"My Extensive Beauty and Fashion Career Journey"

"My Extensive Beauty and Fashion Career Journey"

The polished and educated women at my church inspired my vision as a teen to explore the possibilities in the beauty and fashion industries. I attended modeling school to learn how to present myself in a way that increased my self esteem and respect from others. I was given the opportunity to be a Debutante for Sigma Gamma Rho. 

debutane photo

My junior year in high school I applied to the Jean Nicole Boutique at Aurora Mall. Every month I checked on my application and was told no. After a year of consistently doing this the manager said “we were not going to hire blacks, but your persistence, the way you carry yourself  and image made us change our minds.”   I walked to Aurora Mall after school, worked hard and walked 1 mile home afterwards on many nights.

I would spend my money on beauty products as well as clothing. At the drugstore I noticed there was no makeup available for my skin tone. Fashion Fair and Flori Roberts were the go- to department store cosmetic brands for black women at that time and yet they could not accommodate my soft golden skin tone. So I combined makeup from white and black cosmetic companies.

This inspired my dream of wanting to create a makeup line for all women. I saw an ad in the back of a fashion magazine for a Fashion College in Southern California. My parents could not afford this private college but I was determined. So I bought a one-way ticket and they gathered money orders, checks and cash and dumped it on the Dean’s desk and said this is all we have, will you admit our daughter to your school. My talent in fashion sketches helped me get accepted.

My spirit soared being there in spite of being pulled out of class often because my parents could not afford tuition. Nevertheless, I kept up my grades and drive and was guided to apply for loans and grants. I failed at being a fashion designer in college but I used my art talents as a makeup artist for all the school fashion shows.

I started my first business in college, called “Style Lines”. It was a fashion show business featuring the designs of my fellow classmates and my makeup artistry at local venues.

My dorm resident manager was Shawna Bristol, daughter of Motown Songwriter, Johnny Bristol and God-daughter of Smokey Robinson! I was introduced to several Motown artists and appeared on “Soul Train” a few times.

I told my roommate, “I have an appointment with success and I will not be late!” I graduated top 10 of my class and was voted most likely to succeed.


When I graduated, I gained beauty and fashion experience working in high end boutiques and department stores. I realized my college image was not helping me to achieve my goals so I enrolled at John Robert Powers Modeling Agency. There I refined my career image and was licensed to teach at the Agency shortly after completing the program.

Next, I took classes studying television and film makeup under the Stein Hollywood Makeup Artist family. Maurice Stein invited me to study with his sons coming up in the business. He referred to me as part of his family in judging a televised makeup competition at Disneyland.

I worked as a freelance makeup artist for several department store brands in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles. I was given the opportunity to work with Stevie Wonder as part of his image team.

After winning a beauty contest in Marina Del Rey, I appeared on The Dating Show as was an extra on The Jeffersons”, “Different Strokes” and “Family Matters”. 

My friend, Dap Sugar Willie, a protege of Red Foxx, invited me to attend his opening performance for Etta James at the Hollywood Vine Street Bar and Grill. He asked me if I could do makeup in the limo on the way there for his friend, Freda Payne (“Band of Gold” song fame) also performing. This gave me the experience of applying makeup to last for stage and to do it fast.

This photo is one of the many Beverly Hills parties I enjoyed. 

beverly hills crew

I worked for a Cosmetic Brokerage which housed many cosmetic manufacturers and it was there I made contacts for my own line. I was hired to create a makeup line for Nubian Cosmetics by the Executives of Avon. My job also demanded that I write training materials and travel to educate the sales force. The company went out of business because the demand for the product exceeded the supply.

Unemployed and a single mom of a 6 month old, I was guided by God to start my Image Consulting business. It was frightening because I only had one friend as my support system. Nevertheless I was obedient and cashed out my savings to develop my own cosmetic line and hire a data entry woman to write my Image Consulting material as computers were not main stream then.

baby chloe and me

I brought my business and daughter to Colorado where I had family. I was able to sell my makeup line and image services while working with Jo Farrell, owner of JF Images. Her clients included Denver businessman, Bill Daniels, Clint Eastwood, Bruce Willis, Eileen Ford New York Modeling Agency, Bill Cosby, models, actors, politicians and executives. Together we served their image needs.

From there, my makeup line and image services were at Dr. Grossman’s Plastic surgery practice in Cherry Creek and  Looks Talent Agency in Denver. I served private clients and taught classes to promote my business. I married and had a son.

When these businesses restructured and my marriage ended from domestic violence, I took a job at Saks Fifth Avenue in Cherry Creek for 8 years with the intention of  focusing on improving my brand. I started designing gemstone jewelry while working at Saks to deal with the pain of divorce and custody proceedings.  The gemstones led me to appreciate nature and discover wellness as a lifestyle. I was approached every where to buy my jewelry right off my body, I realized I sold $14,000 in one year without trying!saks fifth ave photo

I left Saks Fifth Avenue to focus on developing my jewelry business when Hunters Beauty Supply contacted me to sell my makeup line there. For 9 years I taught makeup classes to promote my business, while taking business classes and freelancing throughout Colorado at Department Stores working for Chanel, YSL, Guerlain, and La Prairie cosmetic brands.

denver post saving articlehunters photo

When Hunters closed I took a job at Nordstrom and continued to work on refining my brand. After 3 years a work injury ended my time there. Eight doctors told me I would be unable to use my hands and an allergy team told me I would never be able to wear makeup again. Suffering with great pain, I still focused on improving my brand. As an answer to prayer, God downloaded the idea of the makeup kits into my spirit and I created them to be natural in the ingredients. A mentor recommended I Trademark the kits and I did!


A friend recommended I attend Denver Startup Week and there I met a business mentor, Olivia Omega. She gave me great advice and recommended I enroll in the Co Starters program. After, I completed the program, I hired a team on my own credit cards to start improving my website, the inventory of the makeup kits and creating makeup tutorial videos.

Olivia also invited me to be a panelist and later a presenterr for Denver Startup Week.

denver startup week panelist photo

The focus of Rhoda Design Group is to inspire professional women to push past their challenges and to elevate their leadership presence with my Personal Brand products and services with an emphasis on wellness.

It is my deepest desire to leave a legacy of compassionate service with the education, experience, gifts and talents I have been given.

With Love, 

Rhoda Johnson

Back to blog