Etiquette is one of the most important aspects of life. After all, you have to be polite, behave properly, and dress accordingly for various situations. It’s a lot to learn, but thankfully McGill’s own Chelsea Liu started the first Etiquette Improvement Club on campus. Not only do they teach you manners, but they also host fabulous events with Dior and Kiehl’s to help others improve upon their personal image and to give them the confidence that they deserve. In the following interview, the president of the club shares her story.
Erica for Her Campus McGill (HC McGill): This is the first Etiquette Improvement Club at McGill. What does your club do and what gave you the idea to start one?
Chelsea Liu (CL): The Etiquette Improvement Club (EIC) at McGill was established in 2013 with the main objective of helping students improve their personal image through various workshops, so that they are ready to present themselves to the real world and get a head start in their career goals. For now, we have makeup workshops, skincare workshops, social networking workshops and table etiquette workshops. From how to handle makeup to how to dress for interviews, EIC provides students with a platform for self-discovery and personal improvement. EIC offers the guidance students need in an affordable fashion and it is the only club of its kind in McGill.
I am a certified makeup artist and I got my certification from China. When I came to McGill, I always helped my friends to do their makeup for different events. My management friends told me that they really needed a workshop about how to do interview makeup and some makeup for formal situations since they have a lot of presentations, interviews and parties. This is why I wanted to start this club in the beginning. Also, I did some research and found out that some American universities have etiquette classes too. I was convinced that I wanted to start an etiquette improvement club, since proper etiquette will help students make a great first impression and stand out in a competitive job market when they forage into society in the future.
HC McGill: What have you learned the most about running an etiquette club so far? How have you gone about overcoming the challenges?
CL: I have learned so much since starting this club that I can’t really pinpoint one thing that I have learned the most. When I first started the club, I did almost everything – poster design, communicating with SSMU, room bookings, searching for sponsors, etc. – on my own. Since then, I’ve learned to collaborate and cooperate with my fellow execs, and to achieve synergy in our teamwork. I was not an outgoing and passionate person before, but after I started this club, I have learned to better communicate with other people, to negotiate with sponsors and to convince them to cooperate with us. In addition, I have learned how to manage my time more efficiently. For every event, as much as I delegate tasks to my fellow execs, there is still much that I need to take care of – things like preparing PowerPoints for my presentations, finding a model for my makeup demonstrations, and of course planning in detail the contents of my workshops. Being in charge of EIC has pushed me to learn a lot of things that I never thought I would try.
As for overcoming the challenges, I’ve tried not to let anxiety get to me since it really does not help me to figure out the upcoming problems – it will only make things more difficult. It really helps to calm down and discuss issues with others. My fellow exec team is a fantastic group and together, we will definitely find a way to figure it out.
HC McGill: What are some of the events you have planned for the upcoming year? What’s your favourite one so far and why?
CL: The upcoming events in this semester are a Dior Trip and a Kiehl’s event. We will cooperate with these two big makeup and skincare brands to give students workshops about makeup and skincare. In addition, we will have an interview makeup class, smokey eye party makeup class, nail-polish workshop, hair-style workshop, dress for success event, Japanese Tea event and French table etiquette in the following winter semester.
My favourites are the interview makeup class and the smoky eye party makeup event. I get the chance to personally lead these events and teach students how to use makeup, and I can get feedback from them directly. It’s really rewarding when I can feel that the students did learn makeup skills from me during the workshops.
HC McGill: You managed to collaborate with Christian Dior on a makeup event. How did you go about doing that?
CL: I am very thankful for Cynthia Chiu, EIC’s former VP External, who just graduated this year. We went to hand out brochures and look for potential sponsors in The Bay on St. Catherine in early 2013. At first it seemed hard to get a brand, such as Dior, willing to cooperate with a university club, but nevertheless we wanted to try. We were very lucky to find the Dior Montreal manager who was just in The Bay for an hour. After talking to her, and explaining what the Etiquette Improvement Club does, the idea of having makeup workshops for McGill students seemed interesting for her. And later that year, EIC planned a Dior Makeup Trip. We followed up with that Dior shop manager, and this year, we are able to have a bigger and grander event.
HC McGill: What do you hope to learn more from the Christian Dior makeup artists? How would you tie makeup into etiquette?
CL: EIC wants the expertise of the Dior makeup artists. Every member has a chance to go one-on-one with Dior artists and learn what is of concern to them. Makeup can never be a substitute for confidence, charisma and character, but what is wrong with polishing yourself to make you feel good? Etiquette cannot be measured, but can be observed from small scales. The way you present yourself, no matter if it’s talking with a group of friends, or networking in a business event, how you dress; how you stand; how you drink, speaks a lot about you. In short, etiquette is a reflection of your inner beauty. And it is a plus if inner beauty can come together with outer beauty.
HC McGill: What’s your biggest pet peeve when it comes to etiquette? What do you consider proper etiquette?
CL: My biggest pet peeve in terms of etiquette is lack of attention for etiquette overall. In this day and age, the word ‘etiquette’ itself has connotations of being starch-collared and overly traditional, but in my mind, etiquette is a sign of respect for others. Today we put so much emphasis on maintaining our personal freedom that we often fail to notice when we encroach on another person’s space, or unintentionally offend. Sometimes details can really make or break an image. Things like proper attire suited to formal occasions, dining etiquette, and makeup are not superficial details but a part of a person’s comportment as a whole, and a sign of respect to others. Often, these things are neglected not even because they are deemed unimportant, but simply because there’s no knowledge of how to attend to them. That’s why I think it’s really important to pay attention to etiquette! For me, I think proper etiquette is behaving so that people around you feel comfortable and at ease. This involves knowing how to behave in a given situation and how to interact with people.
HC McGill: Your motto is to help people develop self-esteem through etiquette. What’s the one piece of advice you would give to people in uncomfortable social situations that they’re unfamiliar with?
CL: In my experience, uncomfortable social situations often arise when, for example, you don’t know what you should say when others are talking about something unfamiliar to your, and you feel excluded from the conversation. My advice for that is to keep smiling, keep listening to the conversation and try to understand what they are talking about – you will have some opinions or thoughts about at least one thing. If you really don’t understand, then ask questions. Don’t be shy about it! Asking is a very useful way to get out of many situations that might be uncomfortable. Sometimes, it’s not that others put you in an uncomfortable situation, but your own mindset. You can be the person to take the first step.
HC McGill: What are your future goals for the club and what do you hope people will get out of it?
CL: My future goals for the club is that our events will be of much higher quality, so that people can really enjoy as well as learn something. Also, I’d really like to increase the general awareness about the importance of etiquette.
Image provided by interviewee.