I’ve only seen girls attend “charm school” in old movies.
Victorian boarding school marms sneered through their monocles at girls balancing books on their heads. This ritual somehow taught them lady-like poise and humility.
These days, most of us learn manners from our parents, or, less desirably, from our peers. However, believe it or not, there still are people out there teaching what might be called manners for the modern age—self-improvement, professional etiquette and interviewing, among them.
Dawn Shearer is one of them. Shearer runs a salon in Linglestown—Fashion Mystique Modeling and Photography, where you can also take classes in modeling, acting and pageant preparation. But her real passion, she says, is teaching girls and women (and some boys and men) how to present their best selves.
“Outer beauty, like makeup and a new hairstyle or color, can make you look good,” she said. “But it’s really confidence and a positive attitude that people are attracted to. Those are what make you sexy.”
As a model and pageant title-holder for “Miss Teen of PA—Photogenic,” Shearer has received substantial formal and on-the-job training through more than 20 years in the beauty business. But she emphasized that it takes much more than looks to be successful. People need to have poise and projection, as well as be easy to work with.
Shearer wants to help her students with their overall self-improvement, but her classes go way beyond looking good. She believes that too many people hold themselves back by not understanding how to behave professionally.
Moreover, there is a gap, she believes, between education and professionalism. Schools may teach business theories, along with how to write a paper or take a test. But, she said, they don’t teach professional life skills such as phone manners, conversational social graces or showing up on time.
“You want that job?” she said. “You have to put your best self forward and do whatever is required.”
Shearer said that she finds it especially rewarding to work with teenagers, and former students, such as Eileen Crummel, returned the praise.
“Dawn made us feel like young professionals, and we were not even seniors in high school,” Crummel said.
She added that Shearer helps inspire what so many young people lack—confidence.
“The self-improvement class helped me to pursue my goals, to never be afraid or intimidated in trying new things or feel timid and embarrassed about things that I can’t change about myself,” Crummel said.
Much like any teacher-student relationship, lessons stick best during hands-on exercises. The “Teen Boards” stands as one of Shearer’s most integrated projects. In collaboration with local area malls, Shearer assigned students jobs and roles to carry out to make the event come together. They learned professional skills like project management, advertising and customer service.
Crummel said she found teamwork and acceptance from her experience.
“We made friends and learned to work as a team at a very young, competitive age,” she said. “Dawn gave us values such as learning to appreciate and love the differences amongst ourselves and others.”
Shearer also has created opportunities for students to gain real-world experience in event management.
“Schools don’t teach how to plan an event and pull it off,” she said. “Organizing an event or performing a role in a support capacity, using their brains, learning how to read people. That helps them become more business-savvy than learning it out of a book.”
Shearer’s future plans include creating inner beauty classes, especially for battered women, which would include self-confidence, interviewing poise and any skills they may need to become self-sufficient.
“I have a real heart for these women, and this is how I want to give my talents back to the community,” she said.
Fashion Mystique and Spa is located at 611 N. Mountain Rd., Harrisburg (Linglestown). For more information, call 717-909-4058 or visit www.fashionmystiquespa.com or the Facebook page.