Welcome to another episode of JLP Profiles! My dear friend, may I suggest you get yourselves a nice cup of coffee and a quiet corner without interruptions because this JLP Profile deserves a careful reading. The energy and lessons herein will leave you more than inspired. I have the great pleasure to introduce you to someone whom I “met” thanks to social media. Thanks to modern technology and free phone calls (ok, except the hour long conversation, which we didn’t realize was a regular call, until we got on the phone the next day. Yikes, Esther I owe you a nice dinner!), we have been able to have long conversations and establish a friendship despite the distance.
Esther Lev blogs at Los Fabulosos 30 +. She is a photographer and communications maven who has used her talents to the fullest, promoting the female voice, specifically that of women who are “Thirty +“. You will enjoy this JLP Profile tremendously. I feel very blessed to have met Esther and be able to share her Profile with you today.
How would you describe what you do?
“I am a “communicator” by profession, a photographer and makeup/stylist by calling, and a blogger by inspiration.”
Although I studied Communications, with an emphasis in Public Relations, I learned makeup artistry during my college years. I used to do modeling then, and I learned makeup artistry by observing the makeup artists at work. Over time, I realized I liked more to be behind the runway, styling and producing shows, than on stage in front of an audience.
I started my makeup artist career doing makeup for my friends and family. Then I made some business cards and I would give them out at the gym, or anywhere I bumped into people! Keep in mind that eighteen years ago the Internet was in “diapers,” so to speak. In order to get your name out there, you really had to go reach out to people and sell yourself. In a small country like Costa Rica, if you do things well in terms of promoting yourself, you gain great headway.
It seems like everything has come full circle and now you use all your talents in a professional way; indeed a special and powerful way – via your blog and FB page. Tell us, how has all this evolved?
Truthfully, I’ve always thought that G-d has been guiding my steps all these years. When it comes to marketing myself and my projects, I’ve always done everything on my own, through my own intuition and trusting that everything happens for a reason, trusting there is something higher than me that directs the way.
While in college, I worked several jobs related to my communications career, but at the same time I promoted myself as a makeup artist, on the side. I started to get more and more involved in weddings and bridals. I got to a point in which I was doing better financially by being a makeup artist that by working in communications.
When I was twenty four years old, I went to my father, z”l, and told him I that I wanted to go to Spain to take a course in hair styling to complement my makeup “career” because my clients were asking me for hair styling services as well. My father was not very convinced but after some thought, he came back to me and said,
“It is better to be happy having a job, than miserable having a profession.”
Upon my return to Costa Rica I applied for work as a makeup and style contributor in a magazine. They told me I needed to bring them a portfolio. Since I didn’t have a portfolio, nor a budget to hire a photographer, I decided to learn photography!
I had taken a basic photography course during college, but I didn’t remember much. Unlike today where online tutorials abound, back then I just found a book and I started playing with an analogue camera that had belonged to my oldest brother. I experimented and ruined many a roll of film! :-)
This opportunity not only forced me to make a portfolio, but really was a catapult for my career as a makeup artist. They trusted me almost blindly and gave me the magazine’s bridal section. I did all of the production and makeup for that segment of the magazine.
One thing led to another and I ended up working in production – T.V. commercials, magazines and even cinema! When I got married I opened a small makeup and hair studio in my house. Then, as I started having kids I gravitated almost 100% towards photography, while still keeping mostly bridals as my makeup artistry focus. Thus, I didn’t need that space anymore at home. It was a beautiful time of growth, learning, some forced landings, and many experiences that shaped me both personally, and professionally.
Currently, I complement my work as a portrait photographer with my passion for makeup artistry. I still do some production work occasionally. I work mostly with brides and I’ve had makeup and photography clients for many years, who still come back to me. That makes me very happy! I have retaken my love for writing and communications through my blog and FB page, “Los Fabulosos 30+” and through Image & Communications consulting projects that I do for corporations and via social media projects.
I will confess that I never knew clearly where everything would take me, but the road taken has been a good and fulfilling one. I find it funny that now at almost forty years old I present myself as blogger, when not too long ago I was totally foreign to the world of social media. The blog now has almost 24,000 hits and the FB page has almost 6,000 followers! It’s all really crazy!
“I’m a bit hyper! I’m always doing things, because being idle makes me anxious. Thus, I fill my time with projects and I’ll be the first one to admit that very often it’s more than I can handle. However, I am immensely happy with what I do. Immensely happy.”
What is your objective when you take on a project – whether it be a makeup job, photography or even an interview… What drives Esther Lev?
I think that I inherited my constant search for projects from my mother, z”l. She was a great actress and figure in the arts and culture in Costa Rica. I remember “Mami” always had an idea and a project developing and these were kind of her engine. She was always on to something. I saw her fail and get back on her feet and set a new goal for herself. She was always reinventing herself and the environment around her. I think this has been a crucial legacy that she has left with me.
“I have reinvented my career many many times. I have fallen many many times. But, I pucker up, fix my hair and move forward!”
My driving force is showing my kids that a woman can be a mother, wife and profesional all together. She does not need to sacrifice dreams. I’ve always wanted to be recognized for my own achievements and not because I am “the daughter of,” “the wife of,” or more recently, “the mother of…”
Esther with her parents on her wedding’s day.
Having lost both my parents at a young age has forced me to re-think, question many things, and reshuffle priorities. I have realized that life goes by incredibly fast and has so many twists and turns. Thus, we have to experience life to the fullest because we have no way of knowing how long we’re here to make our mark. It’s a hard way to think about life, but I do believe it and I think partly it is because I believe my parents’ lives were cut short. They still had much to live and give.
My parents both came from simple, immigrant families. Yet, they both achieved much through hard work and complete dedication. I feel like I have a moral obligation to leave a high mark in this world to honor them. Any time I have a great day, or achievement in any project that I’m working on, I feel a burning desire to talk to them. I know that they are watching me and are very proud of me and my career.
Which are your favorite projects and why?
My favorite projects are those that tell a story. Those that start just as an idea and then start transforming themselves into something much larger and powerful. I have two sections in LF30+ that consist of interviews I do of entrepreneurial women in many fields. Each time I conduct one of these interviews I marvel at the many initiatives and projects that women have led, and how their projects have reached immense success. I get great satisfaction when I hear that the interviews are shared and that people comment on their content and pictures!
My immersion in social media also started with a story. It all began with an article that I wrote about the right of women to age gracefully and a good friend gave me de advice to take this into a blog. Out of the blog comments, I then decided to create a photography project to show the beauty of women un-photoshopped and that’s how the FB page “Los Fabulosos 30+ was born.”
What gives you the most satisfaction and/or what do you enjoy most about your work?
I enjoy photography and makeup a lot because the rest of the time it’s just me, my computer and my phone in my dining room or at a coffee shop, if I decide to go for a change of scenery. I love when I have a photography session and/or have to get a bride ready for her big day. Those are the days when I get to talk to, and get to know, people.
I’m a very social person and working by myself can be somewhat isolating. Actually, sometimes when I’m doing makeup and/or photography I chat a lot and then I think maybe I bewildered my clients with all my stories. But, then, maybe because I’m so bubbly, people perceive that I truly enjoy my work – even if I’m exhausted, even if I get difficult kids for photos, or a nervous bride who doesn’t stop crying! I really make people laugh! (That’s probably one of my best qualities, all modesty aside ;-).)
How would you describe your work in three words?
Detailed, Creative, Intuitive
Many see you as a voice of inspiration, someone to look up to. How has putting yourself (or maybe landing) in that position helped you – your own personal development?
I can’t say with certainty that I am a voice of inspiration to the ladies that follow the page and the blog. However, I think that I have set out to generate articles and links that “shake us up” – topics that make us think and re-evaluate ourselves and our surroundings. What are we here for, what do we want for our lives, how do we see ourselves, what do we expect of ourselves and the world around us – those are all questions that I set out to make my readers think about.
I’ve always been a very transparent person – with my way of thinking, my feelings, what makes me happy and what stirs me up. Those who know me, can say that I’ve always been natural and genuine with everyone. I don’t have a facade. Some may not like that, but most likely, those that follow my projects do. When I leave this world, I hope people remember me as a very honest, loving and passionate person. The rest, well, is of very little consequence to me.
How do you think your Judaism has influenced your work and the role that you have today?
My parents were never too observant. However, they did infuse in me strong Jewish values. Both taught us to respect and defend our roots as Jews.
My father was six years old when WWII broke out. Even though he was already living in Costa Rica, he heard plenty from his parents about the terrors of the time. This period in history marked his life forever.
The strong Jewish values that he was brought up with led him to become an extraordinary physician with an impecable reputation. My father always had time to treat people in need, and help those who could not afford treatment. He was very strict with us, but had a heart of gold.
My mother was never attracted to Jewish practice or ritual, per se. However, she was a voice of the Jewish community via theater and cultural endeavors. She was always very active in the artistic initiatives of the Jewish Community in Costa Rica. As a public figure, she never feared to let her roots be known by the general public. In fact, she was capable of going head-on with anyone who insulted her based on her religion. She taught us to respect differences and to be compassionate.
Just like my parents, I defend my religion and my roots. I think that social justice is something that drives me, just like it did my parents.
I think Judaism is lived and transmitted through values. Even though my parents were not too observant of the mitzvot, their lives were based on Jewish principles, which they inculcated in my siblings and me.
I also think that the practice of mitzvot – even if one takes it on ever so slowly – does align us and give us a concrete guide and compass as to how to live our lives, especially how to raise our children.
I have leaned towards a more traditional Judaism. We take our kids every Friday to services, we light Shabbat candles and we often have friends and family for Shabbat dinner.
Recently, I learned to make challah and I am thrilled to be making it with my kids. We love the Holidays.
“I am very proud that my kids are proud to be Jewish and that they understand the legacy that they are privileged to have.”
I am a very spiritual person, and without a doubt believe that G-d is an intensely powerful force that manifests itself every single day, in everything we do. We are just a small dot in this big Universe – in G-d’s greater plan. When we have that perspective and we let G-d do His thing, He leads us to greater heights than we think are possible, and with His help we are able to transform many things during our lifetimes.
Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you would like to communicate to JLP readers?
I think women have an obligation to leave our mark in this world, even beyond our religious background, partly because we still face social disadvantages in many ways. I have never feared to say where I come from, tell the stories of my grandparents and parents, and defend my heritage. Moreover,
“I think it’s very important that in a world that is now so interconnected, we speak up for those who cannot. We should become agents for change and pursue more initiatives driven by love and the pursuit of social justice.”
There are no words, my friends. No words. What a beautiful person. If you are fluent in Spanish, please follow Esther – genuine, warm, and energetic – on her FB page Los Fabulosos 30 + and her blog by the same name.
Do you want to be part of, or know someone who could be part of a JLP Profile? We all have wonderful talents and many of us use them to elevate this world. Let’s help each other by begin a source of inspiration and support. Send me an email and let me know who should be in a future JLP Profile.