Beauty Entrepreneur Ashlyn Mark on Social Media, Empowering Women, and Finding Passion

I met Ashlyn Mark in a second year business class. Our friendship blossomed over late nights of gorging on greasy pizza slices whilst plowing through the term project. She is a charismatic leader—her presence radiates a certain sense of humble confidence that draws people in without speaking a word. She makes even those who are meeting her for the first time feel comfortable and at home. Above all, her passion for achieving excellence is infectious and inspires those around her to strive higher.

          Mark is the owner and makeup artist of FINESSE by Ashlyn. All images courtesy of Ashlyn Mark.

Mark is the founder of FINESSE by Ashlyn, a mobile makeup and hair artistry servicing the Toronto and London areas. Her extensive client base consists of students, young professionals, brides, models and theatre actors.

Born and raised in Toronto, Mark is in her fourth year at Western University specializing in French studies. She has been accepted into the prestigious Ivey Business School where she will pursue an honours degree in business administration. Outside of the classroom, Mark is heavily involved in the Western community. She has been a well-loved makeup artist for both CAISA Fashion Show (CFS) and SPUR Fashion Show for three consecutive years. This year, she returns to CFS as a sponsor, offering free makeup services, as well as taking up a new role as a Models Manager.

          Mark is applying bridal makeup for her client.

HCW: Did you always want to be a makeup artist growing up?

Mark: Not really. I started getting into makeup when I was in middle school. I discovered YouTube at around that time and I became addicted to watching makeup tutorials and beauty hauls. Those videos made me want to try putting on makeup, so I started practicing and teaching myself the basics.

There was also my childhood friend’s mother, who was a MAC makeup artist. She once did my makeup at a birthday party and I had so much fun getting my makeup done. You could say she planted a seed in me. I was intrigued by the idea of doing makeup for other people. I still love how makeup artists have the ability to make their clients feel good.

HCW: How did you start your business?

Mark: In the summer of 2015, I successfully applied for an Ontario startup incubator program called Summer Company. It gave each participant a government grant of $3,000 to start a business. I used the money to buy more makeup products and get my website going. I also started developing a business Instagram account and a YouTube channel to take advantage of the free advertising I can get off social media.

HCW: You’re very active on Instagram and usually post once a day to promote your business. What is your relationship with social media like?

Mark: I have a love-hate relationship with social media. I dislike how it only shows the best parts of our lives because that’s harmful to a lot of people. Not everyone realizes that the social media world is a whole other augmented reality that’s different from real life. It’s easy to get sucked into it, compare our lives to what we see on Instagram, and come out feeling worse about ourselves.

Because of my business, I have to post a lot on social media, and this has become a very conflicting thing for me. I don’t want to put out content that encourages the idea that you need makeup to look beautiful.

One way I go about this is by promoting the fact that makeup is fun. Makeup is a creative outlet; it’s fun to explore and play around with different looks. It's also an interesting conversation topic and something that you and your girlfriends can bond over. Yes, it's something that can make you feel more beautiful, but you don’t need makeup to be beautiful. Feeling beautiful is loving yourself for who you are, even when you are not wearing makeup. If you don’t feel confident without makeup on, no amount of makeup can make you feel truly beautiful.

          Mark filmed a YouTube tutorial on creating textured smokey eyes.

HCW: Having a YouTube channel, how do you deal with the pressure from being under the spotlight?

Mark: Honestly, I don’t think too much about it. I make videos for myself and not for anyone else. I do it because I'm passionate about putting out videos. If you don't like to watch my videos, then don’t. As for dealing with haters, I think that people who talk behind your back are hating on themselves. Maybe they just don’t feel comfortable doing what you can do. But at least for me, I'm true to myself and doing what I enjoy.

HCW: What does success mean to you?

Mark: To be successful is to have the strength to pull myself out of a rut. Everyone will experience failure at some point in their life. People who are successful are the ones that manage to get back up even after falling down. They learn from their mistakes instead of being discouraged by them. So as long as I stay hard-working and keep pushing through struggles, that is success to me. Eventually, by doing that long enough, I hope to one day be able to start my own makeup line.

HCW: Do you think makeup empowers women?

Mark: Yes. Makeup brings out the confidence in a person. When you are confident, you feel the most like yourself and have the courage to go for whatever you want to. Part of feeling confident is feeling good about how you look, as sad as that is. You can think of applying makeup as performing a routine that prepares you for the day ahead. It makes us feel more empowered to be our best selves and put our best foot forward.

At the same time, I do realize the whole beauty industry can be very damaging for women. A lot of women do not feel confident without makeup on. They think they need to put on makeup to look good but that’s not true. No one should ever feel pressured to look a certain way.

I sometimes feel self-conscious when I’m not wearing any makeup, but I’m taking steps to overcome that. I try to force myself to get through an entire day with no makeup on just to prove my point that it is okay to not wear anything. I find this to be especially difficult for makeup artists. From time to time, I get sucked into this hole of feeling like I need to wear makeup. The thing is, I still think I look better with makeup on, but I try to remind myself of what I’m supporting. I want other people to be fine without makeup so I should feel comfortable with that as well.

          Mark provided professional makeup services to the models at CFS 2016.

HCW: What is one advice you would give to your younger self?

Mark: If you want to do something, do it right away. It's more likely to get done when your burning desire is at its peak. It's also better being the early bird. I wish I had started my YouTube channel earlier. Nowadays everyone is on YouTube. It’s more difficult to stand out being in such a saturated market. If I had started earlier, I could have had a head start.

HCW: Who inspires you?

Mark: One of the very first YouTubers that I watched is Jacklyn Hill. I started following her when she was filming in her small apartment with bad lighting and horrible camera quality. She is a beauty big name now and has basically achieved everything that I have dreamt of doing. I find it so inspiring to see someone going from nothing to something. Seeing her journey has made me feel like it's more possible to start something of my own.

HCW: What do you think is the most important attribute every entrepreneur should have?

Mark: You have to be passionate about what you are doing. That passion will drive you to work harder and motivate you to get back up after you fall down.

Ashlyn Mark is available for bookings here. Her services include makeup application, hairstyling, manicure, beauty lessons, and photography. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

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