As we conclude our “Women of Wella” series, we are about to take you inside the heart and mind of one of the most adored women in the beauty industry—Sonya Dove, Global Ambassador for Wella Professionals. To recap, we have featured an array of talent and personalities thus far; newly appointed President, Sylvie Moreau, ITVA Young Talent Winner, Anastasia Krupovich, and Maria Castan, Scientific Communications Manager for Wella Professionals.
Before we get down to the nitty-gritty on Sonya and have her share what it’s like to be a woman in the beauty industry, I’d like to share a personal story for just a very brief moment. I promise I’ll make it fast. There’s a reason for it.
It pained me to not be able to attend Wella International Trendvision Awards (ITVA) in Berlin this year. The last one I attended was back in 2010, and due to timing and other commitments, I had to hang back and watch my partner in creative crime Justine experience all its glory. One of the reasons I fondly reflect back on that 2010 ITVA is because that’s where I got to really know Sonya Dove in a small amount of time. It was right before the award ceremony, shortly after dinner, where she stopped by the table I was seated to say a round of “Hellos” to all us press people. I remember saying, “Hi Sonya. I’m Kerri. Not sure if you’ll remember me, but we met a few years ago and we’ve had a number of phone interviews with each other.” She looked at me, her eyes grew wide and she exclaimed, “Oh my goodness it is so nice to see you! Of course, I remember you!” And for the next who knows how many minutes, we laughed and quickly recapped previous conversations and moments we had through email and phone calls. During our talk, several people tried to interrupt our conversation, but she refused their advances. She was committed to our chat; our brief moment of reconnecting. It was at that very moment her genuineness was validated.
Sometimes at these types of events, artists are pulled in so many different directions—“So-and-so needs to see you,” “You have to get your picture taken with this person,” “Can I just borrow you for one moment”—that a brief exchange can often feel unfinished. It’s a feeling us members of the press experience so often. For her to take the time to “catch up” with me, someone she had only met in person once before, that was exceptionally memorable. And that’s one of the reasons I called dibs on this “Women of Wella” article. I also wanted to pick her brain a bit, which is a nice segue into the following.
You see, as the Global Ambassador for Wella Professionals, Sonya plays an integral role in the brand’s color innovation. And as the owner of The Doves Studio in Los Angeles and Hair Color Council Creative Director of Intercoiffure America / Canada (ICA), she is continuously striving to raise the bar for creative color in the salon. Forever pursuing new expressions of beauty, she is committed to inspiring others to discover their own voice in this industry, an industry heavily populated and controlled by men.
Her journey from starting out in a small town outside London hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. She’s faced obstacles along the way that have made her who she is today. See for yourself.
The beauty industry is predominately male—from platform artist/educators right on up to corporate/manufacturer high-level positions. Why do you think that is?
This industry is dominated more by men because I feel as women, most of us start off with our career and then get married and then have children, and during this time, the giving and catering personality of a woman takes us more into the upbringing of a family, and the career gets put on hold. During this time, we lose momentum. That’s why I feel we do not see many women at the top. That’s why I admire women who have been able to be at the top in their careers and still have a family. For me, I never had children. As a young girl, I always put my work first whether that was a good thing or not (I’m not really sure).
What do you think it’s going to take for women to have, obtain and hold higher positions in this industry?
We have already started to see a shift with more women rising to the top, but I feel like time is all it is going to take for us to see more women at the top. I have a lot of women friends in different industries that are at the top, but they are the only women there.
The nature of today’s work is much more conducive to women style of leadership. People are looking for empathetic leaders. There is a need for more employee engagement and consensus building. The perspective on what a leader should behave like has broadened. Changes in the work environment and a focus on the “knowledge economy “ which produces ideas and innovation has contributed to the shift in attitudes toward women advancing to the top. It used to be that women who advanced were more masculine and authoritarian in their leadership styles. They had to act like a man to get the job. Women excel at team building and nurturing and make decisions on their own intuition.
The way women hire and fire is very different. It’s not to say it is better, it is just different. They can always see two sides of anyone’s story so they have a great way of making judgments and still leaving the other person feeling whole.
What kind of struggles have you faced as a woman in the beauty industry? Maybe you can touch on several over the course of time —from when you first started out to where you are today.
The struggles I faced were not anyone else’s but all my own. I was my own worst enemy and had very little confidence in my own ability and always looked to other things or people to help me make decisions. What works well for me is to sit with something and never rush into anything. As time goes by the decision becomes loud and clear.
My internal struggle with who I am was the toughest, and it has only just recently at the age of 52 that I realized I have a lot to offer and I absolutely love this industry. Also, the main reason I got into hairdressing was for the love of being with people and it’s that for me that drives me from strength to strength. I have a strong personality that does not like to fail and always being consistent and never letting anything get the better of me steered me right.
The challenge I always have a struggle with is balancing work and pleasure and not being hard on myself. I remember being in Germany on a Global panel for the media two years ago. There were nine people from all around the world that were at the top of their industry. I remember when I arrived I was the only woman. It was intimidating for sure, but I just gave it my best and that’s all I could do. In fact, what was funny was the 100 people from the media who were attending were mainly women so they asked me a lot of questions, which was nice!
The struggles I have also faced are a lack of confidence, not due to anyone else’s thoughts, but again my own story in my head.
At what point in your career did you feel the most vulnerable?
Did you feel like giving up?
What made you rise above?
I felt the most vulnerable when my business partner Christopher Dove resigned from Wella in December 2014. I actually felt that I could not carry on my own because I was so used to us being “The Doves” and it being the two of us. It actually felt like I had lost part of me, which was not actually the case. I did feel like giving up because I thought I could not do it alone. It was my close friends that told me I could and the anticipation was far worse.
As soon as I did a big show on my own, I realized it was not as bad as I had made it out to be. Also, I have a birthday book that I have had for years and on my birthday sign, May 4th, the last sentence says “May 4th people are often late bloomers perhaps daring to make one single life change in the 40’s or 50’s which will bring them the success and happiness they never thought possible.” This quote became true at this point; it’s just that I could not see it.
How would you define the word ‘woman’?
My definition of a woman is someone who says at the end of the day that they had a great conversation with an employee or client. Someone who leads with their heart and intuition and someone who is not afraid to make mistakes and open to being coached from people around them to grow and be a better person.
What advice do you have for other women?
I have had an amazing 2015 and it was beyond anything I could imagine. The reason for this successful year was that I finally understood who I am for people when I get up on a stage and present. A friend gave me a quote from New York Times Best-Seller Marianne Williamson:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frighten us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. You’re playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s for everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Once I started to get this, my world started to change even though it is still a learning process.