American Spa interview.
How many years have you been involved in the spa/hospitality industry?
Around 20 years. I started as a massage therapist, doing home visits and then in 2002 together with my partner we opened our business in London. Pure Massage was the first place solely dedicated to massage, which led to the launch of Pure Massage Spa Training Method® that today provides spas worldwide with training in a modern, holistic concept of massage.
What was the path that led you into the spa industry?
Paradoxically it was either the lack of touch or touch which was only associated with violence that brought me to this industry. I grew up in a very violent environment and received a clear message from a very early age that I shall avoid touch, otherwise I will be hurt and humiliated. So for a long time I avoided physical contact as much as possible. In effect I was deprived of touch, not being able to give it and even most importantly to receive it either. By chance I went to an opening evening at a massage school that was recommended to me by a friend. My first reaction was: “What?! Me?! Massaging? You must joking!” But I went there and it was a turning point in my life that not only gave me the most beloved profession but also helped me to heal my own wounds and finally allowed me to shape Pure Massage Spa Training Method® and offer it to other therapists, with my full understanding and awareness of every aspect of their work.
What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of being in the spa industry?
Dealing with management is always the most challenging for me. Therapists have a thin skin, they have to, otherwise they would be unable to develop their skills of being in tune with clients and offering authentic acceptance and care. It is crucial to acknowledge that and build relationship with your team accordingly.
The occupation itself is a reward, because you fundamentally work FOR people not against them. This gives you such a broad perspective on the importance of your work but also brings great responsibility if you are taking it really seriously. You have a responsibility toward your clients, your therapists, students and yourself.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
To create my method! Everything that I learned about this profession from being a therapist, to being the director of my company has shaped my thought processes.
From being a traveler and explorer of different cultures, to exploring different massage traditions, to uncovering the importance of touch, everything is included in this concept. To be able to share it now with others truly excites me, and makes me happy. I needed to discover it through my own mistakes and victories, and now it’s here, a structured, clear, empowering methodology for my students. Yes this is my proudest accomplishment!
What has surprised you most about working in the spa industry?
How much the human aspect of our profession is still not addressed, acknowledged and explored. We would rather talk only about profits and new avenues of increasing the financial benefits, than to remind ourselves of our profound role in supporting people on their journeys, especially during these current times that is full of uncertainty and confusion.
What qualities do you look for in your spa staff?
We look less to the number of years a person has practiced massage but more to see if they had a call to the profession, a quest often deeply hidden or not formed well yet…but you could sense it. The base which would be fundamental to plant the seeds. Our approach was always to build long term relationships, receive and give, inspire but also learn something back as well.
Where do you think the industry is heading?
This is a very exciting moment as the industry needs to shift and evolve, as it has this unique chance to be a key player in prevention and a provider of healthy lifestyle examples. Of course for this you need to have well-trained staff who are able to embrace your vision and mission.
The other interesting aspect is that we are moving away from pampering and “gimmick luxury” and people want more authentic experiences that bring us in tune with our bodies, but also our minds. So a lot of modalities need to be re-invented because if before it was enough for a hotel to have a spa, now every spa needs a wellness concept, and it needs to integrate its concept into the several departments of the hotel or resort, otherwise it will not work. Scaleable versions of wellness will also be available as wellness cannot be seen as a one off, but needs to guide you on a daily basis to be able to manage our work/life balance.
Finally, I believe that wellness will be more democratised reaching beyond its narrowing association with wealthy elites, as I believe it is fundamental to have an ethical approach on everything we do, especially in the wellness industry.
What is the strangest client request you’ve fielded?
Strange according to whom? The question seems to have a judging element within it and I learned that in order to truly be in service for your client you need to leave outside of your treatment room your views, opinions and presumptions.
What is the most bizarre treatment you’ve experienced?
It wasn’t bizarre really but funny. My massage treatment in Bali in the company of cows, in the middle of the jungle, between rice fields, it was a massage was fantastic by the way.
What new spa treatment would you like to try?
I am always looking to try treatments that really touch the soul, and to reach the soul you need to connect with the person. Both physically and emotionally. I have been interested by the treatments offered at Vair Spa in Puglia. They are a psycho-emotional spa. Less concerned with laying products on the face and body, more interested in connecting with the individual.
What’s your go-to spa treatment?
Always massage, preferable Pure Massage. Forgive me lack of modesty but I truly believe that our massage is great! Whenever we introduce our method, spas very quickly gain recognition by press and most importantly by clients as providing excellence in massage.
What’s your favorite skincare ingredient?
Coconut oil and rosa mosqueta
Which brands are your go-to favorites?
Jane Scrivner, Rocco Forte
Tell us two things about yourself we don’t know.
Hmmm…I bake the most delicious polish apple cake “Szarlotka” this would be one of them. Secondly, on my trip to Africa I had a pleasure and privilege to be initiated by powerful shamans from Namibia and Botswana and work with them for a while.
What positions have you worked in that you feel have been most influential to your career?
When I was running my Pure Massage clinics (which are now run by my co-founder), managing the team was a most profound lesson for me on self awareness, understanding the dynamic of the team, and the importance of clear communication and a meaning of being in service. I wouldn't be today where I am without this learning.
If you could work in any other profession in the world, what would you be?
I would be a dancer or pianist
How would you sum up your personal philosophy?
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Less worry and live more in the present moment
How do you like to spend your time away from work?
Traveling! Meeting people! Wandering! Thinking! Writing! Being!
What are your three greatest priorities in life?
To be true to myself, to love and to work meaningfully
What’s the best advice you’ve received?
“This, too, will pass”
What about your position excites you most?