Clementina Richardson is a master of many things: the art of eyelash extensions, building a business, and defying aging. But most of all, the Envious Lashes® founder is a master of grabbing life by the proverbial balls and showing it who’s boss. Even when the world seemingly had other plans for her, Richardson has time and again taken control of her own destiny and forged her own path.
Born in the Bahamas to a poor, uneducated family, she knew early on that if she wanted a real shot at success, she’d have to leave the island. “People always think it’s so beautiful there, but there’s no money,” she says. “The only opportunity there is work at the resorts or at the banks.” She determined she’d have more of a chance of success if she relocated, and, after spending every summer as a teen with her sister in New York, she decided to stay for good once graduating high school. Richardson was long interested in beauty, and felt that cosmetology school would be a natural next step. In the face of its costly tuition, she opted for much-cheaper nail school instead.
She soon fell in love with doing nails, but still wanted something else to supplement her income. While working at a Long Island salon, she saw how much money there was to be made in eyelash extensions (which were beginning to take off in nearby Manhattan) and asked the owner if she could try doing them. Richardson trained herself, all the while growing more and more obsessed with lashes. “The funny thing is that I was disgusted with eyeballs,” she says with a laugh, “and now, I spend all day around them!”
Within a few years, Richardson developed a large following across Long Island, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and New Jersey, and secured a stellar reputation for her lash extension work. She became determined to open her own luxury salon that would cater to high-end clientele, but she knew she’d have to differentiate herself somehow. After speaking with various clients and hearing them all clamor for almond-shaped eyes, Richardson realized that everyone wanted their eyes to be more open. “After years of doing lash extensions, I knew that I could make clients’ eyes appear this way by using this curl, this type of lash, by placing it here on the eye,” she recalls. “I’m all about shaping and lifting the eyes.”
After renting space at a salon for about two years, Richardson opened her first official Envious Lashes location in 2011 on Fifth Avenue in the NoMad neighborhood of Manhattan, while simultaneously maintaining a suite in Long Island. Over the course of the next seven years, she would build an incredible roster of international and celebrity clientele — including Naomi Campbell and Mary J. Blige — and become one of the leading eyelash extension artists in the world. Richardson has since moved Envious Lashes to a beautiful space in Midtown and also opened an expansive Long Island salon. “I never felt that lash extensions were going to be as huge as they are today,” she says. But 21 employees and two locations later, with national expansion on the horizon, it seems safe to say that Envious Lashes is as big a success as the lash trend itself. Read on to learn more about Richardson’s rise to the top, her favorite eyelash styles, and how she makes 47 look more like 27.
Spotlyte: When you first started off, how did you really distinguish yourself from other lash artists?
Clementina Richardson: One thing our clients have always told us that we do differently is we actually talk to them. We do consultations and discuss eye shape. You have to look at the client’s eyes, their skin tone, their natural lash, and determine what is best for their lifestyle. Just seeing a picture is not enough. You have to get into a client’s head and determine what they are looking for. At other places, clients show a picture and say, “I want natural” or “I want dramatic,” but at Envious, we have five different shapes. The key is to ask the clients how they want their eyes to appear. Most people — I would say 99 percent — have no idea that lash extensions can completely change the shape of the eye.
I like to keep on top of the trends. It’s not the same now as doing them in 2007 or 2008. The products have changed. The way lashes are made has changed. I’m always looking to improve — you need to step your game up and give the client what they want. I’m also huge on the health of the natural lash. We are not going to apply extensions that will damage your natural lashes. In order to have the most beautiful set of lashes, you need a healthy base.
Spotlyte: What have been some of the biggest challenges of starting and growing your own business?
CR: The biggest challenge at my old location was that people were more demanding. Clients would come in and tell me what to do, but at Envious Lashes, we are the experts, and we are going to look at you and tell you what is best for you. Clients can speak their mind about what kind of look they want, but we are only going to give you that look up to what your lashes can support. You also have to consider that any picture you are showing your client or they are showing you is not their eye, skin tone, or lash curl. Everyone is different. So, no matter what type of lashes we do on the client, we always make notes.
Spotlyte: When did you realize you’d really “made it”?
CR: I knew I made it when I was able to move out of the “hood” neighborhood eight years ago. I live in Long Island City, [Queens] now and am only at our Long Island location on Saturdays. Monday through Friday, I’m in the city.
Spotlyte: What role has social media played in starting and running Envious Lashes?
CR: It’s played a huge role. Instagram®, especially, is really targeted towards a very young client, and they don’t go for a subtle look. They want lots of drama and volume. People share photos with me on Instagram and pull them as examples for what they want, and many clients have told me they found me through the app. I’ve also been advertising on Instagram, so that really helps, too.
Spotlyte: How do you think the landscape of lashes has changed since you first entered the space?
CR: In the beginning, clients weren’t aware that extensions were an art. People were okay with lashes going from short to long, and they were used to clumpy mascara, so when glue was clumpy, they were okay with it. They just wanted long and dark. Now, in 2020, people are becoming more aware of what extensions should be and what they can look like. People know now when it’s not right. When you tell a client that you are going to lift their eyes, their face lights up.
Spotlyte: What do you make of the way lashes have taken off in recent years?
CR: 100 percent, it’s taken off in the last six or so years. When I started, there were no lash salons. Everyone was operating out of suites, and that was the norm. Then, all of a sudden, they were popping up everywhere — but they were not all good. I think people are still applying lashes that are too long, but depending on where you are, there are different looks.
Spotlyte: What regional trends have you noticed?
CR: L.A. is over the top, very dramatic, and Texas is also very dramatic. Canada’s look is very big, super fake. We offer variety. There’s not one look for all.
Spotlyte: What are your favorite lash trends right now? What about your least favorite?
CR:I love the sexy, exaggerated cat eye. I’ve been doing Mary J. Blige for the last six years, and she now wants them longer. I did them longer, and it looks more beautiful. Not everyone can carry the look, though. The trend I don’t like is having no lashes on the inner corner; the lashes just stop, and it looks like you have a fake strip on. Lashes should continue all the way towards the nose. But I also hate the trend of applying big, long lashes on the inner corners — it looks terrible.
Spotlyte: Are there any big concerns you have about lashes being so popular?
CR: Many more people are doing lashes now, but they’re often not licensed or certified. This really bothers me. I make sure that all of my employees are licensed cosmetologists, because there are so many people who are lashing illegally.
Spotlyte: What advice would you offer to anyone trying lash extensions for the first time?
CR: Really do your research. Don’t go for the sale or discount. If something doesn’t feel right, or it’s tight or painful, your lashes haven’t been done well. Look for a clean salon that uses sterilizers, and go to a place where they can understand your language. Pictures alone won’t do it.
Spotlyte: How would you describe your own lashes, and what sorts of things do you do for them?
CR: I like full and dark. My eyes are almond shaped, and my hair is curly and kinky, which makes my lashes more difficult. I like a dramatic look, but I don’t like someone to look at me and have the first thing they see be my lashes. I used to do my lashes myself, but it took two hours, so now one of my girls does mine.
Spotlyte: How do you keep your skin so radiant in the midst of a crazy schedule?
CR: Right now, I’m Drunk Elephant® obsessed. I love the entire line. I have three of their moisturizers: the C-Firma® Day Serum, the T.L.C. Framboos® Glycolic Night Serum, and the Protini® Polypeptide Cream, and I have my husband using them all too. I always clean my skin at the end of the day with Dr. Sobel’s 27% Glycolic Acid Facial Cleanser, and I love using apple cider vinegar and water. It tightens the skin and shrinks the pores. It’s amazing. I do it every time I wash my face. I also rarely wear eye makeup — really, only if I’m doing TV.
Spotlyte: What are your thoughts on injectables? Have you ever tried them?
CR: I love [the results]. I do injectable wrinkle reducer on my forehead every six months with Dr. Romero on Long Island. I’ve been doing it for years. I have a line on my forehead, but it’s now [temporarily] gone.
Editor’s note Injectable wrinkle reducers are used to temporarily smooth the look of moderate to severe wrinkles in certain areas of the face such as the forehead, frown lines, and crow’s feet. They should not be used more frequently than every three months. Like any medical treatment, they have potential risks and side effects. Be sure to talk to a licensed provider to see if they’re right for you.
Spotlyte: How do you balance running a business with motherhood?
CR: I have a 4-year-old daughter and a 19-year-old son, who’s at NYU®. I have a nanny who takes care of my 4-year-old, but I get home between six and nine every night and get to spend some time with her. My husband, who’s involved in the business, is also very helpful with the kids.
Spotlyte: Is there anything you hope to teach your children about beauty?
CR: You need to work for it, but be your best self. Also, wash your face. My son is an actor, so it’s important to have good skin.
Spotlyte: What advice would you offer to other working moms, especially those starting their own businesses?
CR: It takes a lot of dedication, and in order to be the best, you need to offer something that others are not offering. You can’t just do what you were doing five years ago. Styles change, clients change, and trends change, so you need to change with them.
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