Victoria Nino, CEO and founder of Vanity Belle Beauty Boutique, is a former beauty queen from Maryland. Miss Pocomoke to be exact. I searched the Internet hard for photos as proof. Sadly, no photos of the former Ms. Poco(where?), but “Miss Pocomoke” did come up on a Google search…and it’s like, for real for real—in fact, Miss Pocomoke just celebrated its 60th anniversary this year! Now don’t think for a second I did a search because I couldn’t believe Victoria was ever a beauty queen-I just didn’t believe “Pocomoke” was the name of a real city! I mean, c’mon…intelligent, strong, beautiful woman with a bangin’ bod who commands a room the moment she walks in it? She’s a beauty queen if ever I saw one.

Jonathan Nino is a tall, dark and handsome former pro volleyball player and husband to the beauty just described. He’s dubbed “the man behind the magic” at Vanity Belle, manning its operations and client relations. He is the gifted matchmaker when it comes to strategically pairing clients with their stylist soul mates. Now add “supporting and loving husband” to his resume.

Love is in the air with these two in a room. And they also mean BIG business. They’re the powerhouse couple behind Vanity Belle, an Orange County Mecca for bridal services, makeup lessons, and beauty bar services (we’re talking blowouts, makeup, facials, brows, and lashes!), and not to mention, recipient of the Wedding Wire Couples’ Choice Awards for best local vendors 3 years in a row.

Serious badass couple alert.

You want to know them, trust me. So keep reading because we’re covering all bases today: Learn how Victoria and Jonathan’s wedding nightmare 7 years ago sparked their business idea and find out what makes the Vanity Belle salon experience so unique. Grab a tissue as Victoria and Jonathan share their most difficult challenge. And check out their big plans that include chillin’ out with tigers (Oh, no big deal).

How did the idea of Vanity Belle come up?

Victoria: I always liked makeup. I was always buying lots of makeup, trying new makeup and new looks. I went to school for art and I used to paint. I had experience with all these mediums, but never thought of being a makeup artist as a career until before our wedding in Cabo. I had a friend who always complimented me on my makeup and one day she asked, “My friend is getting married. Do you think you can do her makeup?” I’m the kind of person who will always say ‘yes’ then figure it out so I told her, “I don’t do that, but I can do it.” So I had a friend who’s a makeup artist, I borrowed her stuff, and pretended like I knew what I was doing. I remember leaving the hotel that day thinking this is my art! This is what I’m supposed to do!

So, when Jonathan and I got married in Cabo, I had this awful makeup and hair trial in Mexico. I thought, “This is no bueno!” So now what?…I ended up doing it all myself-I did my own and my bridesmaids, I was putting eyelashes on, fixing my mom’s hair…All my friends call me Ryan Seacrest because I’m always working and they all said, “That’s so you! It makes sense that you would do your own plus everyone else’s hair and makeup on your wedding day!”

So after our wedding in Mexico, I came back, got a couple makeup jobs, brought in a friend to do hair. My marketing skills kicked in and I was like, “Let’s just start a business!” So for a good two and a half years we worked out of a room in my house. We had girls coming in and out of the house non-stop and we had grown to a team of about 14 girls.

How did people hear about your new business?

Victoria: Facebook, Yelp, word of mouth, and networking events. It’s funny because all of our neighbors weren’t quite sure what was going on because they’d see girls coming in, and then they’d come out looking all hot. A couple of neighbors approached me and they’d say, “We heard you have some sort of business…” and they’d make these faces like, “What exactly are you running here?” Then I’d have neighbors showing up at my door at 7 a.m. asking if I can do their makeup. At some point, I thought we can’t be doing this anymore.

So eventually, you transitioned out of your home-based operation and Vanity Belle found a beautiful new home in Costa Mesa. During your search for a space, what things were you looking for?

Victoria: We knew we wanted something unique and intimate.

Jonathan: That had good parking and was not cookie cutter.

Victoria: That also felt really exclusive. We didn’t want to be on a main street. We wanted to make people feel like this was a hidden gem…and we found this. It was originally multiple offices and walls. We gutted it and re-did the whole thing. People have said it feels hidden and they feel like they’re a part of something that not a lot of people know about. That was not necessarily on purpose, but it worked in our favor.

What’s it like working together?

Victoria: I think we have different strengths and we bring different things to the table. I think it’s good we’re so different because we challenge each other…

Jonathan: All the time…and I hate to say this, but she’s usually right.

Did you hear that, Victoria? Jonathan, can you say that one more time please?

Jonathan: NOPE!…But seriously, she’s usually right about the business aspects and how to deal with employees, customers and clients.

Victoria: Jonathan’s naturally skeptical, which is good because I’m the complete opposite. I don’t ask questions. I just go. And he’s more like, “Slow down, let’s think about this.” It’s good because I tend to go a little wild and I’ll just make it rain the whole way there while he’s picking up the dollars.

Jonathan: We balance each other for sure.

Victoria: The stuff he does I could never do. He’s dealing with the brides and the girls who work for us every single day. He’s very patient and great with sales and selling the experience to the brides.

What do you mean by “selling the experience?”

Victoria: We have a bridal suite to create “the experience.” Most of our competitors are going to put you next to another bride. We NEVER do that. We make sure you know it’s your day and you have this room to your family and friends. We’re not putting you at the beauty bar next to a blowout. You get the champagne, you get the accessories, and we put the veil on you when you’re done. We also do bridal boudoir. We shoot in the bridal suite and we have a couple photographers we work with. We really want these girls to come to us and know that you may come to us as a bride, but once you become a Vanity Belle client, you will always be a Vanity Belle client-you can always come back for makeup lessons, waxing, color, blowouts…

Jonathan: The majority of the book of business for our cut and color stylists are from our brides. Brides send their sisters and other family to us. A lot of brides also come back to us for their maternity photos. And we even get to meet their kids. That’s pretty cool.

I’d imagine you have to be pretty choosy when it comes to hiring makeup artists and hair stylists since they have to deal with brides on one of the biggest days of their lives.

Victoria: I’m glad you say that because hiring is one of our strengths. One of my rules is “No ego.” We won’t tolerate it.

Jonathan: You can be the best hair stylist or makeup artist on the entire planet, but if you’re ego is toxic or offensive, you’re not going to work with us.

Victoria: We want you to walk in feeling like you’re walking into our house. We’re going to hug you when you leave. We’re going to be humble and open to feedback. We always tell the girls that the day you feel like you’re perfect at this job is the day you’ve got to retire. There’s always something to learn, you’ve got to be willing to take criticism, learn from others, and help each other.

Jonathan: Makeup and hair is always evolving. Once you’ve said that you’ve perfected hair and makeup, that’s a problem and a red flag for us.

Victoria: And brides on their wedding day? They can be crazed. You become their therapists that day. The minute they sit in that chair, the tears come, everything’s going wild and you got to be able to handle that. You’ve got to have that human touch and be able to relate to these brides.

Jonathan: One of my favorite questions to ask during an interview is “How would handle situations like a bridal meltdown?”

I love how you guys handpick artists/stylists for each client.

Victoria: That’s all Jonathan. He’ll ask questions about the look they want and figure out their personality over the phone. He’ll know exactly who to match them up with.

On top of building and managing Vanity Belle, you also write a blog about your personal struggle with infertility. Can you share more about that?

Victoria: I started the blog called “Expecting Anything” about a year ago for a couple reasons. First, I was so tired of people asking questions. When are you going to have kids? Are you trying? Secondly, we didn’t want to be in secret anymore and we wanted people to know and understand. Secondly, I really wanted to educate people on the struggles that people go through, the feelings associated with infertility, the things you shouldn’t say to people going through it. It was about building awareness in a way that was authentic and crude. As you know I drop f-bombs—my blog has A LOT of them. I thought that through photos-I have photos of myself giving myself injections through my stomach, we even have a funny one where Jonathan has a turkey baster-I could bring some humor to it. Like, here is the really ugly truth but things could be worse, so let’s try to focus on the positive. Once you’re part of this infertility club, you have these emotions that no one understands, so I really wanted to give the people in this club a voice.

Jonathan: Victoria gives people an avenue to understand what infertility means, but I think she also gives a voice in many aspects, for people being asked questions like “Why don’t you have a boyfriend?” or “Why aren’t you married?” Victoria’s the inner voice of everyone who’s going through a struggle in life, work, and relationships.

Have you written a blog post, Jonathan?

Jonathan: No, no…

Victoria: But he reads before I post. We have a deal-he reads every single one before I post it. One time I didn’t and he got so mad at me. It was about my sister…wasn’t that the one?

Jonathan: The way I look at it is the blog’s about us. I don’t want Victoria to ever feel alone or not feel supported. I always want to protect her, defend her…if there’s anything I need to say or do or interact or interject…

Victoria: I didn’t know that…(tearing up)

Jonathan: I always want to be there first so when she didn’t have me read it that one time, it hurt.

Victoria: I didn’t even know that was why…I knew that this was our story, not just my story…the one about my sister I was thinking he doesn’t have to read it because it was about my sister…it’s really emotional…every single one I write, I get sad, I get angry, I laugh.

Thank you so much for sharing that with us and for being a voice for people who are going through the same struggle, or any struggle for that matter.

So what are the plans and goals for the rest of 2016?

Victoria: We’re taking a break from [infertility treatment] now and are going to Cabo and Thailand and just do sh*t. Take a break from it. It takes over your whole life. Your life revolves around injections, pills, office appointments, ovulation…4,000 vitamins even for him, so we’re just going to take a year off.

As far as the business goes, I definitely would like for both locations to be profitable. We’re in a really good place in Costa Mesa. We’re considered top 3 in OC for weddings. We never want to be complacent. We’re always fighting. We always got to hustle.

…AND…I have an invention…

An invention related to makeup and hair?

Victoria: Yes, it’s life-changing. But, it’s TOP SECRET.

Oh the suspense! We can’t wait…Anything else for 2016?
Victoria: Cabo for our anniversary-7 years! And Thailand in December.

Jonathan: This year’s going to be all about us.

Victoria: We’re saying forget about the stresses of baby-making and baby planning. Life is short. We’ve lost young friends and family recently and you never know when it’ll be your last day…So, December, Thailand. We’re going to do the Full Moon Party with all the young people and Nikki Beach for Sunday funday!

Jonathan: IV bags every morning…

Victoria: Foot massages with IVs running while petting a tiger…

And right there is a scene for the ultimate selfie.

You may not be invited to join Victoria and Jonathan’s excellent adventures in Cabo and Thailand, but you’re always welcome to much-deserved pampering at the best beauty bar in Orange County:

Book online at www.thevanitybelle.com or call:
Costa Mesa 949.650.2355
La Jolla 858.876.5776

Visit Victoria’s “unfiltered blog about real sh*t” at www.expectinganythingblogger.blogspot.com

Donna Estudillo

Donna Estudillo

RN and associate program director for a non-profit charity, plus mom who's working on being the hardest spiritual gangsta around, living the YOLO life and enjoying mishaps along the way. Current vibes: only positive ones -- which have led to her blog (www.AmI40yet.com). "Am I 40 Yet?" is an idea conceived after turmoil, inspired by a determination to get her sh*t together, and launched at the start of her 38th year. She writes, she learns, she shares…and hopefully, she entertains and inspires.
Donna Estudillo

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