We had the good fortune of connecting with Valerie Harvey and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Valerie, how do you think about risk?
“Jump and the net will appear” has been an unofficial theme in my life and career. I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness and left the religion when I was 26. I was very sheltered by the religion’s strict doctrines and their rule of sequestering you from the outside world. When I left, it was understood I would have limited or no contact with my family and the JW community, who were the only friends I had. I was on my own, but the net appeared eventually and my choice to leave couldn’t have been more right.
As a black woman, I was routinely the only person of color in the room because I was willing to take the risk of entering spaces that I wasn’t traditionally welcomed in. I did that when I entered the world of retail cosmetics. My first assignment was managing a Christian Dior makeup counter in Newport Beach. Living in South Central LA at that time and having never been to Orange County up to that point, I felt like a fish out of water. But that didn’t last long. I thrived in the position and was quickly promoted by another makeup line to a counter in Beverly Hills. I abruptly ended my career in retail cosmetics after 7 years and took a leap of faith that I could quickly gain traction in the freelance Makeup Artistry world. It wasn’t exactly a quick transition but I’ve had an exhilarating career so far and I wouldn’t change a thing about that rollercoaster ride to success.
As of late, I started a career I didn’t know I wanted during the pandemic when I was compelled by the events sparked by the tragic murder of George Floyd to get certified as a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Instructor. I started a company called Society of Allies and am working hard to be an influential part of the conversation. The work I am doing in this field has been my most fulfilling role yet!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I think what sets me apart is I’ve always lead my artistry career with the intent of not only just making people look good but, most importantly, making them feel good. I think there is something to be said of creating a vibe that people really groove with on set. It’s usually said the makeup room is the most fun place on set and I take maintaining that reputation very seriously. If someone feels good, the authenticity radiates on camera. I do my best to create a welcoming judgment free space that encourages people to come as they are. I think it’s especially needed these days with COVID still among us and creating a necessary tone of hyper-vigillance on set that can throw good vibes off.
The journey to creating a safe space for the transformation happening in my chair came from my own metamorphosis. I had to learn to love myself and that happiness is a choice to be able to pass that energy on to the people I encountered in my work. The challenges of being black in America, childhood traumas, not having much secular education and the fact that my upbringing was in such wild contrast from most people I encountered was often a source of anxiety while trying to start a new life and carve out a place for myself in the industry. But as time went by it became clear how my experiences in life had uniquely prepared me to take on these challenges successfully in more innovative ways.
The best advice I would offer is from the movie “Bridge of Spies”. Tom Hanks is a lawyer defending a Russian spy and his court case is not going well. His client is still cool as a cucumber despite the gravity of the crimes and the punishment he’s facing. He asks his client, “Do you never worry?” and his client responds, “Would it help?” It was such a profound moment for me because I realized that worry was just something people do when they run out of things to do. It makes you feel like you are doing something when you have no control over the outcome. I realized that in my life, luckily, the “net” has always appeared. I’ve never looked back on a situation and wished I’d worried more. In fact, it was always the opposite so I decided to stop all together. I’m not saying I never worry or you shouldn’t be prepared for alternative outcomes. I’m just saying that this is the advice I would have given my younger self. To trust in my talent, my resilience and my support network. That takes you way further than dwelling on negative scenarios.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
The lockdown that ensued after COVID has definitely affected my recommendation list for going out. I must admit, I’ve become very attached to my home and have reinvested in making my place a sanctuary for myself and all who visit. My go to sources for decor were society6.com, Pygmy Hippo Shoppe near the Grove and the Melrose Trading Post. I have a quaint little outdoor space I’ve affectionately dubbed “The Cafe” and have socially distant iced lattes made from the best almond mylk and healthy horchata I’ve ever had in my life from a company called called Vita Juice I found on Instagram. “The Cafe” is still VERY popular amongst my close friends!
I also recommitted to nature during that time. I have always been fascinated by meteor showers since I saw one the last night was in Australia in 2017 then got on a plane and essentially chased it back to Los Angeles and saw the same shower again that night. In 2020, I gathered a couple friends to drive out to Templin Highway to see the yearly Geminid Meteor shower Mother Nature puts on for us. The conditions were perfect that night being a cloudless sky on the new moon. We probably each saw 40 shooting stars and it was so magical making a new wish each time one shot across the sky. Now I’m committed to seeing this natural wonder every year!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There have been so many people and friends along the way that have stood by me and supported me on my continuing journey on this planet. Most recently, I’ve found unshakable support from my longtime friends and members of a group we dubbed “Makeup Houseparty” during the pandemic. We naturally gravitated towards one another for support and distraction through an app called Houseparty during the abysmal first half of lockdown. What started as checking in, turned into us doing our makeup together and then evolved into to assigning full on themes to our virtual gatherings. Some even got the attention of magazines like Vogue, CR Fashion Book and Madame Figaro. I am so proud to be able to stand amongst such incredibly talented artists who challenge me creatively and whose love and support I couldn’t have done without during the pandemic.
Makeup Houseparty members:
Instagram: @mohawkmakeup @societyofallies @valmakessense
Other: My diviserty work: https://vimeo.com/manage/videos/510071636
Jasmine Gordon Russel Baer Photography Keith Berson Photography Victoria Craven (I was unable to upload most of the pictures I wanted to so I’m emailing them along with credits. So sorry for the inconvenience!)