RISEHI.com Feature


Waimea High School / Kauai – Class of 1991

Owner & Director of Education: Makana Esthetics & Wellness Academy


Caring for people is a way of life for Malia Sanchez. It’s a quality so deeply a part of her being that when you talk with her, the nurturing language she speaks seems to flow as easily as another breathes.

Malia’s empathetic foundation was set growing up on Kauai. Surrounded by a large, loving family, her days were filled with the beauty of the Garden Isle’s outdoors. If you ask Malia today what defines her approach to taking care of others, you will hear her say that these two significant experiences have had a profound effect on her philosophy: family and nature.

For Malia, the schooling that would eventually lead her to become the Owner and Director of Education at the Makana Esthetics & Wellness Academy in Honolulu began outside of the formal classroom – in her aunt’s salon and alongside her mother. In the salon, she would help with and observe the daily services, and then she would head off to learn the trades of the industry at classes with her mother. By the time Malia was in high school, she was cutting hair, waxing eyebrows, doing nails, you name it. None of it felt like work to her, beauty care was second nature.

After spending a semester at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, she made the decision to move to Oahu to attend beauty school. It was a choice that set the course on which Malia would impact hundreds of lives – through her own work and as Makana Academy’s passionate leader in the education of future estheticians and wellness professionals.

Read more to find out Malia Sanchez’s thoughts on guiding her students, what it takes to be a successful in the field, why it’s important to pay attention to your interests, and what sets Hawaii’s estheticians apart from the rest.

What were you like a teenager?

I have a really big family, so as a teenager, I enjoyed being with them. My days were filled with being outside and being in nature – going to the beach, riding horses – and really appreciating the beauty of home.

Were you a good student in school?

School was alright – it was basically doing what you need to get done. I’m more of a visual learner and like hands-on learning. I’m more creative.

When did your interest in the beauty profession begin and develop?

I grew up in the field. My aunt had her salon and my mom was in the field. I would be in the shop helping out and watching what was going on. I would attend classes with my mom, so I was always being stimulated. It was fun for me and a part of who I was naturally. After high school, I went to UH Hilo for a semester and realized, no I need to go to beauty school. I came to Oahu to get my license and ever since then, I’ve stayed in the field.

How did you recognize that you possess leadership skills in the education aspect of the field?

I think it’s because of my very nurturing personality. Being from such a huge family and loving nature, I became very empathetic and appreciative. The natural leadership skills just come from wanting to care for and help people. I have the patience to listen to people. I want to understand them and help them be better or feel better. I’ve also watched other people that I respect and I’ve been mentored by them without really knowing that I am. I think when we admire people, we have to ask ourselves, “Why do we admire them?” Then, you start to see the qualities that you’re seeking and it allows you to tap into that area within yourself.

You’re responsible for the training of so many individuals at Makana Academy, what’s your philosophy for guiding them?

I learn about the person. I listen to them and I hear their interests. I see them unsure, then I see their growth – this amazing person emerges. I help to guide them into the right area at the time that they’re at. You know what I’m saying? In this time, in this phase of their life, this is where I see them, and I help them go towards it. I encourage them that as they build confidence. Everything is a stepping stone; everything builds to be more and be better.

What are some advantages one has coming from the esthetician field in Hawaii than, say, from the mainland? What sets Hawaii apart from the rest?

Our environment, our beauty, really gives us that advantage in life to be happier. I think happier people, having more appreciation in your heart and in your being, helps to radiate onto others. I’m not saying anyone else can’t have this. I’m saying that it’s easier for us to pick ourselves up from a hard day, because we have beauty all around us. When you look outside and you feel blessed, you smile more. When you smile more, you engage more with people. When people come in and they want to be treated, they feel your energy as a person. It’s not superficial, we genuinely want to help. I think the ego is a little less, too, and that is where I feel we are different.

You have a lot that you’re giving of yourself on a daily basis. Where do you find the energy?

Really, my family. I love being with my children and my husband. Also, I get satisfaction and joy from seeing my students succeed. That keeps me going.

What advice do you have for someone interested in the beauty field?

Number one, ask yourself, “What draws my interest to the industry?” I think at the top should be enjoying seeing others happy. If you can help someone to have a better day, that will bring fulfillment to you as a person. I tell people that if this is something you really want to do, at Makana Academy, it’s just 19 weeks of your life for a career that will last the rest of your life. It’s a very short term investment for long term rewards.

Are there any myths about the field that you’d like to debunk?

Well, it’s not just about you and your clients. You have to be a team player. It’s about contributing to everyone around you. In order become a professional, it also takes continued education and being current as to what’s going on. You have to work for it and you have to be sincere. I think the people who come in and have sincerity for the work that they’re doing are in the field much longer and are much more successful.

What does success mean to you?

It can be so much. I’m looking at my students, that’s where my goal and my position is – to see them be successful. So success to me is when I see a student come in house, and they may be shy and timid, and their self-esteem may be low, and seeing this person change. It is really amazing to have them leave more confident with their head up higher. They learn a career skill and they have a trade, but it’s not only about the trade, it’s about the person. We’re a small school, and we keep it small to have a family environment. We’re helping your spirit as well.

What are your thoughts on pursuing your passion as a career?

When you have a passion for something, you may not see it when you’re 17 or 18. As you develop as a person, your goals, your ambition, and your drive will develop as well and they will push you forward. Pay attention to the areas that interest you and the areas that you’re drawn to naturally as a human being. Then look from there, where do these interests and desires fit into career choice? Because then it’s not a career, it’s a passion, and life will be much more enjoyable.