Taryn Dean is a towering presence.
It’s not that she’s intimidating, necessarily. She’s stately and elegant, but also totally approachable. Her magic hangs around her, not closing others out but beckoning them in. Dean’s confidence springs partially from many cycles of reinvention: from the power of starting over, time and time again and on her own terms, lending her an air of humility rare for someone as successful as she’s become.
The Beauty Mage, which is the title Dean has come to operate under, is here to build bridges, not walls. Her work already encompasses the substantial realms beauty and spirituality, including lash artist, aesthetician, healer, activist, and therapist, and her new private practice — a metaphysical beauty studio — is significant enough to earn her a recent write-up in The Hollywood Reporter. Of course, that’s partially because her client list already includes the likes of Jada Pinkett Smith, Ava Duvernay, Constace Wu, and luckily for me, Cinnamon co-founder Shannon Cooke, who has been raving about this impactful, imperative monthly lash appointment practically since I met her.
Reinvention instills something deep and powerful in a person; it’s the emotional muscle memory that other people’s perceptions of you can be dissolved and reshaped at any time. Maybe I’m projecting, but it seems like there isn’t an ounce of fear in Taryn. Though she’s kind, gentle, and personable, still she looms — as a mage should.
But in order to look forward, it’s important to learn about Dean’s past, and the circumstances that made her who she is. Growing up in Leimert Park, an artsy, predominantly Black neighborhood in South LA (think open mic nights like Project Blowed and the arts-focused center that hosts them, KAOS Network), Dean credits the neighborhood with influencing her own individuality. The emphasis on being yourself, and being different, impacted her at a young age.
“I think growing up there was what sparked my creativity, and what gave me such a passion for trying new things,” Dean explained, during a backyard interview in Echo Park on a sunny evening last month. “It gave me the courage to be whoever I was, because it was cool to be different. I still have such an affinity for the neighborhood, and it’s still a lot about community; we knew all of our neighbors and people looked out for each other. All the jazz musicians and even some ceramicists and painters in that neighborhood still live there.”
After growing up surrounded by this artsy, entrepreneurial energy, Dean eventually earning an almost full-ride to USC, where she wanted to study Creative Writing. But her college years coincided with some brutal family news: during her freshman year, her father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Balancing early morning radiation treatments with class hours, the responsibility of a full-time job, and homework was ultimately too soul-crushing to maintain. Plus, the environment at USC did little to open up her creativity.
“My time at USC was among the most miserable years of my life,” she remembered, ruefully. “I absolutely hated USC. I actually stopped writing because of USC. Everything had to be formulaic. Where’s the creativity in this and when do I get to be creative, if not in these classes? You tell people you go to USC and everyone’s like, ‘Oh my god, that’s amazing, what a great thing that you’re doing.’ USC is so prestigious, but I hated it, and I was so unhappy.”
Recognizing that the balancing act wasn’t working for her, Dean trusted her gut, dropped out, and struck out on her own. After trying to fit into the corporate, structured world of the film industry at studios like Warner Bros., and then moving in and out of personal shopping and styling, she eventually wound up in the beauty world, more specifically, doing lash extensions; the freedom and the flexibility suited her much better than fashion or Hollywood could. After seeing a friend’s success in the quickly-growing field, Dean was first trained in the art by her friend, and later studied in an intensive six-month program to officially receive her aesthetician’s license. From there, her practice really began to blossom.
Working out of the Silver Lake shop, GBY Beauty (right on Sunset, near the club Los Globos) since 2016, Dean began to get a reputation, not just for her lash work, but for her talk therapy and spiritual understanding. “We’re higher beings but we’re higher beings with physical needs,” Dean explained. “It was my own personal practice with magic that I was discussing with my clients, and just talking to people about it while I was doing their lashes. Eventually, I was pulling cards and doing readings for them, right alongside the beauty services.”
Sensing the need for a combination of beauty rituals and magic, Dean began to cast about for her own space to practice what she calls Transcendental Beauty, a three-hour service that rolls talk therapy, Reiki, lash artistry, and Tarot into one comprehensive session and focuses around six core principles: release, breathe, cleanse, connect, enhance, transcend. It was impossible to get the kind of quiet she needed for Reiki, or sound baths, at the GBY space, so though she’ll still be operating as a stylist there over the next year, her new solo practice is Dean’s focus, particularly her combination sessions.
“Transcending was the only word that I felt like characterized what I wanted a client to feel while experiencing the service,” she explained. “I want clients to feel like their soul jumped up a couple levels, and they’re really above and beyond all the chaos and all the nuttiness that brought them to me, and now they’re floating above it, able to look down on it with some sense of peace.”
Signing the lease for her own space in the beginning of May (which, coincidentally dovetailed with the launch of Cinnamon), the Beauty Mage space is located in a studio in downtown LA. Though she has plans to open a stand-alone storefront of her own one day, for now Dean is osted up inside Maker City LA, a collective of workspaces at The Reef, an ever-growing “creative habitat” that also houses LA Mart and Magic Box. She’s offering her Transcendental Beauty sessions, Transcendental Lash sessions, classic full lash sets, solo Reiki and more at this new location.
And as a woman of color in the beauty industry, Dean is also looking to create a space where all kinds of women and men (Dean has recently worked out a very subtle ‘men-stentions’ lash service that isn’t feminizing) to feel comfortable coming for beauty services, noting that no matter who the practitioner of these ancient beauty and spiritual rituals may be, they’re pulling from historical knowledge created by communities of color.
“I am unabashedly pro-black in all ways, in all forms, and pro-brown and pro-trans,” Dean affirmed. “Now, I’m pro all other-ness, and at the same time, all of the women that pushed me into this work are white women — they’re women who are doing the work, have been doing the work, are working with other white women and they’re saying ‘where are the brown girls? Where’s the representation?’ Because on top of what they’re doing, they’re also pulling from brown culture.”
And just as she seeks to combine spiritual and beauty practices in her own work, Dean is also looking to make activism and a deeper understanding of critical political and social issues a part of the work she does in Los Angeles’ feminist and femme-focused communities.
“I’m in a position to not only provide a service to the women that were already my clientele — who by in large are white women — but also create a space with them, to raise awareness for them about issues. Even my wokest white girlfriends have blind spots. I really believe in community, I really believe in the interconnection of humans, and that women especially get shit done. If you can talk to the right group of women, and you can have the right connectors that knows somebody… that knows somebody… that knows somebody… you’ll never go without.”
On that note, expect to see Dean’s work showing up in various forms within the Cinnamon network in the near future. Beginning this summer she will be a contributing writer and columnist for the site, as well as helming her own podcast centered on reproductive health, particularly for women of color. As her background indicates, Taryn is too powerful a presence to be contained by just one industry. The Beauty Mage is ready to work her magic — in all its forms.