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Maria Shkreli was born in Montenegro. Having parents who were old-fashioned didn’t help her pursue certain dreams in America, like, modeling. She was spotted at sixteen-years-old but was not permitted to enter the beauty world by her parents. They thought she might get taken advantage of and wanted her to join the business world. Little did they know that the business world she would be entering included the beauty scene. “Being a hairstylist was not just about having a career. It was so I could create. The business world programs you to do what they want you to do. You can’t program creativity into a robot,” Shkreli said.
Her father was not pleased to hear her say she entered Wilfred Academy at 21. Though she was young, Maria was goal-oriented. She won first place at a competition in beauty school by not following the rules. They wanted her to have four models, but Maria wanted to show a whole range of looks and had about ten models. Though she broke the rules, she still won, which was the goal. Her achievement got Maria her first job at a salon in Riverdale by one of the judges while attending beauty school.
Her first day there the judge pointed at a chair and said to her, “That’s your station.”
She stared back at him and said, “But I don’t have a license.”
“That’s your station.”
“I don’t know how to do hair,” she said.
“That’s your station.”
Maria was shocked because a stylist in beauty school usually doesn’t get a station until two or three years of training. But the judge believed in her. And Maria believed in herself. She watched other stylists in the salon get many clients and said to herself that she wanted as many clients as that stylist. Maria would gain that number and then want to get as many as the more experienced stylist. Once she got as many clients as the other stylists, she knew it was time for her to open her salon. There was no more growth for her in the salon she started. Maria wanted to keep going.
In 1994, Maria opened her first salon, Aria Riverdale. On the very first day, she went to unlock the doors a lady in a big hat named, Lola, yelled at her, “Hey lady! What are you opening over there?”
“A day spa,” Maria replied with her hand still on the key in the lock.
“You’ll never make it!” Lola in the big hat yelled back.
Maria took those words as encouragement instead of focusing on the negativity. She let those words push her to open not one salon, but three more through the years.
Aria was open in Riverdale for seventeen years. She then opened Aria on Hudson in Dobbs Ferry then Aria NYC. In New York City, Maria’s award-winning aesthetic, featured on shows like My Celebrity Home, and in magazines like Planet, Details, View, and Clear. She styled photoshoots for New York City’s Goldbar, and for pop icons like Lenny Kravitz.
Throughout these years, she was inspired not only by what was new and happening in the beauty scene but the nature around her, especially trees. “I once read somewhere that God’s eyes are the stars, the rivers are his veins, we are his cells, and the trees are his hair,” Maria stated. She then created The Willow, The Mill, and The Chord.
Maria then partnered with her sister Jackie in opening Selah salon, a popular White Plains nightspot, salon, and lounge. Selah won the coveted Best Concept award from Westchester Magazine. Then she won Best Educator at the SOHO institute of Aveda, which was a big deal for her.
But, before Selah originally opened, Maria had been looking for a new salon throughout White Plains. She had read a quote that stated, “Quiet your heart and receive God’s word.” And when she stepped inside the current Aria, she felt at peace and home. Though Jackie wanted Selah to be Selah, and Maria is a sucker for her little sister, so Selah was born.
One day, a friend of hers said, “Maria, I hear you’re trying to open a new salon. I have the perfect spot for you. It’s right down the street.”
When Maria entered the original spot, she had found she knew this was God’s word of saying, “Act now and create the way you always meant to.” She received God’s word and opened up Aria White Plains, the salon you currently stand in, waiting for her creation.
This salon has given Maria the opportunity to not only create looks by personalizing a color and cut for each client, but she was able to focus on inner beauty as well. “When you have inner beauty you can have any look.” Her Sensory Journey helps you find your inner self while she creates your outer beauty.