“I am someone who has always had a passion for art and color. This began as far back as I can remember, sitting under the kitchen table, coloring and paint in my coloring books. I was fascinated by art.” Dear friends, meet Tonya Crooks, founder and CEO of brand The BrowGal, and eyebrow specialist to some of the biggest names in Hollywood. But before Tonya’s success lives a story of unexpected twists, 180-degree turns, fate, and hard work. The plan to become a fine artist with a master’s degree unintentionally became a booming career in makeup. It’s a brilliant tale of how life’s alternate routes are oftentimes the most beautiful.
“I never thought I would end up here doing what I am doing now. I never had the desire to become a makeup artist, especially an eyebrow specialist. I was going to art school in London and having the time of my life. Soon I realized that my funds were running low, and I needed to find a way to make money to stay. I tried to get a job in several pubs; however, I did not have a work visa so nobody wanted to hire me. One day a friend of mine volunteered me to do makeup for a fashion photographer. When I first heard the news I was shocked! I had never done it before, I hardly even wore any myself! My friends assured me that I was a qualified painter and that my use of color and the ability to shadow and shade were exceptional. I had to trick my mind into thinking that it was only a 3D canvas and I was up for the challenge. So my friends and I gathered up a pile of makeup. I emptied out the paint from my Artbin and used my watercolor brushes as applicators, and off I went. I did the job with great success! The photographer loved my work and I loved working with him. I left that day with the equivalent of $75 USD and I was able to continue to work for him and finish my stay in London. When I returned back to the States, I earned my bachelor’s degree. I was in the process of applying for my master’s to prestigious art schools on the east coast and in NYC. This was the point in my life where everything changed.
“I was born in the Silicon Valley, right outside of San Francisco — my whole family was still living in the area. This is when my life’s path changed. I experienced an unexpected death in my immediate family that pushed me to take a year off of school to be with them. During this time I continued to do makeup to earn money. Suddenly, and without really trying, I had several makeup opportunities fall into my lap. The next thing I knew, I had an agent and found myself working on photo shoots, movies and fashion shows. I was really happy and it was at this moment that my mother suggested that, if I wanted to have a serious career, I should move to Los Angeles. I still liked the idea of going to school in NYC but, at the same time, felt that the timing wasn’t right. I thought about it for quite some time and then packed up everything I owned, took my little dog and moved to LA. I didn’t know anyone there but I found myself working and doing makeup very quickly.
“I noticed, when I was doing a lot of print work and photo shoots, that the eyebrows did not look right to me. I made it my personal mission to reshape them to fit each person’s face — not just by using makeup, but actually removing the hair to recreate the shape while balancing the face. I used all the principals I learned in art school and applied them to the face. I began mixing special colors to fill the brows via blending to match hair color rather than covering up the entire brow. My secret was quickly out on the streets. I would have models showing up at my apartment door to get their brows touched up, and then the next thing I knew, I was doing all of their friends’ brows as well. This was 15 years ago, so word spread without social media. I decided to find a different place other than my kitchen floor to use as a working eyebrow studio. The name The BrowGal was given to me by people who would recognize me for my work but didn’t know my name…”
How did you land on the idea for The BrowGal? Why should we all be rushing to add BrowGal to our beauty routines?
The line was born purely out of need. I had spent over 10 years listening to my clients’ desires and concerns. I had been recommending other makeup and eyebrow brands for years but, time after time, they would return to my studio and tell me that the purchases they made as a result didn’t produce better brows. They would then ask to buy what I used on them. The answer was not simple — I hand mixed my colors to suit each individual client, hence I had nothing to sell. In 2010, Megan Fox, who has been my client for several years, asked me to create a product that she could use when I was not available. This is how our #2 pencil was born. I created it exclusively for her and she loves it and wears it daily.
Can you tell us about life before that airport ‘a-ha’ moment. Have you always been a proponent of beauty products?
Let me clarify — one of my best personal think tanks is on long plane flights. This is where I come up with some of my best ideas. It was on a flight from Milan to Los Angeles when I first had the idea to start The BrowGal brand.
I have always been a huge fan of good skin. I believe that’s where good makeup starts. I am obsessed with both good skin and amazing makeup.
Tell us about your own daily wellness routine – any favorite products/tips/tricks?
Lol… well, I absolutely believe that good skin starts from within. I drink green juice every day and take probiotics. This is both good for my skin and immune system. I travel a lot so I always try to keep myself healthy. As far as makeup goes, I love changing it up. Lately, I have been wearing smoky blue eyes, but some days it’s about soft pinks. I change color like I change my outfit. It’s fun, so why not?! Anything goes. I like being creative and outside of the box!
What is the art, or science, behind the perfect brow?
Balance, symmetry and an amazing product. It’s important to understand what your natural shape is and work with that. This is what I teach all of my artists, so when we work with clients we educate them on what their ideal brow shape is based on unique facial features.
How does the BrowGal range fit in to your beauty regimen? Do you have a favorite product from the assortment?
I use only my products on my own brows, because they truly are the best products. I am such a perfectionist when it comes to things I create. I promise you that, if you try our stuff, you will be hooked!!
This is such a hard question to answer, as I love all of my products. Our pencils and serums for eyebrow enhancement are my absolute go-to… but I have to say that our new Convertible Brow is my latest obsession. It is a powder-to-pomade duo, boasting the most versatility of any brow product on the market. It goes from a very sheer natural powder to a full-blown pomade, or anything in between. All you have to do is dampen the brush.
What’s next for The BrowGal?
Hmmmmm, what’s next… Well, I still feel that there is a brow story to tell and I have quite a few innovative products coming down the pipeline. I think the real task at hand is continuing to spread brow education and knowledge to the everyday customer. We are the solution, and we are here to help our customers every way we can. Feel free to educate yourself via thebrowgal.com.
Thank you,Tonya! Follow TheBrowGal on Instagram and check out their website.
+ Shop The BrowGal on Free People and check out the entire beauty selection.
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