“IT WAS JANUARY OF 2018 WHEN I OFFICIALLY DECIDED TO QUIT MY JOB.
Within two weeks I had established my own LLC.
My third son was in the pediatric ICU. He had pneumonia and a UTI and tubes were coming out of him all over. I was still on maternity leave. I thought something has to give.
I needed a job that would afford me more flexibility to be a mom.
I was terrified to break off and go out on my own but I knew I had skills that I could use. I am a makeup artist. I could do makeup and skincare services. I could sell make-up and skincare products.
I found a small studio in Ann Arbor and opened Fudge Beauty.
I'm really surprised that I'm in the beauty industry. I never saw that coming. I studied comparative cultures and politics at Michigan State. My minor was women and gender studies. I loved that course of study. I was enthralled with the ways in which culture shapes our identity as people, especially as women.
While I was at MSU, I had a part time job at the front desk of the Aveda school. I loved that job. Aveda, as a company, was really in line with my degree.
When I graduated in 2010, the economy was crap and it was hard to find nonprofit work that aligned with me morally. I told my director at the Aveda school, ‘I want to work for Aveda, someday.'
They recommended that the best way to do that was to get licensed.
From the beginning, I knew I wanted to occupy a space in the beauty industry that was not going to be from a place of shame. What I was doing was not going to look like the traditional beauty industry.
Traditional beauty is largely fueled by shame and by not being enough. It is fueled by exclusion. It is fueled by an idea that you have to aspire to something unattainable, pretending and striving for something you are not.
It is heartbreaking.
To me, beauty is about creating something that looks and is beautiful to you. It’s about being compassionate to ourselves and creating our own standard of beauty instead of trying to adhere to society's standards.
It is incredibly healing when people feel like they're allowed to embody their own sense of beauty, whatever that might be.
One thing I've discovered is that many people in the beauty industry have a history of trauma. Whether they have scars from physical trauma or from years of emotional abuse, a lot of us decide to be in the beauty industry because we want to occupy a space where creativity and compassion coexist.
For me, I have diagnosed PTSD. I was sexually assaulted as a child and then again at 17.
For years I was terrified and traumatized. I was walking through the world broken and confused.
The power of self awareness is immense. If you know yourself, if you know your shadows, you're essentially unstoppable. You can be friends with your shadows. You don't have to be best friends but if you know them, if you're familiar with your shadows and your triggers, you can work through them. They're not going to defeat you.
So many people spend their life avoiding triggers, which then literally allows their trauma to run their life. But we are presented with moments where we can choose peace over anxiety and consciousness and awareness over fleeing the triggers.
That's power. Power is where change starts.
When the woman I was partnering with in Ann Arbor decided to go a different direction, I found myself without a physical location for Fudge Beauty. For a hot second, I operated out of my home. Then, one day, on my birthday, I was walking with my husband in downtown Milan and I saw a for lease sign at the Moore and Minto building.
The space I looked at had a sink. ‘Wow!’ It could be licensed as an aesthetics studio.
It felt nerve wracking to sign the lease. But the business really took off, especially once I started to go to fitness classes downtown and meeting people. It wasn't because I was hanging out my cards or advertising. It was because I was showing up and being myself and connecting with others.
The same women that I would sweat next to at the gym were coming in for facials.
Then, the pandemic hit. I was closed for 18 months. I was rusty when I reopened. But the seeds that had been planted before the pandemic really blossomed post pandemic.
Fudge Beauty was doing well but I also wanted to address my passion for empathetic beauty practices. Clients were repeatedly telling me that their Brazilian wax with me was the best they had ever experienced. I wondered why that was. What was I doing that was so different from others?
I realized it was because I was empathizing with the person on the table. I didn’t want them to be in pain. I cared about their comfort. Surely other people were doing the same.
I Googled the words empathetic and beauty. There was nothing.
It took me some time to put my money behind it and secure the trademark. But I now own the trademark for Empathetic Beauty. I haven't got my plaque from the trademark office yet, but it's officially mine.
I want to talk about Empathetic Beauty on a global platform. I have my own podcast and offer consulting services.
I teach about how we can heal and transform, how we can offer beauty experiences that are inclusive, non-binary, age-affirming and hair and body positive. I share how we can eliminate the messages of shame in how we market our services and instead speak to choice and personal empowerment. And, that we should celebrate brands that are impact-aware and that work to reduce harm in our bodies, society, and the environment.
That is Empathetic Beauty.
Fudge Beauty has been expanding and growing since reopening after the pandemic. So much so that I need more space. At the end of this month, I am moving across the street to a space in Ink & Dye.
Empathetic Beauty isn't trucking along at the speed I would like right now, but that's okay. I know that Fudge Beauty and Empathetic Beauty play into each other. I bring empathetic beauty to Fudge Beauty daily.
About a year ago, I had a revelation. I was struck by stories I was reading in the Bible. There were people who, when they make a covenant with God, changed their name.
I felt like changing my name would help me move beyond the trauma and the bad decisions in my life. I felt like if I tried to carry my birth name any further, I was going to exhaust myself. I felt ready to declare a new chapter.
I remember giving thought to what name I might pick for myself. There was a little girl on my playground in elementary school. Her name was Dierdre. It was such a beautiful name. It stuck with me for a long time. I thought about naming my daughter Diedre.
Dierdre means sorrowful woman.
I realized I didn’t want to give that name to my daughter. But that name felt like a beautiful testimony for what I've gone through, for the darkness I've experienced. I felt God was telling me it would be a layer of protection from my past.
I've had people offended by how much I've grown, by my name change.
I am a new person. If you forget me or no longer recognize me, that's okay.
I am His new creation.
I don't underestimate the power of the work I do. I'm personally living proof that taking the time to breathe and to take care of yourself can change your life."
—Dierdre Fudge, Fudge Beauty