Nicole Mitchell of Sweet Pea Beauty

Nicole Mitchell of Sweet Pea Beauty provides on location makeup and hair services. Along with her experience in fashion, runway, advertising, and commercial makeup, Nicole is a well-respected name in the Philadelphia wedding industry. She continues her passion as an artist, constantly growing and developing new, creative approaches to the art of makeup.

We talked about how boundaries for size inclusivity should be pushed further within the fashion industry, how certain skin tones have been systematically left out of community standards, and Nicole’s favorite part of working in Philadelphia.

Shannon: What are the diversity challenges you face, within your business or as an individual? 

Nicole: I am a woman-owned business. As an individual, while I am a cisgender, white woman (and I recognize the privilege in that), I am plus size and have struggled my whole life with pre judgment based on that. Especially in the beauty and fashion industry.

Shannon: I appreciate you sharing that. It’s disappointing to me hearing people talk about diversity and inclusion within the wedding industry and body positivity, when brides size 12-and-over are three times likely more than a shopper size zero-to-10 to shop online because they couldn’t find their dress in-store. And twice as “self-conscious” about shopping in-store. (That data is from The Knot 2019 Fashion Study for Size Inclusivity.) Boundaries should be pushed further, beyond straight sizing. How would you like to see wedding boutiques and salons make change as we work toward a more inclusive industry? 

Nicole: As someone who has worked in the bridal fashion industry (and as most Say Yes to the Dress fans can tell you), I know that most dresses can be ordered from designers in sizes up through the 20’s. Despite this fact, most bridal boutiques I visited when I was wedding dress shopping carried very few plus size samples. I felt so much anxiety and intimidation going into these stores and sometimes could visibly see the disappointment on an associates face when I told them I was the bride and not the thin friend I had brought with me.

I visited MANY boutiques and the despite the capability to order plus sizes, the associates at the stores were reluctant to pull straight size samples for me to try on. I understand this from a sales standpoint — a straight size sample likely isn’t going to look amazing on me no matter how much many panels and bungee cords you configure. This resulted in a vastly-reduced selection for this very picky former bride to try on. At one very well known salon, I asked the associate directly if she was only pulling from the plus size sample room (since what she was bringing into the dressing room was nothing close to what I was describing). She admitted that, yes, she was and I asked her take me into the straight size sample closet which was about 8 times the size. I would like to see bridal salons carry plus samples in more of their styles so brides aren’t so intimidated and self conscious. Not everyone can squeeze into a size 8 and this experience should be special, no one should feel like a challenge to be dealt with.

Shannon: What is your experience with working with LGBTQ+ clients? 

Nicole: I have worked on gay weddings, lesbian weddings, and have even done drag makeup for a wedding.

Shannon: What are some tangible actions you’re taking as a wedding vendor to be more inclusive of underrepresented communities, without tokenizing them?

Nicole: I have experience working on every type of skin under the sun and make sure my hairstylists can work with all hair types. It is so embarrassing that not all “makeup artists” can work in different skin tones or have a product range for everyone.

Shannon: I think that’s important to say, but it’s telling that it still has to be said at all. The makeup industry is embracing diversity, but it feels like lurking beneath everything is the fact that certain skin tones have been systematically left out of beauty standards. From outward racism to microaggressions, clients shouldn’t have to be concerned with whether or not a makeup artist can match their skin tone, and yet it’s something people are faced with, even on their wedding days. What are some conversations or educational experiences you’ve had around race or representation and makeup, either with previous clients or vendors within the community that you’d like to share?

Nicole: Unfortunately, this issue plagues the makeup community. Between some artists not knowing how to work with certain skin tones, features, and ages, and many brands carrying a ridiculously small range of color. Sadly, I’ve seen so many clients — from retail shoppers, to wedding clients, to models at Fashion Week — worried that a makeup artist will not be able to work with their skin color, or eye shape, or skin texture. Even sadder, I’ve also witnessed the root of their concerns — artists who were ill-equipped to work on diverse clients and models. It is 100% our responsibility as beauty professionals to be able to accommodate anyone who sits in our chair and make them feel their best. I try to drive this point home with my team, fellow artists, and students as much as humanly possible. 

Shannon: What’s your favorite part about working in the Philadelphia wedding industry?

Nicole: I absolutely love getting to be a part of someone’s happiest day! It truly brings me joy.

Shannon: What are you listening to?

Nicole: Lots of songs about dinosaurs (thanks, Luca), 90 Day Bae (a 90 day Fiance podcast…don’t judge!), and Why won’t you Date Me with Nicole Byer.

Shannon: What’s a pop-culture plug you’d like to share?

Nicole: Getting VERY into Tiger King on Netflix. It might just be the perfect TV show.

Shannon: Who are some of your favorite Instagram follows?

Nellie: @home_with_rose, @ericaweiner, @busyphilipps, and @nicolebyer.

Find out more about Sweet Pea Beauty on their website and Instagram.

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