My eyebrows were getting no love in Chicago. I was having a hard time finding someone with the availability and expertese to maintain my brows. I tried to do them myself, but if you get your brows done you KNOW – there’s nothing like a freshly shaped pair of brows to make your features pop. All you need is a perfectly manicured brow, and your face looks that much more stunning.

I was on an ongoing quest, then one day my friend Luvvie told me about her eyebrow savior. Mimi, at the Kiva Spa in Macy’s Water Tower Place. From the moment I met her, I got a really good feeling.

Mimi has been a fixture on the Chicago beauty scene for a lifetime. She came to America from Italy when she was 19, and her accent is as charming as ever. She’s been massaging, waxing, and giving decadent facials to clients at the spa at Marshall Fields – now Macy’s – for four decades. WOW. I was fascinated by her longevity, and absolutely blown away by her skill. Expect a makeup post where you can see my newly manicured brows next week, and you’ll see! I felt immediately inspired to interview Mimi, to discover her observations about the changes in Chicago and maintaining beauty through the passage of time.

Tell me about your history – what made you want to get into the beauty business?

“I had a thing for beauty, and I wanted to make women look beautiful. I went to school when I was 19, in Bologna Italy – a school called Mademar, and when I came to the United States, I interviewed with Marshall Fields. I was 24.

For two years – coming from Italy, there was an aesthetic diploma. And in those days they didn’t have that in America, just a cosmetology diploma. So I started doing massages for the first two years, and then got the cosmetology diploma. That was 40 years ago!

I started on State Street for 11 years, and then I moved over here because I had my youngest daughter – Water Tower was open later in the evening, so I could work a couple of hours later. And I have been here ever since.”

What beauty treatments and services were women getting back then?

“40 years ago, women were coming in for the same as today. Marshall Field was a very exclusive, top of the line spa. It was top of the line service. If you come from Chicago, you know what Marshall Fields stands for. I can say with pride and respect, tremendous respect.

40 years ago I did a lot of facials, waxing…the same services I do today. Individual lashes came maybe 20 years ago. The extensions…maybe 4 or 5 years ago.

Today it is more advanced. We didn’t have glycolic acid then. But people are people, whether it’s 100 years ago or 2 years ago. They want the same things – what changes is the lines of products that we use.”

What are your top tips for women who want to age beautifully, as an expert working in this business for so long?

“1. Keep the skin clean. That’s number one. Any product you use on your face should be of good quality.

2. stay away from the sun, protect your skin with sunscreen.

3. Of course health, the diet. You should drink water and eat well.

4. Keep your skin soft and smooth to the touch, protect it with a special moisturizer or serum. And good exfoliation because of the environment – you need to exfoliate regularly.”

Are there any services now that people do more than they did back then? Like…tell me about bikini waxes. Were people doing those 40 years ago?

“Bikini wax always existed. Not the Brazilian bikini like we do today – maybe for a certain culture, but it only became popular here maybe 28 years ago? And now it’s just like how you do your eyebrows.

But this is a profession where you have to tremendously respect the privacy of the clients, and vice versa. That’s the way I see it. I cherish my clients’ privacy.”

You’ve been here for the transition from Marshall Fields to Macy’s. What has that been like? Are things different?

“Marshall Fields, Macy’s and Kiva – it’s the same thing. The traditions continue. It has not changed a thing. Everything stayed the same, but now just the name has changed. Macy’s is just as respected a company as Marshall Fields’ was. We are open to serve, we do our very best and this salon has a lot to offer – from hairdressers and manicurists to masseuses. Our clients are very important to us.”

How has Chicago changed, in terms of your clients?

:We cater more now to young professionals. In the past I think it was more exclusive, more elite clientele.”

What advice would you give someone who wants to have your kind of longevity in the beauty business?

“To love it. To do with passion. And you have to want to help people in every way. Sometimes just listen, and to make them have a happy experience. That’s what I like about my service – when people walk out and say I love it, I feel good, I look good. You have to love the people.”

Mimi is amazing. I’m so happy to have finally found my brow expert! 40 years in the business is no joke, and you don’t see that kind of thing anymore. If you’re in Chicago and want to meet Mimi yourself, call the Kiva salon at 312 335 7622 and make an appointment!

Do you have a beauty professional in your life, who’s been in the game for a long time? What have you learned from them?


Luvvie says:
July 30, 2010, 12:35 pm
I LOVE Mimi! Ever since I found her 2 years ago, she's been IT for me. My brows sing to the heavens. And she's soooo sweet. So glad you loved her as much as I do. Mimi rocks!
Dee Dee Russell says:
July 30, 2010, 2:34 pm
Nice story well written, very much appreciated thank you Afro Bella.
Jenn says:
July 30, 2010, 10:45 pm
How much does she charge?
LBell says:
July 31, 2010, 2:56 pm
Bella, I don't know if you've had the chance to get to Little India yet (Devon Avenue between Western and California) but whenever I'm in town I go to Dilshad's Salon to get my eyebrows threaded. I've never paid more than $7 ($6 plus tip) and they do a GREAT job. While you're up there, get some lunch! There are a large variety of restaurants, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. The cost of the threading plus lunch are probably less than what you pay for a service at Kiva.
africaliving says:
August 1, 2010, 7:49 am
I like this interview. It is interesting to think about the history of beauty services and you asked all the right questions. Living in sunny California, it is a constant battle to avoid the sun. I know I should probably wear a hat constantly, and possibly sun gloves, if they make those, but I'd feel pretty ridiculous.
Jazz says:
August 6, 2010, 4:51 pm
I like this little shop over in little italy by UIC on taylor street. Its called wax on wax off , and she always does a good job on mine ... and she is affordable . She charges 10 bucks for eyebrows
Syreeta says:
March 26, 2013, 4:20 pm
I agree. I go to Biba (?)I think it's called just south of the Devon and western intersection. Zarah is the best and it is so worth the drive. And the lunch :)
Alexandra says:
January 21, 2014, 3:24 pm
Very inspiring and fun interview. I'll have to look up Mimi next time I visit my girls in Chicago!
Dee says:
August 18, 2015, 10:39 pm
I believe Mimi is one of my long lost brow techs... I've rarely let anyone go to work on my face (facial, brows, etc) - and if this is her (HAS to be) she is one of THE BEST AROUND. Trust, when you've had a brow experience with a true professional --- you will never go back to your quickie around town. I can't wait to make an appointment to see her!