With a 20-year career in makeup artistry under her belt, our NJMOMpreneur of the Week, Lauren Vena, has spent countless hours beautifying brides, getting celebs like Vanessa Williams camera-ready, and seeing her glam looks grace magazine covers. But behind the scenes, there’s a balancing act of being a mom and professional makeup artist that doesn’t always look as glitzy as her freshly painted red lip or sleek cat eyeliner. It’s her embrace of those ‘hot mess mom’ moments that led Lauren to her newest creative venture—a children’s book aptly titled “My Mom…The Best Mom Ever!” Part heart-warming, part hilarious, and all love—Lauren’s book is a nod to those times in motherhood where it feels like we can’t get things right. We had a chance to chat with this Marlboro mama about her passion for makeup, that “aha” moment when she knew she had a book idea, and her family’s go-to spots every time they head down the shore.
featured image via Andrew Holtz Photography
Before you became an author, you built a career as a makeup artist. Tell us about your professional journey.
I knew I wanted to be a makeup artist right out of high school. I got my first job working for the Chanel counter and then worked for other cosmetic lines like Bobbi Brown, MAC, and as a regional artist with Clarins, traveling all over NJ and NY doing events, training, and masterclasses. During that time, I struggled with a miscarriage and getting pregnant, and commuting was a lot, so I quit and freelanced. I went on to do IVF, and when I gave birth to my daughter Chloe, I took a break from working. A year later, with a total oops, blessing, and a miracle, I got pregnant (naturally) with my son Travis. I dreamed of this my whole life and felt blessed to have two healthy babies. But I also love what I do and knew I needed to get back to work.
Around that time, social media became a thing, and I created a Facebook page, and I started getting jobs right away. When my kids were in school, I took a job at Nordstrom, but I still had my clients. Eventually, I quit that job and opened LV Makeup Artist, and before I knew it, I was booking clients two years out. I love that I get to be the person that gets someone ready for one of the most memorable moments in their life. Whether it’s a wedding, maternity shoot, or mitzvah, they will have and cherish the photos and memory forever.
How did you go from makeup artist to writing a children’s book?
I never planned to write a book, but I got the idea after having a hot mess, crazy mom moment getting my kids ready for school last fall. I was having that mom fail, “am I doing anything right,” feeling and questioning, “am I the worst mom ever?” Balancing what I do for work and being a mom is hard because I work most weekends. I feel that I can’t always get it together. But having my kids hugging and loving me even when I think I get it wrong made me realize I am not the only mom who feels this way. This is the main theme of the book—we are the ‘Best Moms Ever’ because it’s all about that unconditional love, and sometimes we need to be reminded of that. It’s OK to be a hot mess, it’s OK if you can’t cook, and it’s 100% OK to be a working mom, stay-at-home mom, and everything in-between as long as the love is there. When I thought of the book, I imagined children and their moms sitting on the couch, reading it with humor and love together.
My husband encouraged me to write it, and I called Jennifer Tuma Young with Inspired Girl Books. I used to eat lunch at the Asbury Park cafe she and her husband owned, and she always said if you ever write a book about makeup, give me a call. So, I told her I wrote a book, but it’s not about makeup—it’s a children’s book. She loved it right away, and the rest fell into place (the book’s official debut is October 27). The biggest struggle has been releasing it during the pandemic. I was hoping to read my book in classrooms, have book signings, and be out in the community promoting it, but I can’t do that now. So, I have been focusing on social media. On the first day of pre-sell on Amazon, it was the #1 New Release for Children and Family books—it was an incredible moment.
Your book is as much for moms as it is for kids. What type of encouragement do you hope it offers to moms trying to juggle so much?
I hope they can realize that when life is crazy, we need to stop and laugh at the mess. We teach our kids at an early age that no one and nothing is perfect, yet as moms, we feel like we have to be perfect. I threw that idea out the window a long time ago when I knew I couldn’t cook, and I was fine going to the store with no makeup on. We are always multi-tasking—so as long as you don’t kill anyone or show up nude on a Zoom call, that’s a job well done in my book.
What do you think your children have learned from watching you pursue your professional goals?
I hope they have learned to never give up on your goals and to dream big. But the biggest takeaway from this experience is that it’s never too late to try something new.
Can you share some of your favorite spots around New Jersey to take your family and local businesses that you love?
I was born and raised in New Jersey and grew up going to the Jersey Shore. Every year my family went to Point Pleasant, and now we do the same. We also love Avon-by-the-Sea and always stop at Strollo’s Italian Ice in Belmar on our way home. My husband and I are big beer fans, and anytime we go on a road trip, we visit breweries. Our favorite Jersey brewery is Icarus in Lakewood, and we love Ship Bottom Brewery in LBI because they have fun activities for the kids.
Some other family favorites include visiting Cape May, the Popcorn Park Zoo in Forked River, the Silverball Museum in Asbury Park, and The Music Man singing ice cream shop in Lavallette. We also do a “not your typical family” holiday photoshoot every year with an incredible local photographer, Andrew Holtz, out of Asbury Park.
Locally, our family’s favorite restaurants are Ganga in Matawan and El Meson in Freehold. For shopping, I love In the Tree Top in Manalapan, Cosi Bella in Hazlet, and Ruby & Jenna. For cute home and gift things, Foolish Ginger in Asbury Park and Curated Home in Manalapan have great options.
What’s your best piece of advice for an NJMOM thinking about writing a book or starting something new?
Do it now and don’t wait because it’s never going to be the right time. We have this one life—let’s live it to the fullest and take a new journey. I believe that if you have a message you want to share, a story to tell, a problem to solve, there will always be someone out there wanting to hear it.