50 Shades of Marlene Gray: A Story of Beauty and Glamour
The story of Marlene Gray puts a unique spin on Fifty Shades. With more than 20 years of experience, she knows that just a pop of colour and a splash of glamour can give the busy, classy, successful, professional woman that extra oomph and confidence to conquer a hectic work day and take back a promising night.
The Beauty Spot CEO knows a thing or two about how make-up can boost the confidence of professional Jamaican woman. She doesn't just distribute beauty products, she wears them as well. She has not only captivated the hearts of her clients, but has transformed her love for beauty and cosmetology into a thriving no-holds-barred business.
So it no surprise that last year, L'Oreal Paris offered Gray the amazing opportunity to become the sole distributor of all their products - namely L'Oreal cosmetics, skin care, hair care and colour, Maybelline cosmetics, Essie Nail Polish and Treatments, and Garnier skin care, hair care and colour in Jamaica, which she gladly accepted. Now she is armed and ready to present the glitz and glam of L'Oreal brands to Jamaica as the premier choice for beauty products for the professional women, because like her, they're worth it!
We caught up with the beauty mogul recently and this is what she had to say on the new venture. "It was so surreal. I was just blown away. I get the opportunity to experience first-hand that burst of confidence, the light in a woman's eyes, the long stares in the mirror, when she discovers the right shade of foundation ... that perfect lip colour ... when that blemish is hidden .... the gratitude that is expressed when you simply make a recommendation regarding hair or skin care; priceless!" Gray remarked.
Her beauty journey began during her years as a flight attendant at Air Jamaica, where wearing make-up was an absolute must. "As a part of our training, we were told that when we were at the front of the aircraft, the passengers at the rear should be able to see that we had on make-up! That took skill as the application had to be perfect, but not overdone. I think I mastered the art and have loved it ever since," she explained.
But her entrepreneurial dream actually started 19 years ago when she was a young saleswoman at one of Jamaica's leading beauty product distributor. It was there that Gray realised she had a vision to do so much more than sell beauty products. She wanted the glitz and glam of beauty to become a lifestyle choice for sophisticated, professional women.
Through her excellent networking skills, coupled with her zeal, she pursued a then grandiose opportunity to independently distribute Maybelline products in Jamaica. This bold step beautifully transitioned into an 18-year relationship with Maybelline, and subsequently L'Oreal, which acquired Maybelline a few years ago. "I received formal training in make-up application at The Face Place some years ago, and I keep up to date with current make-up trends by attending make-up shows overseas regularly, along with product training from L'Oreal Paris at least twice per year," she revealed.
For 15 years, every day, Gray put on a very mind-blowing one-woman show - buying, selling, shipping, and promoting Maybelline products. She faced a number of financial challenges, as many dedicated entrepreneurs do along their journey. There were many months she was regretfully unable to purchase as many products as needed. However, because of her charm and commitment to maintaining genuine relationships with her clients, she was able to retain shelf spaces in various stores - a job only few could do.
Grounded in her Christian faith and sometimes motivated by the words of her favourite Mahalia Jackson song: "I've found the answer, I've learned to pray," business improved and expanded over the years, and her clients became family. Similarly, L'Oreal evolved from just an ambitious chemist and an innovative experiment with hair dye to the now successful multinational corporation - the leading innovative giant in the world of beauty skin and hair-care market.
When Gray isn't busy with the business of beauty, she can be found relaxing at the beach and enjoying Miss May's delicious fried fish and festival. "I also enjoy the rare times I get to prepare a nice home-cooked meal for my family," she added.
Speaking of family, Gray revealed that her daughter, Lauren, has also has taken an interest in make-up, "Lauren was the official make-up artist for her nanny since she was five years old, and now, at boarding school in New York, her natural skills are always in demand by her friends."
Her advice to those aspiring to follow in her footsteps: "Never give up on your dreams. Be passionate about what you do and always seek advice from others who have persevered and attained success."