We had the good fortune of connecting with Katherine Mena and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Katherine, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
Why I chose to pursue artistic/creative career is because honestly my brain wasn’t wired for anything else haha.
Since I was little I’ve known this. In school subjects like math and science really didn’t click for me at all, it was a struggle to get through to the point as a kid it felt like torture to get through the homework; where as subjects like english, history, and art were my salvation when it came to your standard school curriculum.
Everyone is different, people’s minds are made for different things, and I feel like if you fight against that you’ll find yourself failing because you are 1) not wired to grasp certain concepts and 2)miserable and lack the drive and passion to succeed in what you are pursuing.
I come from a family where almost everyone is some form of medical professional, and when I tried to do something similar (pursuing veterinary medicine) in college I basically failed every class. I was depressed and hated everything I was doing, so of course I lacked the passion to succeed in that life track.
In college I started a freelance hair/makeup business and found myself so much more engaged in what I was doing. So I quit and went to cosmetology school and haven’t look back since. Now I have the determination and passion to succeed, and it’s because I listened to what my true calling was.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
What set me apart from others? To be honest, really how I see my work. I believe when I work on someone’s face or body, they truly are a fresh canvas to create using.
If anything, what I want my clients to know is “You are a living work of art.”
I’m not creating beauty, I’m accenting a person’s natural beauty; their outside yes, but even more their inside inherent beauty. It just makes the final outcome even more special and in my opinion you get better photos when someone is confident about the work you’ve done. The look of someone feeling totally empowered, that their inner self is now showcased for the world to see, it’s gorgeous to see. Honoring my canvases and giving that joy is the most powerful feeling.
What I get excited about is this, the final result. Also I’m excited when I get to really experiment with color and shoot it properly. I have some projects in the works currently, and can’t wait to finally showcase them properly! Also I’m proud and honor to be, after only 6 years working as a professional in my field to have been nominated for two hair awards; in 2018 Cosmoprofbeauty’s “Licensed to Creat Awards” and most recently Behindthechair’s “One Shot Hair Awards” in 2021. I’ve also been able to work with really cool companies like Keracolor and VP Fashion Hair because of my work.
How did I get started? So I basically started with makeup. Since I was young I’d constantly play in my mom’s massive collection of makeup, she basically to this day has a fully functional makeup kit but for one person haha.
But I went to college at LSU for 2 years, I was an Ag Major wanting to eventually study veterinary medicine… I hated everything I was doing. I was barely passing or failing classes, I had no drive or passion for anything I was doing. I was depressed, it was a dark time in my life. I realize now in hindsight that I was trying to do what I thought would make other people happy, and being the daughter of two immigrants, one of them a cardio thoracic surgeon, I thought that doing some form of medicine was the way too go. Since I had no clue what I truly wanted I just defaulted to that… I was wrong, and god it made me miserable.
Meanwhile, I started my own makeup freelance business. It was something I actually cared about. I made flyers for “That Mena Girl Makeup Service”, and I’d go around doing sorority girls’ makeup for events; formal, semi formal, etc. I had a rolling kit that was the legit size of a suitcase you’d have to check in at the airport, that I’d lug around campus haha, and then eventually I started doing hair along with it too.
So eventually when I had had enough of everything, the last straw being having to dissect chickens every Wednesday for one of my classes in some of there nastiest conditions for one of the final classes I took, I told my parents I was dropping out and going to cosmo school, Aveda of Covington to be exact. Cosmetology school was hard, not gonna lie, but I thrived and was finally driven. While going through the program I event sign up for makeup workshops outside of school, how I met my awesome mentor Kerry Herta and Colourbox Makeup Studios (seriously highly recommend if you want to learn from one of the best about makeup application), and even worked on two independent short films while in school. In June of 2016 I graduated and ever since I’ve been hustling to get better and better at both hair (coloring especially) and makeup application.
More classes, more workshops, more education; you can never stop learning.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
So I live in New Orleans, and its definitely the place to find a good time. To eat I’d definitely say if you like a down-to earth brunch spot with the coolest 90’s retro vibe, Molly’s Rise and Shine is amazing! To drink I’d say Barrel Proof or the Bower in the lower garden district are both amazing choices. And for fun checking out what is playing at the House of Blues or bar hopping on Frenchmen Street are amazing.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’d love to shout out my beautiful parents, my makeup mentor Kerry Herta, and my color mentor & friend Roxie Jane Hunt.