Becoming The Brow Witch LA
June 8, 2020
The tacos were ready to be served.
Clack, clack, clack.
Although the food was already prepared, she needed to rush back into her room. They couldn’t begin until she was wearing her fanciest clothes.
Her mom is waiting.
The dress she puts on is white and lacy on top while the bottom half is black. The dress is a-cut, meaning the skirt portion is wider than the fitted top–a little puffy but not too much. Her frilly socks are ruffled and she is wearing the best pair of shoes she owns.
Clack, clack, clack.
Her pink clear-plastic Barbie high heels strut across the wooden floor.
Clack, clack, clack.
Now they can finally eat.
As a child Nina Rojas would tell her mom to pause serving dinner because she needed to get changed first. She liked to dress up for the meal. Nina would throw on one of her dresses usually saved for bigger family occasions, comb her hair and put on a headband. On her feet she often wore a peculiar set of toy Barbie shoes.
“They used to have Barbie slip-on shoes for little girls and she used to wear them around the house all the time,” her mother Guadalupe Cardenas, 43, from Hawthorne says. “Her ‘fancy shoes’ she would call them.”
Nina runs a beauty business on Instagram called The Brow Witch LA. It’s a page she uses to book and advertise her many services which include brow threading, microblading, brow tints, lash lifts and more. The 22-year-old lives at Hawthorne with her boyfriend Angelo Fransico, 23, but she takes her appointments in a spare room–converted into a workspace–at her parents’ house. Nina also goes to El Camino College and is pursuing an esthetician certificate–a program she waited a long time to open.
A wait that has just been prolonged.
Esthetician program comes to a halt
Nina was only four weeks into the esthetician program when the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) hit the world. EC’s initial reaction was to move in-person lecture classes online while keeping certain lab classes open.
But according to a letter from EC President Dena Maloney on the college’s COVID-19 Task Force webpage, on-campus lab and activity courses “that could not be converted to an online format” would be canceled for the rest of the spring semester.
Nina says the program tried to function by moving lectures online, but since lab time was crucial her classes were canceled.
“It just wouldn’t have worked,” Nina says.
The esthetician program takes only two semesters to complete and consists of 600 hours of total lab time–300 per semester. After clocking in 600 hours the students can then take the Esthetician State Board Exam at a California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology test center–the closest to Nina being in Glendale.
Nina envisioned that she would have finished the program and attained her esthetician license by the end of 2020–a plan foiled by the uncertainty of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Yeah it’s tough, oh my gosh I’ve been waiting so long to find like a [esthetician] program, I was really really excited,” Nina says. “Then all of this happens so it’s kind of on hold for now.”
The esthetician program is a subsection of EC’s Cosmetology Department. While cosmetology is a broad study that pertains to hair, nails and skin, the esthetician program specifically focuses on just skin.
The Brow Witch LA aesthetic
Nina chose esthetics over cosmetology because when it comes to beauty, working on her own makeup always came more naturally than doing her hair. She says when she wants to try a new makeup look, she just finds one on YouTube and it’s easy for her to learn.
“Nina has always been very stylish, she’s always been one to kind of explore different looks,” Clara Ortega, 22-year-old, Inglewood says.
Clara met Nina in 10th grade at Da Vinci Design High School, a charter school located at Hawthorne when they attended but is now at El Segundo.
Clara says that in high school, Nina dyed her multiple colors from red to a natural brown. She had long hair and sometimes she would have bangs and sometimes she wouldn’t. She got a septum piercing which was a “big thing of her look” along with her makeup–cat-eye eyeliner.
“That was her thing in high school,” Clara says. “That was her signature look.”
Ever since Nina was a child, she prioritized the way she presented herself. Although she no longer puts on “fancy shoes” or wears an elegant dress for dinner, her aesthetic has evolved.
“Now she is not as fancy as she used to be when she was little,” Guadalupe says. “But you can definitely see that she is unique in her own way–she has her own little style going on.”
Nina’s style is eccentric and modern. She has multiple piercings which include thin large hoops on both earlobes, another hoop in her septum and a stud on her medusa–the space between the nose and above the lips.
Her skin is a canvas for 34 tattoos across her body. Her collection include: spider-webs on each elbow, a sword on her left forearm and one of Frida Kahlo as a sugar skull on her right shoulder.
Nina says she didn’t really map out the placement of the tattoos on her body. She just started getting them every time she thought of an idea and then started filling the spaces in between.
Her first tattoo is a small heart placed on her left rib cage. Inside the heart is the roman numeral 14 (XIV). It matches one her cousin Valeria Rojas, 23, got with her. The tattoo symbolizes their birthdays–Valeria’s is Oct. 14 and Nina’s is Nov. 14.
It was actually Valeria who gave Nina the idea of becoming an esthetician. Nina was taking psychology courses at EC at the time and told Valeria that she was not enjoying it.
Valeria was working as a receptionist for European Wax Center and to be a waxer at Valeria’s job, all you needed was the license. From there you would be able to build your own clientele and essentially work for yourself.
Nina liked the flexibility and the idea of becoming her own boss. So she began looking for beauty schools. They were all far away and pricey but a friend told her that EC would be starting their own esthetician program under their Cosmetology Department.
Acquiring a microblading certificate
Before Nina started the now canceled esthetician program, she wanted to start branding herself already. She was brewing the idea for The Brow Witch LA but didn’t want to start her career without credibility.
So Nina looked into microblading which is essentially tattooing tiny hair strokes in sparse areas of the eyebrows to make them look thicker. She says to perform the service you only need a certificate and it doesn’t require having an esthetician license.
It was a way for her to find out if she would really enjoy the beauty business.
Through an advertisement on Instagram, Nina found the Pretty Woman School, located at Beverly Hills. According to the Pretty Woman School website, they offer classes on “permanent makeup” which includes microblading. Although Nina was reluctant about having to commute to a beauty school, she says the course only took three days to complete so it was worth it. She took two classes, one for microblading and another for brow laminations and lash lifts.
“I just thought that would be a nice way to get my foot in the door and see if it was something I liked,” Nina says. “Just a way for me to start building clientele.”
After receiving the certificate, she created the Instagram account for The Brow Witch LA in April of 2019.
Nina says people are a little skeptical about getting their eyebrows microbladed because it is more permanent–lasting about one to two years. So she provides other services as well. One of them is eyebrow threading which is more popular with her clients. It was something she already knew how to do. But she incorporated the things she learned from Pretty Woman–how to properly shape the eyebrows and how to map the eyebrows for specific face types–to give her clients a more unique experience.
“To kind of just differentiate myself from other threading salons,” Nina says.
Running her business
Nina says she could’ve just made a conventional website but she felt she could reach more people on Instagram. It’s where she followed beauty influencers and where she found the person who does her nails.
“I kind of just took that idea and just ran with that,” Nina says. “Just because social media is really really influential now.”
On Instagram Nina has over 500 followers and over 100 posts documenting her sessions.
Nina still remembers her first appointment. It lasted for about an hour and was the longest session she has ever done. She was nervous but it helped her realize that it was exactly what she wanted to do. Now her sessions last for about 20 to 30 minutes.
Where the magic happens
Appointments are done in a spare room at her parent’s house. The room used to be her brother’s but he transferred to a bigger bedroom, one that Nina and her sister used to share before they individually moved out.
Nina says that although she operates in her parent’s home, they are very flexible with her. She just lets them know ahead of time whenever she has an appointment, needs to clean the space or needs to spend time practicing there. Sometimes she has sessions that go on until late at night but her parents don’t mind.
“They love it actually,” Nina says. “It doesn’t really feel like work for me, because you know, I’m in a space where I’m comfortable.”
Guadalupe says that Nina’s business doesn’t interfere with the household at all. Nina even has a set of keys to the house if no one is home. Guadalupe just wants to help her daughter. The two haven’t formally talked about it but Guadalupe knows that Nina would like to rent a studio of her own one day–outside her parents’ house.
Nina says before she redesigned the space, it was a “complete boy room.” The walls were blue and it was covered in sports decorations–stickers of soccer balls on the walls. She took a couple of clients while the room looked like that but decided to put on hold for a couple weeks to restyle it.
“Just to make it more personal for me,” Nina says. “Make it like a space that represents myself.”
She wanted it to look more professional so she painted the walls white. There was an open closet that she covered with a curtain. And then she bought new furniture and placed a ring light next to a vanity that sits on top of a white elegant desk. The ring light shines toward the centerpiece of the room–a massage table where she takes all her clients on.
Spirituality and healing
Guadalupe says she helped “spruce up” the room by decorating it with little “trinkets.” She would occasionally pick up crystals for Nina who recently started collecting them and would put it in the room for her.
The crystals along with various candles and essential oils represent the spirituality Nina got from her mother.
“That’s just my personal belief and I guess I just passed that down to my kids,” Guadalupe says, referring to Nina.
Guadalupe says she always believed in the power that crystals, incense and essential oils had to bring calmness and “energy changes.” She believes the essential oils give Nina’s workspace a more “spa-like feeling.”
Guadalupe has always been more into spirituality rather than religion; a feature of herself that she sees reflected onto her daughter. She says she can’t really “put it into words” but she always sensed a sort of healing attribute within Nina.
Guadalupe says Nina never fought with her siblings. When Guadalupe was pregnant with Nina’s younger sister Sebelle Rojas, Nina would sing to Guadalupe’s belly. She cared about her siblings and was always affectionate with them–a natural healer.
Nina designed her workspace to be a “personal healing place” for her customers. She wants her customers to feel at peace when they come for their appointments. The crystals and candles provide a sacred environment for every session.
Those who get their eyebrows done by Nina not only receive an aesthetic lift, but they leave her sessions with invigorated spirits as well.
“I’m changing your look to something that makes you feel good,” Nina says. “I’m a magician, I’m making magic with your brows.”
She truly is The Brow Witch LA.