Originally published in ASCP's Skin Deep, April/May 2007. Copyright 2007. Associated Skin Care Professionals. All rights reserved.
While estheticians focus mainly on improving the physical appearance of women and men, the profession cultivates an inner beauty in people as well. Monique Raymond of Santa Clarita, California, has spent her forty-year career not only helping others accentuate their outer looks, but taking care of the inner worlds of clients who especially need courage and self-esteem. She believes taking time to pamper the body benefits mental, emotional, and spiritual health, as well as the physical body.
Raymond, originally from Chile, came to the United States in 1964 with her parents who were looking to start over in America and escape the tumultuous political climate at home. Though she had been studying medicine in South America, Raymond realized almost immediately upon arriving in her new home that esthetics was her calling and set out pursuing her dream. Holistic and Healing
"I heard from a friend there was a new field that was quickly growing called skin care," Raymond says. "At that time, esthetics was a completely new idea. I wanted to do something that allowed me to work with women in a holistic, healing, medicinal way." She found her answer in the esthetics profession. Raymond first went to Paris for a year to study her craft, then returned to New York where she was tutored in English by an unlikely person--her ten-year-old son, Henry Von Norden. He helped her pass her exams so she could acquire her esthetician's license.
"Henry helped me so much; it was very hard not knowing the language, but with his help, I passed and was able to start a business," Raymond says. "And through helping me, he learned he wanted to work in skin care also, so we have always worked together." Von Norden became an esthetician at the age of seventeen, and the two are now business partners in the beauty profession. Another of Raymond's daughters, Karina, also became an esthetician.A New Beginning
Raymond waited tables in New York while completing studies at the widely recognized Christine Valmey International School for Esthetics. In the mid-1970s, Raymond left New York to open her first salon--Beauty Spa--in Van Nuys, California. After visiting the small city of Santa Clarita, outside of Los Angeles in Southern California, and seeing there were no other spas there, she decided to relocate her business.
"Many of my clients in Van Nuys were coming from the Santa Clarita Valley, so I knew if I went there, the business would do well," Raymond says. She opened Monique's Face and Body Institute, later renamed Monique's Day Spa, in Santa Clarita the next year, where she and a few other practitioners offered beauty and relaxation treatments to the community.
Once in Santa Clarita, however, Raymond quickly found an even more important and personally fulfilling way she could give back to the community. In 1998, a community organization devoted to helping Latin women in the area asked Raymond to donate to a fundraiser it was holding to benefit battered women. Raymond agreed to contribute to their cause. That night she had a dream in which she saw a bright golden light and a woman crying, whom Monique tried to console by telling her she was beautiful and loved by God. She found the dream so moving, she decided the next morning to donate one day of beauty each week for a year to abused and low-income women. The organization was thrilled to receive this offer, and women quickly lined up to benefit from Raymond's generosity.
Raymond was overwhelmed by the response to her donation. "You can't imagine how grateful these women are. Abused women have very low self-esteem," she says. "Their pride and dignity have been taken away, and they need help getting those things back. These women would come in feeling ugly and dirty, but by the time they would leave they would say to me, 'Thank you for making me feel beautiful.' It feels so good to give these women something they would not have been able to afford otherwise."Tragedy a Teacher
Raymond's reasons for giving back to these women in such a significant way are personal, as well as altruistic. "I am a spiritual person and so to me, giving a facial, a massage, or something else is giving more that just physical relaxation," she says. "It is touching that person's soul and connecting with them. We are healing the inside as well as the outside."
It may be Raymond's own tragedies that brought her to these women, including her previous marriage to an abusive man and losing a son, one of her four children, in a car accident when he was just twenty-nine years old. She believes that surviving these tragedies has helped her to better understand and aid others dealing with personal pain.
"I know what it's like to have hard things happen in life, and I can understand when someone else is going through something like that," she says.Spiritual Healing Part of the Job
Luckily, during Raymond's difficult periods, her son Henry was there to help. "I remember going to Laguna Beach with Mom during a particularly rough patch when I was about eleven--she just needed to get away for a bit," Von Norden says. "On that trip, I read to her from these spiritual healing books I had just started reading. That's when we both realized how much deeper what we do goes than just the physical. As an esthetician you are beautifying the body and healing the soul, too. Spirituality is an important part of our career."
The community partnership continues to this day, though Raymond sold Monique's Day Spa in 2004 and briefly considered retirement. "When Mom said she was going to retire, I told her, 'Hey, I need you now,'" Von Norden says. "You're finished with your career, but I'm just getting started with mine."
"I was just then starting my own spa, Papillon Day Spa, and I needed someone with her touch and her way of connecting with people," Von Norden says. "And the thing is, she wanted to stay. She's always said that we're in this together, and we are." The women's organization continues to send a deserving woman to Papillon Day Spa each month, where Raymond gives her the same treatment she gave the first women who came to her in 1998--a one-hour massage and a one-hour facial. "I'll never get tired of doing this," she says.
Indeed, Raymond is not ready to retire. When her son asks her now if she thinks she ever will, she simply shrugs, smiles, and says, "I don't think so."Relationships and Bonds
Raymond would certainly be missed if she did decide to call it quits. In an age where many relationships are superficial and brief, client loyalty is a valuable source of bonding and friendship. "I have clients who have been coming to me every week for thirty years. We're good friends--I try to create relationships that are based on more than just esthetician and client," Raymond says.
And most important, being an esthetician--even after nearly forty years--still makes Raymond happy. "She loves what she does and she loves to give back to people, to feel needed, just like we all do," Von Norden says. Christine Spehar is a freelance writer, based in Boulder, Colorado, specializing in beauty and natural health. Her work has appeared in Delicious Living and Alternative Medicine.