Hi there. I'm Christina Smallwood.
This is my story and all the nitty-gritty details.
FROM STYLIST, TO SPECIAL NEEDS MAMA, TO BALANCING A NEW CAREER, AND ADOPTION NEWS.....
I rarely share about my work-life on Fifi + Mo, but after my most recent experience I thought it was time to throw it out into the interwebs. About 10 months ago I found myself facing a new phase of life. In my early 30's, happily married, so blessed to be the mother to the sweetest little girl, a Hairstylist... throw blogging + advocating into that mix and I can assure you, with the full plate I had, I was not ready for a "New Chapter".
Nevertheless, it arrived.
I grew up the daughter of a Pastor, but not just ANY Pastor... My dad was an extremist. He could throw baseballs hard, so he grew up and became one of the youngest rookies drafted to the MLB in 1975. He pitched for the Reds, Twins, and Rangers. He could eat a lot, so he went ahead and held the record at the BIG TEXAN for eating a 72 ounce steak meal in under 12 minutes, then went back and broke his own record - 9 minutes. It is like the size of a telephone book, lol. He went from a raging atheist, found God, and then DOVE head first into seminary. He was a 30 year old freshman and achieved a PHD in Philosophy & World History. A lot of my childhood was spent in different churches where I would help my dad set up tables with his cards while he would speak and share his testimony. He went on to win National Awards for having the best Christian Radio Show.
He was a superstar. Everything he touched turned to GOLD.
After graduating high school I felt the pressure to go to college. My older brother was in Dental School at UCLA and had a 4.0 GPA - then there was me, they often referred to me as their "social butterfly" LOL. I remember nervously telling my Dad, "I kinda just wanna do hair- but I want you to be proud of me." He said, "You enjoy doing hair, so do it, and make it a career! The key to life is to figure out what makes you happy and then finding a way to get paid for it!'
So that was my mission.
I Graduated beauty school and wanted to explore all aspects of the HAIR world. Trying to find my niche. I worked very hard to have a successful business, 40+ hours a week behind the chair and grew to be number one hairstylist on yelp in Orange County (Hey! in 2009 that was a big freaking deal!). My girlfriend and I started a successful Beauty Business geared towards weddings, Privé Beauty Group which currently has grown to a team of 17 and services over 180 weddings a year. I found that I was drawn to teaching, I educated for one of the best haircare lines I had ever known and it was amazing. I basically was eating, breathing, sleeping: HAIR.
All to have that come to a screeching hault.
(Dramatic, I know. lol.)
WAITING... WAITING... WAITING...
I started dating Josh in 2009, we met through mutual friends via MYSPACE. We fell in love, got married, and bought our first home. We were on your typical track of "what life should look like," but when Josh and I decided we were ready for baby, we hit a wall after TRYING for 15 months. And I mean trying: diets, schedules, charting, temping, tracking, supplements, massage, acupuncture, and I even gave up baths... People told me "not to stress" but that just made me stress about my stress. My father was killed in a HORRIFIC motorcycle accident amidst this time period. He and I were very close as he was always MY ROCK. His death shattered my world and put extra stress on my body. A few months after we buried him, we received news of Infertility.
Talk about a sobering series of events.
First round of fertility tests showed that I have LOW AMH levels, making it unlikely for us to conceive naturally and highly likelihood of miscarriages. This news was really hard, but we rallied and turned (almost immediately) to adoption. I remember sobbing on the phone with my mom, "I am broken, the part that makes me a woman doesn't work." I knew after grieving my dad that life was simply too short, and I could NOT spend it feeling sorry for myself. This was something we couldn't change. I told Josh, "I'm gonna give myself 24 hours to have a pity party and then we're going to move past this."
About two weeks later we were sitting in an attourney's office, starting the Domestic Adoption Process.
We were matched pretty quickly and couldn't wait for our baby to be born in September! In between Doctor's appointments with our daughter's birth-mother (Lex), I worked worked worked. On a drive home from working a beautiful JULY wedding in SD, I received news that Lex was leaking fluids. The entire drive to the hospital I was panicking over my clients and what was going to happen to them, my business was always on my mind. Finley was born 9 WEEKS early and weighed a miraculous 3.9 pounds. She was the most precious thing I've ever laid my eyes on and meeting her was the greatest single moment of my life. The moment I saw her in that little incubator I forgot about everything else, she was my world now. We didn't know if she would potentially have a disability and the Doctor said, "She could be fine, or she could never walk or talk. Only time will tell."
I supressed my grief and kept telling myself that everything was going to be okay.
I took a long maternity leave to bond with my baby. We began in-home therapies as soon as she was released from the hospital. I did everything in my power to make our life FEEL NORMAL, even though deep down inside I knew it was going to be different. I began to feel depressed. HOW?!! This was supposed to be the happiest time of my life!
The greatest day of our life was the day our adoption was finalized.
Finley was officially diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy a few months after our Finalization. To avoid full-blown depression, I started a "secret" Instagram account to feel a sense of normalcy. It was my outlet and allowed me to interact with other moms in the same boat. I met a few of my greatest friends this way. Since then, that little account has transformed into Finley's Beautiful Story of Dreaming Big and Overcoming Obstacles (+130k followers). Advocating is a total PASSION for me and it is so fun collaborating with brands and helping spread awareness for CP. Which, btw is the most common motor disability in children - did you know that?
When Finley came into this world, I went into immediate survival mode- completely letting the hairstylist in me die. This is the story I'm writing about today. It took me a long time to realize it's okay to be both: a Mom and a Career Woman.
A year after Finley's diagnosis, my Mother-in-law was diagnosed with stage 4 Brain Cancer. Her 3rd Cancer diagnosis in 6 years. She passed away due to a stroke following brain surgery. Watching my husband grieve the loss of HIS ROCK was devastating. Finley was already missing out on one amazing Grandpa, now to lose an amazing Grandma- its just really very sad. We miss her every day.
I wrote my first blog in the hospital on Christmas Day. This was not our first holiday spent there. I looked around at the waiting room and realized I was awfully comfortable in hospital waiting rooms. After all, we had spent the last 3 years of our lives in hospitals, doctor's offices, and medical facilities. Sitting, waiting, hoping, in those cold and unwelcoming chairs.
In October 2016, Finley underwent a MAJOR Spinal Surgery called the Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy, to permanently remove her spasticity. We fundraised over $60k in a few weeks utilizing social media and a global movement called, "The Dare to Dance Challenge." The LA FIRE DEPT kicked off the Challenge with an incredible video and it spread like wildfire. My sweet friend Britty Rose came up with the whole idea and even spear-headed the movement! Her amazing husband got his whole crew of LAFD to kick off the Challenge in and amazing video.
Beyonce's Backup Dancers, ABC's The Bachelor: The Ferguson Twins, Perez Hilton, and THOUSANDS of amazing people posted videos DANCING for our sweet girl. All so she could one day DANCE by herself. She was bound to a walker, and had just been fitted for a wheelchair before her surgery. We are still BEYOND GRATEFUL to those that supported us during that trying time in our lives. We will NEVER forget you.
THINGS ARE LOOKING UP.
So basically, I never returned to Salon. Our life was way too demanding. I did some hair from home, but considered that something that hairstylists do toward the end of their career. About a year ago, I was blessed with the opportunity to work with Tamra Judge, from the Real Housewives of Orange County for a shoot with my photographer friend, Christine Bentley. Tamra asked me to style her hair for the following season of RHOC and I was in tears (Currently on my second season with her, its gonna be amazing- LOL). The only words I can use to describe this is like, "Stella got her groove back y'all!!" VALIDATION, if you will. She is even sweet enough to allow me to bring Finley to work if I need to. She's a gem.
THEN IT HAPPENED....
About 10 months ago, I had a few friends/clients asking me about being invited to "Wine and Wash" parties. I knew what they were referring to, pesky Direct Sales Haircare products. Without any hesitation I told them they absolutely didn't need to waste their money, and there was no way these products did what they claimed to. I might have even posted to my clients on FB to beware of said products. I am an accomplished, well-educated, professional hairdresser, I know BEST.
WELL, TWO THINGS HAPPENED TO FLIP ME FROM SKEPTIC TO BELIEVER:
1. One of my best friends suffered from severe psoriasis. Having done her hair for over 10 years, I'd seen her try EVERYTHING under the sun to heal her scalp: Topicals, Orals, Tars, Treatments, some steroids so harsh she couldnt even use them when she was pregnant. She sat in my chair and I said, "Are you on a new medication? Your wounds are healed?!" She responded, "No. I'm using that stuff you told us not to use." I instantly felt so bad, I almost stopped her from trying something that ended her long battle with psoriasis. Not only that, her bleached blonde hair was actually shinier and appeared to be healthier. I was definitely intrigued.
2. A few clients later, her mom came in. She has a more dry, coarse hair type who definitely could use a Brazilian blowout a few times a year. She took out her ponytail (the only way she was comfortable wearing her hair) and her hair felt like silk. I said, "You got a Brazilian!" She responded, "No. I just have been using Monat for 6 weeks."
I knew at this point I needed to get this stuff in my shower to try it for myself. I had seen two completely different TRANSFORMATIONS, I wanted to see what happened to mine.
I fell in love on the THIRD wash. The products are super concentrated and contain a different technology, so you've gotta follow the instructions exactly. I was in shock, a PLANT BASED product line that actually PERFORMS. I knew I was going to support my friends that were selling these products. Seriously, I had ZERO free time to add anything else to my plate. We're at weekly doctor's appointments, school, dance, 3 hours of therapy a week, client days behind the chair at home, weddings every weekend, fifiandmo keeps me VERY busy with emails and collaborations, and top it all off that I work on a reality TV SHOW.
I was stretched pretty thin.
THE LIGHTBULB WENT OFF...
I went to a gathering with the local distributors to learn more about the products, during all the conversations I saw what this opportunity could potentially do for our family. Josh and I were heavily debating adoption again, but there was just NO WAY with my already limited schedule. Plus, I've already dabbled with some MLMs and made $500 bucks a month at max. Being a Stylist, I've tried everything my clients were selling. I've always been intrigued with the thought of "making a little extra money on the side." Though I discovered, there's hardly ever true success with "pyramid schemes". Everyone on this inside swears their company is different, and everyone on the outside swears they're all the same. I watched my girlfriend's checks grow and grow, and knew there was something truly proprietary about this company. I had only ever seen one girl at the top of ANY MLM company with her car and make the big bucks, and it was after a few years of her being the first one in the business. I looked at our California team that is only 8 months in and close to a couple dozen girls are already driving their Company Cars! A lot of them were able to become SAHM's and quit their 9-5's. This was unusual. It's surely set apart. I decided to go for it and had another "STELLA" moment in my life.
December 2017- I was asked to share my journey for an audience of 40,000 LIVE... (not intimidating at all. LOL.)
To date, I have been able to spend more time with Finley and was SO BLESSED to be present when she took her FIRST STEPS in our Home. I had waited over 3 years for that moment and I would have been devastated to miss it. I have grown a TEAM of over 200 women that all just want the best for their families. Josh and I have spent more evenings together, and now we are able to GROW our family by Adopting again. We are adopting a SON, hopefully by the end of the year. Finley cannot wait to be a big sister.
I spent my early 20's soaking up knowledge of the haircare industry, education, and training myself to have as much work ethic as I could artistically manage. I have spent the past few years passionately educating myself and ADVOCATING for Adoption, Cerebral Palsy, Inclusion, and dedicated hours of my day connecting people to resources that will help them. Joining this company connected so many dots for me. I'm getting to do ALL the things I love. I have a team of women I get to encourage and help support- in turn I have completed the circle of my life-balance. I am now a Director with the company and am a Cadillac Earner. Having my car payment taken care of is a huge blessing to our family. I am not alone- there are close to a hundred (in less than 15 months) that are driving their cars and earning substantial checks for their families. This is not the typical situation you see with direct sales.
- Our products are consumable
- Our products are a necessity (EVERYONE washes their hair)
- Our company is NEW (3 years)
- We have no competition (we're propietary- no one has proven clinical studies like we do)
- We pay 3-5% higher than other direct sales companies, with an attainable CAR-PROGRAM
Please tell me another company that checks all those marks. (We've got a special mix here.)
Josh and I experienced tragic, deep grief with losing our parents. Then we faced infertility and became parents through adoption. I overcame the darkness that could have consumed my life, which would be mourning all the "what could have been" scenarios if my child wasn't diagnosed wth a disability. I learned through all of the prayers and quotes that we are IN FACT in charge of our own happiness. I am forever grateful I was introduced to this opportunity through friends. I don't know if you're reading this and maybe living paycheck to paycheck, perhaps its been YEARS since your last vacation, maybe you have an illness/impairment that is prohibiting you from work. What I do know is that Monat has been the answers for MANY that I know. This company does so much good. I really believe it's a "once-in-a-lifetime type of company.
Yesterday, we got back from our Bermuda trip. PAID FOR by the company. My husband couldn't believe we didn't have to put one thing on his credit card. I am so grateful I got to take him and Finley (and myself) for this experience. I keep hearing my dad's voice in my head, hope he's proud of me.
"The key to life is to figure out what makes you happy and then finding a way to get paid for it." -Frank Pastore
I still LOVE doing Wedding Hair, but I'm grateful I no longer HAVE to work every weekend.