When Shivaughnette Mendoza left Trinidad for the US at the age of 21 she had only $20 to her name. But through her hard work and passion for beauty, she was able to open a spa in New York City. And this month Mendoza will be opening her newest branch of Bella Body Spa and Beauty Lounge back home in Trinidad at 47 Rodney Road, Endeavour Lange Park, Chaguanas.
She told Newsday in a recent Zoom interview she is originally from Chaguanas, specifically Enterprise Street in Longdenville. The sixth of eight children, Mendoza recalled she always had an interest in beauty.
"As a child, I would wear my mother's lipstick and high heels. I was the girly girl. My older sister was more tomboyish."
Coming to America
She studied fashion and designing while at Chaguanas Senior Secondary. In 1999 she moved to the US (Brooklyn, New York City) but it would be some time before she would work in the beauty industry. With little money, she began working as a nanny and caretaker for small children. She then got a job as a file clerk at Nationwide Insurance. She was quickly promoted to the front desk position and started taking classes for properties and casualties. But due to her citizenship status, she was unable to take the state board test to get licensed as an insurance agent.
She was recruited by one of her insurance clients, a Trinidadian, to work for him doing taxes. Shortly after starting her new job, she became pregnant and was placed on doctor-ordered bed rest. While working from home, she and her child’s father opened a trucking company. The revenue from this company allowed her to purchase real estate and she started to manage a collection of rental properties.
In 2007 after delivering her child she began her full journey into the beauty industry.
"I became interested in tummy tucks and breast augmentation, and looking sexier after having a baby."
After experiencing aesthetics and body transformation as a client she decided to pursue it as a career path. She began taking classes at Berkowitz Aesthetic in Queens to get her aesthetician licence. The programme normally takes six months (either day or night classes) but Mendoza was able to convince them she could do it in three months.
"I created my own programme. I would go to school day and night. I wanted to get my licence."
Mendoza completed the accelerated three-month programme, the first to ever do so.
"I like to create my own lane."
After receiving her licence, she started to perform aesthetic services out of her home.
"It was exciting doing it, making alterations to people. It was kind of a thrill doing the transformations."
Bella Beauty begins
As demand increased she purchased a storefront and named the business Bella Beauty Spa. Over the years, she started to partner with other vendors and the spa evolved into Bella Body Spa and Beauty Lounge located in Queens.
The business was spun-off to include Bella Body Beauty Institute which provides advance post-op care, teeth whitening, microneedling and advanced facials. The one-stop aesthetic shop is now a comprehensive spa with services ranging from hair and nails to dermaplaning and body sculpting. The spa specialise in post-surgical care and non-invasive treatments for body transformation and rejuvenation.
Mendoza said the services help bring down the waistline, "butt plumping," and cellulite removal. The full-service beauty lounge includes a champagne room, sauna, jacuzzi, massage and full-body scrubs. In the beauty lounge upstairs, Shans Beautee, clients get lashes, brows, nails, hairstyles, weaves and wigs done.
"We provide over 100 services."
She said clients are happy with the results they get.
"We are transparent as to what the expectations will be. We don't oversell anything. Most of the services I tried first myself. I don't like selling something that is not working."
Services are provided for all age groups, including facials and massages for children. Clients are mostly women but the shop also caters to male clients.
"A lot of men are in tune with their bodies and want to lose weight in the stomach area."
The spa also service older clients who may be interested in tightening areas, getting facelifts or collagen.
"Everybody is trying to enhance something."
Mendoza said it is very exciting for her to see changes in her clients' bodies and the happiness she brings to them.
She also partnered with one of her nieces, Harmony Mendoza, for a fashion line called House of Harmony which is another arm of the business.
Mendoza opened a second location in Queens and has mobile locations (home visits) in Atlanta, Florida, Houston and Barbados. The next branch in Chaguanas will provide advanced beauty services.
She said the places where Bella Body Spa has opened were part of the journey to becoming the woman she is now.
"I grew up in Trinidad and it is a great achievement to open back home and share what I learned."
Mendoza said she was lucky to get the Chaguanas location and has partnered with another aesthetician in Trinidad who was a previous spa owner.
She explained her plan is to "take over the Caribbean in a big sense."
"(The regional beauty) industry is kind of dull. They are now getting up to par in terms of services like body contouring and liposuctions. They don't have the education or training on post-surgery or post-op care. I want to bring that to the Caribbean in a big way and I am starting with home first."
She took the opportunity to thank her relatives in Trinidad who helped her and continue to help her on her journey.
For more info: bellabodybarandspa.com or on social media @Bellabodytrinidad or on Instagram @bellabodyspaandbeautylounge.