LeiLani Kopp is a paramedical makeup artist and cosmetics manufacturer who, through countless hours of volunteer work with cancer patients and burn victims, shows that beauty is definitely more than skin deep. Her business, Sweet LeiLani Cosmetics, subsidizes the volunteer work that makes a difference in the lives of those who have been through incredibly difficult experiences. The compassion she exhibits for other people is as beautiful as the work that she does.
LeiLani offers free of charge to anyone: wig styling, corrective makeup techniques and areola/nipple tattooing after breast reconstruction. She also helps burn survivors through skin needling, a technique that helps reduce scarring. LeiLani has volunteered with the Vancouver Burn unit, the BC Cancer Society and the Firefighters burn fund, including 15 years with the Kids Burn Camp. She selflessly uses her skills and training to help people find beauty after trauma and pain. She took the time to chat with me about the work that she does and how she finds the strength to do it.
What drives you? What keeps you going?
I felt like I had a craft I could use to help people. I've never felt book smart; I've always been creative. I started working with people who had cancer and there were so many people struggling with that. I started thinking about those who have been burned and scarred. My product line evolved from the volunteer work. I never set out to have a company. I'm humbled by the tragic stories out there. I'm fortunate the cosmetic line pays the bills so I can provide services to people who need them for free.
How do you take care of you when you are taking care of other people?
I walk. I lead a balanced life. I have an incredible family, a wonderful husband, and two great adult kids. I thrive off helping people. I worked in the film industry for so long, now I get to work with real people who need help. I thrive off that. People are so grateful and it keeps me going.
Did you always want to work with cosmetics or did you have another plan?
I always wanted to be a special effects makeup artist since I was 12. I went to LA to study it but it was a real man's world thirty years ago. Despite this, I was fortunate to have such a great career in the movie industry.
What aspect do you find most rewarding in your work?
The paramedical makeup artistry and tattooing for sure. All I ever wanted to do was special effects makeup, and now those are the type of injuries I correct. Unfortunately, there is a need for the services but I love the look on clients faces when I can help.
What aspect do you find most challenging?
The business end I find challenging. Like I said, I never set out to have a company. I learned the hard way and had to figure it out as I went. Day-to-day business can be challenging.
What are you most proud of?
My family. I'm proud I was able to create a career and maintain 26 years of marriage and two great kids. I've created a career that helps people. My product lines help anyone with a skin condition. I have been lucky to have perfect skin my whole life. I've never known what it means to struggle with that until I started working with people in this way. I enjoy helping a broad range of every day women with so many issues.
What advice would you have for someone considering work in this field?
I teach a lot of students. Some want paramedical training and I say that I don't' think there's a career in itself. It is something we should have a duty to do to help people as makeup artists. I have a problem with making money off it.
You teach clients how to take care of themselves in recovery, what have your clients taught you?
They taught me how lucky I am. I am so humbled and grateful for what I have in my life in working with these patients. I'm so grateful for life.
LeiLani invites people who have a need for her services to reach out to her. She is eager to help and the kindness in her voice is just a hint of how approachable and gracious she is. You can follow LeiLani through her cosmetics company Sweet Leilani Cosmetics on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
This post was written for publication on Sparkly Shoes and Sweat Drops.
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