Angella Nazarian (AN): Can you tell us a bit about your journey?
Taylor Babaian (TB): I grew up in South Los Angeles to immigrant parents, who held two to three jobs at a time. This meant us kids, who were two to eight years old, were often left alone for weeks and had to take care of ourselves. My parents split up and got back together often. During those splits, I went with my father and would stay in small apartments or his car. When I was fourteen, he left for good, and I got mixed up with a rebellious crowd and left home.
I lived mostly in my friends’ closets or at twenty-four-hour donut shops, Laundromats, and stairwells of buildings.
I finally got in touch with my father and moved to Seattle, where I lived with him at first on a sheet on the floor and did my homework on a cardboard box. From there, my girlfriend took me in, and I finished high school, receiving countless awards and a scholarship.
I worked three jobs while going to community college. At one of those jobs, I met and fell for a boy who was my best friend. After about a year, I got pregnant and reluctantly had to go to the welfare office to receive assistance for medical care.
By twenty-two, I was a mother of two, both having only three-week maternity leaves, and now managed a very busy full service salon, one of the three jobs I had. I was working almost 100 hours a week, and by twenty-three, I made the decision to become a celebrity makeup artist. I knew no one in the business, but I latched onto an agency that I felt was the most prestigious in the field. They turned me down several times, but I persisted, and, eventually, they took me in.
Sixteen years after that decision was made, I’m now working on mythird book and have a line in the top department stores in America. I’m still with the same agency and will be married nineteen years in November to the same boy. My kids attended one of the top public high schools in America. My daughter is in college, and my husband, returning to school, graduated Summa Cum Laude from UCLA. He will graduate from law school this May. The journey has been incredibly difficult, but all the work was worth it.
(AN): What has been your proudest moment?
(TB): Not many people get phone calls from The New York Times to feature your first book, but I’m going to say attending an awards banquet for my daughter’s Academic Decathlon Team. It embodied everything I had worked so hard for. I made the right decisions, and all the blood, sweat, and tears would not be for nothing, and my daughter did not live the life I did. In that moment, I felt success and was incredibly proud.
(AN): Can you remember the moment when you were at your lowest point? How did you regain the hope and energy to carry on?
(TB): When I was around fifteen. I felt hopeless. I had just been physically and mentally tortured by a group of so-called friends. In despair, I attempted suicide. Thankfully, upon recovering, I had this firm idea that I needed to beat life at its own game.
It was me versus life. That’s how I needed to think of it to fight for my life.
Looking back, I feel so blessed that I was given a second chance because I would’ve never experienced all the joys I have now with my family. I would’ve never achieved all the amazing things I have in my life had it ended that day.
(AN): As you mention in your story, you were homeless as a young teenager and worked hard to get off the streets. Can share with us what brought you to become homeless, and what was the turning point to get you off the streets?
(TB): Being home for me was worse than being homeless. That part of the story I keep private, but a small part of it was being whipped or having my head kicked through glass windows and having to clean up the aftermath.
My turning point was understanding that I needed to get off the streets, or I was either going to end up on drugs like a lot of my friends or dead. I had seen and felt so much pain, and I no longer wanted to settle for bad for myself. I wanted a better life.
(AN): What was it that inspired you to start your own business?
(TB): When I managed the Aveda salon, I learned the story about the product line. I knew it was a hairdresser that made his first shampoo in his bathtub, and I thought I could do that!
(AN): What do you consider to be your secret to success?
(TB): I’ve certainly invested in the intangibles in my life—education, relationships, and my name—things no one can take away.
I still face a lot of day-to-day challenges running my business and haven’t reached my goal of the full makeup line that I set out to do so many years ago. However, I do recognize I’ve had some unbelievable accomplishments in my career. I’m always willing to be a small fish in a big pond so I can learn and grow. I have no ego about it.
(AN): If you had a message to share with everyone, what would it be?
(TB): Anything is possible. You just have to be willing to dream it and then work for it.
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(AN): Who are the people in your life who won’t let you fail?
(TB): What makes me strong is having people close to me that love me whether I fail or succeed. There is a comfort in knowing that those people will be around no matter what.
(AN): What is the one characteristic that you would say defines you best?
(TB): Resilient. I have gotten knocked down and beaten up by life. I’ve been tested. I’d like to think I passed with flying colors, but there were definitely more than a few tears shed.
(AN): What nourishes you and gives you strength?
(TB): I’ve recently discovered endurance sports and love it because it makes me feel empowered. I never thought I was as tough as I am. Feeling strong on the outside makes me feel strong on the inside. Being surrounded by smart, positive, and powerful people who are also kind fuels me.
(AN): Do you have any words of advice for someone trying to heal himself/herself from a difficult past?
(TB): I think people need to understand that it’s a daily struggle. The past is powerful. I still have so many scars on my body—burns and cuts and stitches that remind me of the past. When I get hungry, it reminds me of the time I didn’t eat for five days. When I get cold, it reminds me of the stairwells.
You have to fight your demons and focus that energy on not reliving the past but fueling your future.
You decide how you want to live, and that needs to be a daily affirmation.
(AN): What is your motto?
(TB): Everything happens for a reason. My past was terrible, but I don’t know that I would be as resilient or as knowledgeable or hardworking had not everything in my life happened the way it did. It is painful not to have had a childhood, but I can tell you that my kids had awesome childhoods because I made decisions based on mine of what not to do.
(AN): What is a dream that you would like to achieve in your lifetime?
(TB): I would like to expand my line to a full line of cosmetics and grow it in the U.S. and internationally. I discovered makeup to help me feel my very best. I’ve worked with thousands of women and showed them their beauty. I would love the opportunity to do it with my line and throughout the world.
I would also like to finish college. I will be that sixty-year-old transfer student because I think education is important.
Oh and maybe a vacation…I’ve never had one.
Angella Nazarian is a bestselling author and noted speaker. Both of her books Life as a Visitor and the newly released Pioneers of the Possible: Celebrating Visionary Women of the World have become bestsellers for the publisher and have garnered glowing reviews from Arianna Huffington, Tina Brown, Martha Stewart, and Diane von Furstenberg. To learn more about Angella, visit her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
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