful. She really emphasized how much it means to her as a business women to be working towards her own goals instead of someone else’s. “It’s unconventional in every way, but it’s so rewarding to be able to do something that you enjoy and not work for someone else’s dream”.
In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, what are we supposed to do? Millions of Americans, including myself, have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus, and after filing for unemployment are left wondering, “What do I do now?” I’m not talking about what people should be doing to prepare for when things (hopefully) go back to normal, I’m talking about what to do right now. The only thing I have to look forward to are my twice-a-week three hour Zoom classes as I finish up my Master’s degree…online, which is more than a lot of people have to look forward to. That leaves me with approximately 162 hours a week to do whatever I want. With all of this freedom, however, I find myself paralyzed with the unlimited amount of random shit I could be doing. Because let’s face it, with all the time in the world we want to use this time wisely. I, however, find myself counting time instead of making time count, but is that so wrong?
According to my Instagram feed filled with apparent workout and beauty bloggers turned “the right and wrong way to spend your time during a pandemic” specialists, if I’m not honing in on new skills or getting the perfect beach body then I’m essentially wasting my time. Well, I’m here to tell you that I think that’s fucking bullshit. I keep hearing the word “productivity” being thrown around. “Do this to be productive”, “try that to be productive”. I sit scrolling on my phone questioning myself, “Should I start baking? Will that make me feel better about myself? Will this banana bread recipe fix my inherent enjoyment of being lazy?” The answer is no. And not because baking can’t be therapeutic for some, but because I don’t like to fucking bake. Perhaps this pressure is self-inflicted (I have always been hard on myself), but I definitely think that social media exacerbates this incessant encouragement to be your “best self” even when the world is hanging on by a thread.
The definition of ‘productive’ is, “achieving or producing a significant amount or result”. That can mean anything. For me it means surviving, every single day. Some days I’m productive because I put pants on that aren’t sweats. Other days I’m productive because I did yoga. Sometimes a productive day means that I didn’t get out of bed, because I’m tired and need to rest. I refuse to be made to feel bad when I come out of this not having learned seven new languages. And although I do believe in filling your day with things that make you happy and help the time pass, I do not believe that there is a right or wrong way to spend your day. I think it’s great that people are trying to stay fit and eat healthy. I see extreme creativity being produced during this time. It’s truly amazing. What I’m worked up about is not Karen making YouTube workouts. I think that’s great, for Karen. What I’m upset about is Karen getting on Instagram and making me feel like I’m not doing enough. I urge you to make your own definition of productivity instead of falling into the rabbit hole of guilt that I fell into.
So, with all of that said, here is my carefully curated COVID-19 productivity list:
Bake banana bread (that shit is actually pretty good)