Manal Shaikh; Toronto;
Let’s say we’ve just met at a cocktail party. How would you describe, in a nutshell, what you do?
I’m a social media strategist and beauty influencer.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I studied at York University in Toronto and currently hold a BA in psychology.
What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)
My mom always knew I was gifted in nail art, but she also knew how introverted I was. She’d purposely take me with her to the salon she worked at in order to make me improve my social skills. One day a client came in who wanted a manicure; specifically, nail art. Even though the salon didn’t provide manicure services, she didn’t let the client leave. I remember the gush of anxiety that overcame my body when my mom said “Manal can do it.” That was the first time I got paid for something I was so passionate about and it was also my first paying gig outside of high school.
What was your BIG break? How did you land it?
My big break was two years ago at Cosmoprof North America [a massive cosmetics trade show] where I was a guest speaker for a panel that discussed creating a digital DNA for brands online. This was a huge honour for me because I was speaking amongst top-tier entrepreneurs such as Anastasia Beverly Hills without experience in owning my own brand (at the time).
Describe the moment in which you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out?
Instagram has changed a lot since 2014 but there used to be a “Explore” feature which is different from what it is today. If you received a certain amount of likes within a specific time frame, you’d appear on the Explore page. I was going to give up on @wakeupandmakeup because it stopped growing and the content shared would never make it to the Explore page like my my nail art account, would. A month later, something triggered me to quickly login and post a makeup contouring video since the video feature was recently introduced at the time. Then I got the notification I had always been waiting for: “Your post made it to the Explore page.” I was floored and I remember thinking “HERE WE GO!”
What would you say has been your biggest failure or shortcoming, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?
I became so consumed with growing @wakeupandmakeup and promoting other artists that I completely lost time to push myself on my personal platform. I am now aware what lead me to feeling that void was that I stopped doing what made me happy and was so focused on growing others that I lost myself. I am learning to balance my platforms.
Name one piece of career advice you always give.
I worked consistently for four years to get to where I am today, and I’m still not at the level I want to be. Persistency is key. Great things don’t happen overnight!
What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?
“Makeup and nail art is a hobby. You can’t make a living with that! There’s a saying that if you “do something you love and you will never work a day in your life.” I can say with personal experience, this is true.
Are you making a fair income for your work? Why or why not? Do you have a side hustle for extra cash? If so, what is it?
I make a fair income doing social media promotions and campaigns. It has kept me financially stable thus far, however, I would like to hustle harder so that I can provide my sister, Iqra, who has cerebral palsy, with a house that can fit her needs someday. On the side, I am the co-founder of Eyeris Beauty [a line of cruelty-free faux silk lashes].
What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work?
That we don’t work hard enough. My job as a social media strategist is a 24-hour gig. I post based on the times that people are most active on social and that means I have to post at 2 a.m. or 5 a.m. sometimes to ensure my posts receive an adequate amount of activity. There is no time off.