Tucked away in her small shop on Bandywood is a woman who works every day to make other women feel beautiful. Val Cole, owner of Daniel Cole Collection Cosmetics, has spent most of her life in Nashville, having moved here when she was 4 years old. She’s a graduate of Harpeth Hall and Hollins University. Her career path that began as a teenager is a story of a mother-daughter homespun business that continues today. With the addition of her daughters–Addie, who works in the shop and does weddings/photo shoots, and Ashley, who is the master of behind-the-scenes jobs, like mixing their recipe for foundations, designing business cards and more–Daniel Cole Collection has come full circle.
Your career began while in high school. Can you tell us how you became an expert in makeup?
As you know, experience and lots of practice are the best ways to learn. You are able to quickly judge colors, eye shapes and skin tones based upon past experiences. Of course, you learn from bumps in the road, like putting right lashes on the left eye … those silly mistakes only happen once if you want to continue working.
Your mom was an inspiration as a makeup artist. Tell us about that.
My mom started working as a makeup artist on black-and-white TV shows. Her work on the “Porter and Dolly Show,” “The Del Reeves Country Carnival” and “The Johnny Cash Show” at the Ryman summer series with legendary makeup artist Jo Coulter earned her a solid start in the local TV industry. Really, every working makeup artist in town stemmed from Jo Coulter. My mother was proud of that. When she needed help with the CMA awards, I lied about my age to go work with her.
Speaking of your mom, how did you two get in business?
It occurred through a circuitous path. I majored in French and was a translator for Le Meridien Hotel, which was owned by Air France at the time. As a result, I moved to Washington, D.C., right after college. I always gravitated to anything French and worked at Pierre Deux, a premier French furniture and fabric store in Washington that was eventually sold to Moet Chandon. Imagine a French Laura Ashley. While I was in D.C., my mother’s business grew, especially when she landed the TNN account (now CMT). She was managing a staff of makeup artists and needed help, so I came home. We were in the thick of it with the CMA Awards, shows like “Hee Haw” and more. Talk about false eyelashes!
Speaking of false eyelashes, they’re big today. Why?
It is well-known by makeup artists that the right false eyelashes will take 10 years off you. I love the cheap ones better than expensive, as they are usually more natural. Love Minnie Mouse but don’t want to look like her.
How has being a makeup artist for TV changed since you and your mom were in the business for more than 30 years?
Really, it is technology. In the early days of TV, we overly made up the stars, so there was contrast in their looks. Now with high definition TV, it mirrors film. The cameras are so good that if you apply too much makeup, it’s a mistake.
So after 30 years, you decided to get out of TV and start Daniel Cole Collection. Why?
I had to choose, as many women do in their careers. As I was standing in the middle of a field with a cowboy on a video shoot, the question was, “Do I pick my kids up at school or let someone else?” To this day, even though my children are grown, we still close at 3 p.m. if we don’t have a late appointment. So Mom and I both looked at each other and knew it was time to get out of the business. We hired chemists in 1998 to help us create the Daniel Cole makeup line. Then, we found our space on Bandywood and opened in 2000. Both of us wanted to create an atmosphere that wasn’t intimidating and felt more like home. Also, it was important to us to give women an alternative to the typical department store experience.
As I sat here, I was surprised how many women I know come through your doors. Why do women like to shop here?
There are lots of reasons. We teach women how to apply their makeup so they can look great without much fuss. Also, we show them what to do for the long term and not what is the new fad. We aren’t selling products because we have quotas to meet. Hopefully, they feel comfortable and not intimidated … no pressure.
Tell me more about Daniel Cole makeup.
The first thing we did was take all the makeup that we loved, then tweak it, then create something better. Our makeup has more pigment, so you need less of it, and it lasts a long time. From being makeup artists, we completely understand color and matching skin tones. Our line of brushes is the best and some much more affordable than a Chanel brush. Overall, women get a high-quality makeup for much, much less. Several dermatologists and plastic surgeons recommend us because our products are perfect for sensitive, allergic skin and eyes. If my mother or I wasn’t allergic to it, then we knew it was a great blend. So we were perfect guinea pigs for our products.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
From my mom: You can have it all, just not at the same time. I hate to admit that she was right.
From my grandmother: Be careful what you wish for, for surely you will have it.
For freelancers: When one door closes, a window opens.
What upcoming local event are you most looking forward to?
Of course, The Swan Ball that just happened is the biggest day of the year. We serve champagne, cookies and throw a party for old and new customers. I love the TACA festival in Centennial Park. Coming up, we are going to Scotland in July to visit our exchange student and his family.
Favorite thing to do on a Saturday night?
Usually, I have weddings on Saturday night, so I like to stay at home and have a glass of wine and relax. It is always fun to have dinner with friends. Love to have dinner with friends.
What’s your favorite local restaurant?
OK, full disclosure, my husband, Curt, owns Firefly Grille in Nashville and Fly South in Leiper’s Fork. So I have to say those two! Even if Curt had nothing to do with it, they would still be some of my favorites.
What’s another place you like to go?
Anything outside, especially Adele’s and The Pharmacy. Marché is a favorite, too. I haven’t had anything but wonderful meals. The big joke in my family is that I love the fish filet at McDonald’s—family comfort food for me, and they all tease me about my love for “square fish.”
What books are you currently reading?
Scotland, Scotland, family heritage and more Scotland.
Do you have any personality quirks or irrational fears?
Terrified of wasps. I called Mom crying because there was a wasp in the baby’s room. I broke out in a sweat. I hate bugs, period!
How would your family describe you?
I have a nickname: Hurricane Val. When I asked them, I thought they would say a little kooky or nutty, but two of them responded so far “driven” and “reliable.” I kind of hoped for loving, but I’ll take those.
Name three things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends.
*I am obviously not good with numbers, but I still stand by my four choices!
Thank you to Ashley Hylbert for today’s beautiful photos. See more of her work at ashleyhylbert.com.