Helping Atlantans look their best is not only Raquel Souza’s job, it’s her passion. This esthetician-turned-beauty mogul came to Atlanta from her native Brazil about 18 years ago — from humble beginnings as a nanny, to cosmetology school, and now to the successful owner of four locations of her popular beauty salons, Sweet Peach Wax and Sugaring Studio and the new Swatch Box Nail and Beauty Studio in Buckhead. Affectionately known as the “Vagina Queen,” this Brazilian wax and sugaring expert has the talent, approachable attitude and a killer sense of humor that puts all of her clients and friends at ease. It’s time to strip away the façade and get to know the real Raquel Souza as she is our newest FACE of Atlanta.
What made you move to Atlanta from your native Brazil? What are the biggest cultural differences you’ve noticed between the two places?
I was in my 20s when I moved to the United States. I was just looking for a change from Brazil and wanted to learn English. I think the biggest cultural difference is that in the United States, anything is possible as long as you put in hard work and are passionate in what you do, which is very different from Brazil.
You went from speaking no English and working as a nanny when you first moved here to becoming a leader in Atlanta’s beauty industry. How did you do it? What was/is your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge was taking the English that I learned with the kids, and applying it to the business and learning all of the rules and regulations of the beauty industry. I knew it was not impossible with hard work and focus.
What exactly is sugaring?
Sugaring is an ancient Middle Eastern practice of hair removal that uses an all-natural paste made from sugar, water and lemon juice to remove the hair follicle from the root. It is 100 percent natural — you can even eat the paste! Sugaring is also less painful than waxing, because the sugar adheres to only the hair, not the skin. I was the first “sugarist” in Atlanta, and Sweet Peach was the very first studio to offer sugaring.
What’s the most fulfilling part about running five businesses? What’s the most challenging?
The most fulfilling part is being able to provide jobs for more than 30 people and to have them as part of your family! I also love getting all the amazing feedback from our clients. The most challenging? I really don’t have any challenges and believe there is a solution to any issue.
When you’re feeling a bit homesick and need a Brazilian fix, where do you go in Atlanta?
I really don’t get homesick because Brazil is my country, and the United States is my home. However, when I need a little taste of Brazil, I love to go to Chama Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse. Even being a vegan, they have the best rice and beans from Brazil, as well as an amazing salad bar and the best Caipirinha (famous Brazilian cocktail) in the city! When I miss samba dancing, I like to go see the Brazilian band Rua 6 at Eclipse di Luna as well.
What would you tell up-and-coming entrepreneurs?
Don’t wait for the right time as there is no right time. If you wait for the right time, you will never get anything done or accomplish what you want in life. Also, don’t be scared of anything — with hard work and dedication you can achieve anything.
What are your must-have beauty recommendations for the spring?
Get your skin and body ready for the warmer weather. I would suggest starting with an exfoliating body scrub at Swatch Box to remove all the dead cells. Follow with a wax or sugar and a spray tan at Sweet Peach to give you a nice glow. You will be ready to wear those cute spring dresses or hit the beach in no time!
We heard you’re planning an Atlanta wedding. Where did you meet your fiancé, and what plans have you nailed down so far? Which local vendors are you sure to hit up for the big day?
I met my fiancé, Ryan Akly, a restaurateur and marketing guru, at his lounge Three Sheets in Sandy Springs. We haven’t had much time for wedding planning so we haven’t made any decisions on when and where yet … but it will happen.
How does your beauty routine vary from the tropical climate of your native Brazil to the seasonal highs and lows of Atlanta? What is the one product you recommend for your customers/readers?
I do mini facials at home pretty much every day and every two months, I get a facial. When I opened Swatch Box I had to carry my favorite skin care line, Eminence Organic Skin Care. All of their products are amazing, but I am in love with their SPF powder, eye cream, moisturizer and mask. They are the best, and their products are all organic and made from fruits and vegetables. Sometimes I even eat some of their products!
Where do you see yourself and your business(es) in 10 years?
I can see 20 more locations of Sweet Peach and Swatch Box in major markets around the United States. My ultimate goal is to have all my co-workers own and operate their own Sweet Peach and Swatch Box.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
SHUT UP! … Don’t tell anything to anyone until it is signed, sealed and delivered.
What are three things you can’t live without, excluding friends, family and faith?
Good health, fuzzy socks and lip balm.
A loving pat on the (hairless) back to Raquel Souza for sharing more about her life, her business and her experience of the American dream.
And as always, a big thank you to photographer extraordinaire, CatMax Photography.