Bethany Bell is a not just a hairstylist, she is an artist. Often sought after by international magazines that include Allure, Vogue Italia, and Kontrol, the innovative hairstylist is no stranger to the beauty industry and unfortunately the prejudices that come with it.
With an extensive resume including being one of the top five finalists on Oxygen’s Hair Battle Spectacular season 2, most people would believe this almost 30 year old beautician has got it all together. But Bethany does not hesitate to tell you otherwise. Although there have been plenty of perks after appearing on TV, working with celebrities, and being featured in countless magazines, there was a dark side to the business of beauty and fashion that she felt she needed to share.
I instantly spotted Bethany as she walked into the nifty seafood spot in Philly where we agreed to meet. Standing tall, gorgeous and dressed to impress wearing what’s known as “industry black”, Bethany looked the part of a beauty professional. As she made her way to the table I doted over her black patterned kimono with Diana Ross flare, a pair of must-have Tom Ford sunglasses, and a simple pair of snake skin sandals. Her beauty is not just outward. There’s an inner grace.
I was eager to ask her about her experience on Hair Battle Spectacular, but I patiently waited as she searched through the menu of delicious eats. Once the waitress completed our order, we discussed what it was like to watch herself on the small screen.
“Seeing myself on television was pretty surreal,” Bethany shares. “The high points of the experience were seeing my family’s reaction and receiving the incredible support from my friends. I did have a few street encounters with fans of the show. There was even a fan meltdown that happened once at a hair show, but I gave him a hug to calm him down,” She laughs.
Bethany considers herself very down to earth and blessed with amazing opportunities and an amazing talent.
I was impressed that she could eat a salad without croutons or cheese. I have to have at least a few croutons in my salad. “So what were the low points of being on the show?” I asked as I took a bite of my shrimp wrap. Yes, I was eating carbs, but just a little.
“The low point of reality television is being on this national front and having complete strangers try to tear you down. There were consistent negative comments about my size and someone had the nerve to say they thought I was a man cross dressing,” she replied, “just unnecessary rude statements.”
At that moment she had answered the question I had since I first saw her on the show. She was, indeed, discriminated against because of her weight.
Bethany delicately wiped her mouth and shared her experience. “I was asked to change a few times because they didn’t want me to wear leggings. The slim contestants on the show were allowed to, but I was not. There were also times that they would ask me to cover up my arms with a shirt or cardigan so it would look better on camera. The room we worked in was hot and I needed to focus on creating so I just told them ‘No’.”
Although I shook my head, I was not really surprised by what she said. In the business of fashion and beauty, it is well known that size matters even if you are not in front of the cameras. Recently, 19 year old model Agnes Hedengård who was a runner up on Sweden’s Next Top Model, was turned down for modeling jobs because she was too fat. The young lady has a body mass of 17.5 which is medically considered underweight. She has since quit the business of modeling.
At the time that Bethany was a contestant on the show, Eva Marcille, winner of America’s Next Top Model (cycle 3) was the host and she was very kind to Bethany by paying her compliments each time they had an encounter. “I was full of insecurity and doubt when I entered into that new environment, but Eva made it easier for me.”
Bethany was very honest about how superficial and cruel the fashion and beauty business can be. “Just because a woman is too skinny or too overweight doesn’t make her less important, worthy or beautiful. There is beauty in everything,” she says. “I think the fashion/beauty industry sets an unrealistic standard for beauty and we are hurting people.” Bethany has been overweight most of her life and she has experienced many walls built to keep her from moving forward in the industry that she loves.
Bethany makes it clear that she understands the reasons why the business focuses on size, but she makes it a point to never discriminate against anyone. To instead look at the overall presentation for her clients. “I definitely understand why we are selective of the models we choose, and I do understand a brands preference in having their staff fall into the same guidelines,” she says. “I feel that as a beauty professional, you need to present yourself as polished and fashionable as possible. We are a walking example of our work. So my weight may be high but I’m still fashionable and put together. I still have to slay.”
As our meal slowly came to a close, I wanted to know what it is that she is doing to make her situation better. “We all know losing weight is not an easy feat.” Bethany has spent a bulk of her life on yo-yo diets trying to lose weight.
“Agreed,” I said. I from time to time look in the mirror to make sure that my weight has not fluctuated.
“The hardest part of tackling the weight is learning you.” She continues, “It’s not just your activity and what you eat, it’s about how you think and what you do with your emotions.” Bethany has had a few rough patches in her life that includes her father leaving the family at a very young age. After taking the last bite of her healthy meal, she says, “This weight, this suit of emotional pain has to go.” I smiled at her can-do attitude.
To get rid of her emotional pain, Bethany has created a blog, But You Are So Pretty to document her weight loss journey with the world. It was created to inspire, motivate, and offer a real dose of honesty when it comes to losing weight. “It’s not your average fitness blog. I include every little embarrassing and rewarding aspect of it.”
“I am so proud of you, Bethany,” I said. “It is impressive that you are willing to make healthy changes to yourself that will not only make you feel better and be a better person, but you will also stop people from building barriers between you and your passion.”
“Exactly,” said Bethany. “But there is more to me than doing hair.” It’s true.
Bethany has created a series of hands-on workshops for all types of women called the Beauty Boot Camps to teach them how to create their own signature hair and makeup look in a fun environment. She has re-branded her wedding business, QB & Company in the Tri-state area. She is also opening the DAME salon, an upscale salon in Center City Philadelphia in this Summer.
“Your plate is full, girl.” I said, feeling the excited energy.
“No, girl my plate is empty,” she chuckles as she makes reference to her salad being gone from her plate. “And now we must part, Love,” as she affectionately refers to me.
There were many thoughts that ran through my head after my sit-down with Bethany, but what stood out to me is that no matter your passion, there is no one that can stop you from doing what you want, except you. For Bethany, she made the final decision to control her destiny because it ain’t over ‘til she says so, and I think the healthier Bethany will be here for a very long time!