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Pope Francis. [Photo: Courtesy]

Njoki Kaigai
The truth of the matter is that most of us gossip; we like to share juicy details of other peoples’ misadventures and misfortunes.

Last week, Pope Francis had some word of advice for the beauty industry. During a session with members of this industry, he advised them to avoid gossip and instead focus on giving their clients word of encouragement. The Pope hates gossip and he is on record as having described it as being akin or in some instances worse than terrorism.

The truth of the matter is that most of us gossip; we like to share juicy details of other peoples’ misadventures and misfortunes - if in doubt look at the readership of the Nairobian and TMZs of this world. The Pope might have a valid point in chastising the beauty industry, but he needs to understand that gossip is a two-way street and beauty shops are the perfect highway.

Gossip in the beauty scene is usually the preserve of women, though nowadays men are also catching up fast. Some might wonder why intelligent professional women display lack of maturity and share intimate details of their lives with beauticians who in many cases come from very different backgrounds.

What they need to understand is that there usually exists a weird and often complex relationship between most women and their beauticians.

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A woman’s relationship with her beautician is as intimate and as important as the one she shares with her gynaecologist - in some cases even more important.

It is quite easy to be dismissive of beauticians, but a closer examination of what they work with will tell you that they are really a huge deal.

They are quite familiar with good, the bad and ugly about the hair follicles that grow on our heads and in other really private spaces. Many beauticians can be called upon as expert witnesses to provide anatomical facts on their clients.

Accurate information

It is possible for a woman to fool the whole world about her ‘flawless’ skin or her ‘perfect hair,’ but only her beautician (and perhaps her family) can provide accurate information on the acne that really lies behind the skin, or the cactus-like texture of the real hair that lies hidden by the expensive wig.

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A woman might succeed in mesmerising the world with her sexy strut, but only her beautician will have a full understanding of the sorry state of the corns and bunions on her feet. Women do not start out wanting to share all their secrets with beauticians, but there is something about this full understanding that mysteriously compels the clients to fungua roho to their beauticians.

In addition to getting very familiar with their clients’ bodies, beauticians get very close to their clients favours and fortunes. Once again, beauticians are like doctors since they prescribe certain products, treatments, and hairstyles with authority that their clients dare not question. Women have been known to spend tons of money in treatments that involve strange products like avocado and charcoal, all because their beautician said so.

Some have elected to suffer humiliation and tears during waxing and threading procedures only because they are following their beautician’s orders.

Though most of these recommendations often benefit the clients, usually it is the beautician who reaps big - for the more expensive it is, then the more the paycheck is. A beautician can size up a client’s wallet in a second by how responsive she is to her suggestions and recommendations. A client who does not whine or complain about the cost has cash and is a keeper; one who haggles or bargains too much is not a good resource since she is broke. A beautician will quickly tell if her client has run into financial headwinds if she notices lateness in payment, reduced frequency in visits and reluctance to adopt ‘recommendations and suggestions’.

All the above factors are usually combined with a certain beautician-client loyalty. Women can be very loyal to their beauticians especially if they are good at making them look good and helping them create the right mask to fool their world.

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It is not uncommon for women to follow their favourite beautician across different addresses, and in some cases counties, all because they have the necessary touch that delivers the right results.

They will often put up with waiting for long hours, diva demands and attitudes, extra charges all to be with their preferred beautician. In some cases, they might really resent their beautician, but they dare not leave them since only they know how to make them look good. Sometimes a good beautician can be like that annoying boyfriend who one has to put up with because they are good in bed.

It is against this backdrop that women share intimate details about their lives with their beauticians. Most beauticians will tell you that they do not gossip, instead they just circulate confidences shared as a way to ‘encourage’ their clients so that they can spend more in the salon. So given these ‘good’ intentions, I suspect that even Pope Francis will not stop gossip in the beauty shops. - [email protected]

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