Let’s just start by establishing that Dionne Phillips would be the ultimate leader of a girl gang. She comes across as one of those people who just instinctually gets it. Her personality and perseverance are a force, yet she remains grateful and as humble as they come. Dionne is a visionary who created the first ever lash extensions over twenty years ago; everyone else is just now catching on. She started from the bottom, now she’s here and you better believe she readyyy *Tiffany Haddish voice*. Dionne started her business in her kitchen and grinded until she landed celebrity clients like Naomi Campbell and Mary J. Blige, but is still continuing to expand her business even after all of her success. She’s truly an artist who will make you look at lash extensions in a different light while simultaneously making you laugh your ass off.
Cliché: So, lash extensions are a huge trend right now, but you began gracing faces with your extensions over twenty years ago. How did you come about the idea?
Dionne Phillips: The idea actually came from me trying to be cute! I was a model in New York City and, at the time, polaroids were what brands used to document us models at auditions. To me the polaroids always looked bad and I wanted to find a way to make mine stand out and look really good. So, I started cutting up strip lashes and applying them myself and when I applied them they’d stay on for several weeks. So, I started joking with my friends that I’d go around to all of the auditions and ask the models if they wanted their eyelashes done. One thing led to another and I had two girls in my kitchen and I was giving them lash extensions. Then two grew to eight, then to ten and before I knew it there was a six-month long waiting list of people wanting lashes from me. I had Brandy, Serena Williams, and when Paris Hilton talked about me on the red carpet once, my business really blew up.
Since no one had attempted the service before, what was the process of perfecting your technique like? Was there a lot of trial and error involved or was development smooth?
Oh yeah, it was definitely trial and error. I was constantly experimenting with different application methods, how to make the extensions stay on and not fall off over dinner, you know. I also had to deal with other people taking my technique and copying it. There are a lot of different ways to apply eyelashes, but I’ve now perfected my own technique, which I’ve learned to keep private in order to keep my intellectual property my own.
On top of being the originator of lash extensions you also started your business, D’Lashes, from the ground up. What was that journey like?
Well it all started from working on models in my kitchen to having everyone in Hollywood as a client. I would talk to everyone about my lashes at parties and covered a lot of ground that way. Word of mouth had a huge impact on my business. So now I have a private studio in Beverly Hills, a staff of marketers, and lash assistants to cover my appointments for when I’m out of town on business. I have clients all over the country so I travel a lot to service them.
Do you have any tips for readers wanting to start businesses of their own?
If you’re passionate about something and love to do it so much that you’d do it for free, just take the leap and start. Make phone calls, network, and do your research. There’s so much information at our fingertips right now. Utilize Google, or the University of Google as I like to call it, and of course YouTube. Just put in the work, test and test until your models are successful, and go for it.
Was there a moment that you felt that you had truly “made it” in the industry?
My aha moment is when people look at themselves after I’m done and they really love how they look and the smile that my work brings to their faces. That comes from cancer survivors who didn’t have eyelashes before me and burn victims who for them a set of eyelashes really changes their lives. Those are the moments when I feel like I’ve truly made it. Having all of my celebrity clients is great, but when I can truly make someone happy and impact their life in a big way, that’s everything.
What is one of your favorite memories with a client?
I actually have a funny story about twerking. My client Victoria Beckham and I were discussing its origins, like where did twerking even come from? The conversation was especially funny because of her English accent. She was throwing out phrases like “twerking in my knickers” and it was just such a good laugh. I laugh about a lot of random things with my clients. I call my sessions: “Lash Enlightenment Sessions.” I become the friend they never had and we just have a blast.
Since lash extensions are everywhere now, what makes your services unique to other boutiques?
I’m constantly researching and staying on top of all the hottest trends. Being a visionary, I can always deliver the look that my clients desire. I stand out because I don’t subscribe to the “one look fits all” philosophy, which a lot of studios and lash places do just to rake in the money. I deal with actresses that are on movie sets and require a specific type of lash look for the role that they’re playing. So, I do my research and come up with the perfect look for them. Currently on Instagram there’s a lot of lash mapping going on, which is great, but lash extensions shouldn’t be one size fits all. The lash technician really needs to take into consideration their client’s eye type, their hair texture, and eye shape. Every eye is different, so you really need to take those details into consideration when creating a set of lashes.
What tips do you have to maintain extensions without damaging your real lashes?
Please do not tug, pull or rub on your eyelashes in that order and be sure to properly wash your eyes. Some people think because they have extensions that they can’t fully wash their face. My tip is using baby shampoo and a great, soft eyeshadow brush to really get into the crevices of your eyelashes. It’s almost like giving your lashes a shampoo. Make sure to get all the way to the baseline of your eyelashes to ensure that they’re truly clean.
You have now branched out into makeup. Do you have any other plans on expanding your business?
Oh yes, I have a lot of plans. I’m expanding in ways that others aren’t. I’m currently testing out models until they prove themselves to be successful. The market doesn’t lie, so I just keep testing and improving until I, and consumers, are happy.
Lastly, what’s your beauty philosophy?
My beauty philosophy is to be who you are and walk boldly in it. I say that because I just changed my hair for the first time ever. I’ve always had the same flowy, kind of Farrah Fawcett long hair, but my husband and I are going away to celebrate our ten-year anniversary and I wanted something different. So, I went blonde! I’m actually so in love with it that it might end up being my new look. Whatever I decide, I’m walking boldly in it.