Sophomore Fosters Empowerment With Dorm Lash Business

Sosena Bekele has been doing lash extensions since high school, and now she’s making a profit out of her dorm.

Sosena Bekele, a Steinhardt sophomore and founder of Lash Fantasy. (Photo courtesy Sosena Bekele)

Sosena Bekele, a Steinhardt sophomore and founder of Lash Fantasy. (Photo courtesy Sosena Bekele)

By Elif Kesikbas, Staff Writer

Doesn’t everyone want big, full, bold lashes? While many turn to mascara daily to achieve the look, once makeup remover hits the eye, the effect disappears. 

Steinhardt sophomore Sosena Bekele’s eyelash extension business, Lash Fantasy, makes sure that you wake up with your dream lashes without the risk of clumpy mascara and empowers her clients to be as bold as their looks.

“I honestly just love empowering women, and my clients all feel very empowered after getting lash extensions,” Bekele said.

Bekele started doing lash extensions when she was 16. As a daughter of a single mother, she wanted to contribute to the household and began by babysitting and tutoring. Soon, she realized that she could use her knowledge of beauty and eyelashes to turn a profit. She started by practicing on her friends, and as her skills improved, she started charging people. 

When Bekele moved to New York, she took a break from doing lash extensions to work as an event host at Chelsea Piers. However, the long and rigid working hours became difficult to balance with school. 

“I had 12-hour shifts until 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. — super late on the weekends,” she said. “I would stay up and do homework and go back to work, and it was just crazy that whole time.”

After accidentally being placed in a double instead of a low-cost triple for her sophomore year, she decided to look for a more flexible job to help cover the extra housing costs. 

Bekele decided to take up doing lash extensions again. Over the summer, she enrolled in an intensive two-week certification program back home in Maryland. After getting her lash technician license, she invested in a massage table and a wall mirror to set up a mini studio. She now sees her clients Monday through Thursday evenings, and all day on weekends at her dorm-studio. 

“Right now [my clients are] a majority of NYU students, but I do have some Pace students, and some local students reaching out to me, so I’m excited,” she said.

Bekele offers lashes in various styles from Classic to full-on-drama styles such as Volume or Extra Volume. Prices start from $70 for full sets and $45 for fills. 

In addition to the financial benefits, the media, culture and communications major’s drive comes from her passion to challenge the standardized Eurocentric face of beauty and challenge the boundaries of how blackness is represented in the media.

“The lash business helps me continue to stay at NYU, and helps me to continue to pursue my desires to change the face of beauty, and how blackness is presented to us,” Bekele said.

Bekele also channels her motivation into creative areas other than her lash business. She considers herself a creative director. Bekele recently set up a photoshoot to create her own remake of the Power Rangers, where she focuses on the contrast that melanin creates and represents black women as the gatekeepers of blackness, fighting to break the stereotypes and misinterpretations about what it means to be beautiful in the black community. 

“Oftentimes black women are given dramatic tropes,” Bekele said. “They are either up here or down here; they’re never just regular people. It’s so important not to just have one story of black women, so I kind of wanted to share black women as fighters.”

Bekele believes that with her lash business, she can provide her clients with the same kind of empowerment, where her clients become one with their lashes and embrace them as a new layer of beauty, power and confidence. 

“When you wake up with lashes people genuinely feel way better about themselves is what I’ve learned,” Bekele said. “We all love natural beauty, but lashes add on a layer of beauty.” 

While Bekele already has a packed schedule working as the Black Student Union’s advocacy chair, Vice President at the Ethiopean & Eritrean Student Association, a peer mentor at both Steinhardt and the Academic Achievement Program and a tutor with America Reads, she aims to grow her business. She hopes to establish a marketing team and train prospective lash technicians.

“My lash business has been actually really good and really successful, and I am getting a person a day, so that’s really good money that’s a little stable,” Bekele said. “I’d love to teach other people and do classes, so that’s something I’m thinking of doing down the line.”

A version of this article appears in the Monday, Sept. 30, 2019, print edition. Email Elif Kesikbas at [email protected]