Is there anything nicer than a random compliment? Especially when you’re having a bad day, or not feeling particularly great about yourself, a few words of encouragement can really do a lot for your general level of happiness. But what if you didn’t have to wait for a serendipitous moment? Ello Pretty, a new beauty lounge on Valley Street, is the kind of place where you don’t just go to look good, you feel good while you’re there.
I’d driven past the unassuming exterior of Ello Pretty, housed in an old mill in Olneyville, many times and wondered what it was. I’m a sucker for promises of prettiness. But from the outside, which is a heavy brick facade, it was hard to tell. Once I was inside, though, I understood: sunlight flooded through the huge windows and onto the gleaming recovered wood floor. It’s a space filled with beauty, not just from the decor, but from the people inside.
Owner Jessica Whittington greeted me at the door. “What a gorgeous space!” I exclaimed to her. “Thanks,” she said, not missing a beat. “It thinks you’re fabulous too.” I was there on a Friday afternoon, tired from a long work week, and in need of a boost before heading out for a Friday night date night. She sat me down in her chair and asked me what we’d be doing. You know how it’s hard to look good when you don’t feel great? I basically gestured at my hair and face and said, “fix this.”
We decided on a blowout and some makeup, and I sat down at the sink to start. The minute the water hit me, I relaxed. But that probably had a lot to do with Jessica’s bubbly energy, too. As she washed, she told me about the inspiration for Ello Pretty. “It’s what my husband says to me when he sees me,” she said. “He’s British, so he drops the H.” She and her friends started using it on each other, and noticed how much that little compliment did for their spirits. Hence, the name for the salon she opened this spring with fellow stylist and makeup artist Nicole White. She also told me about the Teaching Pretty workshops that they host every month, on topics like DIY blowouts and new makeup techniques.
It turns out, pretty isn’t just how Jessica and Nicole make you look – it’s how they make you feel, too. And that starts with how they talk to each other. As I sat, having my hair blown out by Jessica, Nicole was at the chair next to us, adding hot pink highlights to a brunette’s hair. They bantered between them, using “Pretty” as a nickname, not just an adjective. It was really sweet to hear, and added a lot of positive energy to the room. As Jessica was finishing my hair, Nicole called over, “she can set pretty while I do her makeup.” Yes, thank you. My hair could set pretty, instead of just setting and cooling, while I had my makeup done.
Then, Nicole went to work. While she was doing my makeup, we were swapping makeup tips, talking about our favorite shades of MAC shadow. She also gave me some ideas for inexpensive European makeup brands that are worth checking out. We went for a neutral eye and a bright pop of raspberry lip – what else do you want in the summer? – finished off with a set of mink lashes. My makeup was perfect. Though Nicole used a liquid foundation, she used one sheer enough that my summer freckles showed through, “because it would be a crime to cover those,” as she said. I was ready for the night.
In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen penned one of the world’s most famous opening lines, that, “it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” A more modern truth universally acknowledged is that there’s no better way to start a summer weekend than with a trip to the beauty parlor. After all, if you feel good about yourself, you’re already primed to have the most fun possible. I left Ello Pretty looking great, feeling better, and ready to make the most of the days ahead.
Ello Pretty. 52a Valley Street, Providence. 632-4355