Rosana IS The Girl From Ipanema

Girl From Ipanema

Girl From Ipanema

I have known Rosana Elias for 10 years but I had no idea how her story evolved or how her father envisioned and pushed for a life for her even before she did. Or how much Rosana left behind to start her life in the United States. Until we sat down to talk about her life that is both amazing and full of prophesy. Here is Rosana …

I was born in Brazil to a Brazilian mother and an Egyptian father. I grew up working in my mother’s business, her salon, making wax. I started at age 14 and my sister (who is one year older) and I worked hard to learn as much as we could about the business. In Brazil, waxing is an important art form and is taken very seriously. The wax is as close to pain-free as you can get and girls start waxing at an early age. I loved chemistry and majored in chemistry at the University – my dream was always to formulate my own beauty products. It is still my dream today …

When I was 21 my American friend encouraged me to join him in America to take classes and learn to speak English. Since I was planning to be a biochemist and develop my own brand I thought it could only help me to learn English. I said yes and decided to come to New York  – something I thought I would do for one year at the most. It was on the day of my departure at the airport that my dad changed my life …

Just before I boarded the plane, my dad pulled me aside, gave me a carry-on bag (telling me to take his bag and disregard my own), and told me his story. It was the first time I heard the whole story of how he fled from Egypt. He and his brother left in the late 60s, a time of revolution; they were Christians and they had to leave because they were being persecuted. His mother said to him, ‘You go, find a new place to live, and we will follow you.’ And he and his brother did. They traveled first to Lebanon and France and eventually ended up in Southern Brazil- it was a dangerous and arduous journey. When he finally landed he was safe but he was incredibly sad to leave his home and he told me that he cried every single day. Eventually, he brought his family to him and found my mother and a life in Brazil …

It was then that he opened the carry-on luggage. It was loaded with our Brazilian wax! He looked at me seriously and said, ‘You’re going to go. You take the wax and you make your life in America. You will cry often in your new home as I did but I will help you and guide you.’ I couldn’t believe it! I was 21 – all I could think was, ‘who cares about this wax?’ I thought my dad had gone mad. New York City certainly must have the best wax. What would they want with my Brazilian wax? And I was so attached to my family – I never thought I would stay …

I left for New York but in the back of my mind I planned to leave in a year. I began my night classes but after too much with nothing to do during the day I soon found my first job in America as a shoe-shine girl at a shoe store at The World Trade Center. There were other Brazilian girls with whom I worked and I enjoyed my time there. But everyone thought I would be better suited to work in a salon. And eventually, I decided they were right …

I found a nail salon in Summit NJ and it was the perfect match. The salon was run by an older woman and she trusted and relied on me from the beginning. Eventually, I asked her if I could use my own wax and little by little I helped her build clientele with the wax. I was finding a life here, without knowing it. Just as it was time to return to Brazil and I had been missing my family terribly, my dad continued to push me to stay. At that time I started to make more money and people from everywhere were showing up for THE WAX! The clientele tripled …

Everything progressed rapidly in that moment: I decided to stay, I started saving my money, my employer retired, I opened my own business, and I met my husband (he is American who is also half-Egyptian). It was he who came up with the name for the salon, Girl From Ipanema. I made fresh batches of wax every day and the store took off almost immediately. I trained everyone to use the wax my way. And above all, I stayed prayerful …

Sadly, my dad passed away a year ago. But he was around to see my business take off. He was very proud to know what I had accomplished with that carry-on luggage of Brazilian wax. My mom and my sister are still living in Brazil and I see them as often as I can. My mom sold her shop – she works a little and keeps active, which is good. Girl From Ipanema is now 10 years old; a few years ago I opened a second store. The next step? I am formulating a wax (using raw materials) to sell wholesale to luxury, high end salons. My childhood dream to formulate my own beauty products stays with me today. But I will always owe it to my dad, who encouraged me to follow his lead and go my own way.”

 

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