Northeast Ohio natives tackling New York's fashion industry with help from Lady Gaga, Sally Field and Kohl's

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Northeast Ohio natives tackling New York's fashion industry with help from Lady Gaga, Sally Field and Kohl's

Jean Bonchak

The News-Herald, Willoughby, Ohio

The fashion landscape in New York City is richer thanks to three talent-laden gals who pulled up their local roots and planted them in the Big Apple.

Already established with successful careers in their hometowns, Julie Kandalec, a Mentor native; Sarah Tanno of Chester Township; and Hayley Wheeler, who recently graduated from Chardon High School, are pumping up their professional profiles in the beauty industry.

So what did it take for these savvy fashionistas to pull up stakes and migrate eastward?

"I knew that I wanted to and I was waiting for that one moment," said Kandalec, a nail artist who has fancied the famous fingertips of Glenn Close and Sally Field, as well as countless models in high fashion magazines.

Kandalec said she met with an agent who asked, 'Why aren't you (in New York) yet?' " To assure that she'd get there, the agent hired her on the spot.

Prompting makeup artist Sarah Tanno to change addresses was a desire to be the best and "New York is the melting pot of the best in the world," she said.

For the past few years, the 1999 West Geauga High School graduate has been busy using her special set of skills working with Lady Gaga and her touring entourage.

Modeling is the fashion forte of Wheeler, who began her career early in high school. She worked with Adidas, Kohl's and other major companies prior to signing with Next Worldwide agency which served as a motivating factor for her relocation.

Although giving up traditional high school experiences and "pretty much ... the social aspects of things in my hometown," she said it was well worth it.

"The sacrifices I've made don't overpower everything I've experienced along the way ... traveling, seeing the world, living on my own, meeting people from all around the world," she said.

Kandalec has similar feelings.

She said exchanging a spacious condo in Ohio for the tiny apartment she now lives in is a price she's willing to pay in order to gain the benefits gleaned from being closer to the heartbeat of the beauty industry.

"I had a full clientele at Jenniffer and Co. (salon in Mentor), making really good money, had an amazing boyfriend and I gave up everything to be here -- and it's worth it," she said.

A willingness to struggle is something Tanno knew she'd have to deal with "because New York City will eat you alive if you're not ready for it," she said.

"I worked really hard for years to be able to make the move," she said. "In my world, you need to have a great portfolio to even get work, so being willing to work for trade for photo and no money will often happen.

"I studied photographers, models, other makeup artists. You have to live, breathe and know what you want to do or you will never last. One of the smartest decisions I made was moving there with a part-time job with MAC (cosmetic company). That way, I had some money coming in while I worked on my freelance."

Efforts by each of the young women are paying off in stylish spades.

Wheeler has worked with iconic style names such as Oscar de la Renta , G by Guess, Stella McCartney, Jason Wu and more. Her classic face and figure also have graced the pages of numerous magazines.

Kandalec felt she climbed up another step on her personal career ladder when asked to be the first nail artist to appear on the popular "What Not To Wear" television show.

"It was surreal," she said of the experience.

Along with realizing their dreams, how has life changed for the women since they've had a bite of the Big Apple?

"My life is much more exciting now," Wheeler said. "It's also more stressful than in the past. My day consists of paying jobs, tests shoots or casting. I hit the gym and work out with my trainer. By the time I hit the pillow at night, I'm exhausted."

Kandalec said although she still designs nails, the realm in which she works is very different.

"My life is very unpredictable," she said. "It's never the same day twice. I work on call as opposed to having a set schedule in the salon."

Based on a bird's eye view of fashion and beauty in Cleveland and New York, Wheeler said she thinks C-Town could use a shot of individuality.

"Everyone in Ohio dresses the same, wears the same clothes -- they follow fads," she said. "It's hard to explain, but anything goes when you travel the world. No one judges your style in big cities."

Kandalec says local people are leery of leaving behind beauty routines to which they've become accustomed.

"Clevelanders don't travel enough to realize that there are different trends out there and they're afraid of changing," she said. "I'd like to encourage them to see what's new and pick up one small new trend at a time."

Though the move eastward proved propitious for each of the women, at times heartstrings are still tied to home.

"When I'm away from home, I miss it. But when I'm home, I miss New York City," Wheeler said.


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