Joleen Rose Morales doesn’t want to blend in with everyone else. Instead, she creates her own path, tells her own story, and dances to her own beat. Joleen is a triple threat. She holds her own as a dancer, a makeup artist, and a licensed skincare expert – dedicated in everything she does.
When I met Joleen at her quaint spa in Downtown Orlando, she took me back to the very beginning of her story. We cruised through her dance history, 9 to 5 jobs that just didn’t suit her charitable spirit, her esthetician education, and plenty of perseverance.
With 25+ years of dance experience, Joleen seeks out new adventures.
At the beginning of it all, Joleen danced. She dances for her heart, for her community, and for the future artists out there.
Joleen began dancing at 5 years old. She started out dancing ballet, as many people do. She quickly grew tired of ballet, and eventually danced hip-hop street styles. Dance has always been a passion of hers both in and out of school. Joleen’s sister even appeared on the first season of America’s Best Dance Crew, dancing in the underground scene.
Once Joleen turned 18, she realized the after-school programs she’d devoted her time to were no longer there. She was near the end of her teenage years, without a place to call her dance home. Joleen had to figure it out herself.
“Out of high school, where there’s no more after-school programs or clubs, you kinda have to go on your own,” Joleen said. “Dance-wise, I had to figure out what I wanted to do.”
In her early 20s, Joleen moved from Florida to North Carolina to work with youth pastors for a 9 – 5 job. She enjoyed the work, but she knew she needed to do something different.
Then, Joleen moved on to work in an assisted living office. She worked in HR, knew she did great work, but again, she didn’t feel like she was living.
Joleen would look outside her office window, knowing she worked with people who were getting older, and felt like she was called to do so much more.
Unsure of her future, Joleen returned to the Sunshine State to pursue dance.
“I left everything, came back here, and started all over again.”
Joleen’s ultimate goal was to move to Los Angeles, CA. Her plans quickly changed when she found an online listing asking for dancers in Orlando, FL.
Dancing for a nonprofit expanded her makeup knowledge.
Former WWE wrestler Marc Mero held dance auditions for his nonprofit Champion of Choices in Orlando. He was looking for dancers to give audiences a full-out show, including segments of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” to inspire people and schools around the world to be the best they can be.
Joleen impressed the team with her audition, and wound up working with Marc Mero in Champion of Choices. She toured with the team, applying zombie makeup for the “Thriller” dance, and practiced more elegant makeup for her own dance recitals on the side.
“I went from having to do zombie makeup to looking pretty at the end of the show,” Joleen said. “That’s where I think my love of makeup really took off because I was having to figure out, how do I make myself look more dead? And then figure out, how do I go from dead to looking glowy and beautiful on stage?”
Friends caught on to Joleen’s talent; they asked her to do their recital makeup too. One thing led to another, and Joleen wound up helping more and more people do their makeup.
Joleen enjoyed her time with Champion of Choices, but once again she was ready to move on and find something different.
“I realized I was doing something for everyone else,” Joleen said. “I know for me, it wasn’t where I wanted to go in the long-term.”
Joleen says she and Marc Mero are still good friends. She seems to leave on good terms with her employers and teammates, always ready for the next step.
“My dance checklist has been all crossed off!”
Physical roadblocks pushed her to become a makeup artist.
By this time, Joleen was teaching dance at studios, performing at dance gigs, judging dance competitions, and working a part-time job. In all the busyness, she hit a roadblock with her health.
Joleen was running around to work all of her jobs, and she became sick, experiencing nerve damage at an unfortunate time. Shingles took over her body at age 30. Joleen couldn’t dance for months.
“That kinda slowed me down, but at the same time it got me thankful because it pushed me more into makeup.”
Joleen started learning more and more about makeup artistry by watching YouTube tutorials. These makeup artists inspired her. “I was loving their creativity,” she said.
Ever since focusing on this craft, it’s opened so many doors for Joleen. She has a strong following and a good network in the dance community, which allows her to book many clients today. She says, “it kinda just spread like wildfire.”
Becoming a skincare expert
Joleen knew how to cover up imperfections, but she wasn’t sure how to embrace natural skin just yet. She wanted to learn more about skincare once clients started asking for advice about it.
This motivated her to go to school to expand her knowledge on the topic. In Joleen’s search, she came across the Hollywood Institute of Beauty Careers in Casselberry, FL.
It was her lucky day: there was a special promotion going on with a half-off discount for tuition. The discount combined with the convenience location motivated Joleen to start school.
Her friends and family were generous, donating money to jumpstart her education. She didn’t ask for the money – friends said, “we were gonna do it because we wanna make sure you get to school.”
Joleen’s dance gigs helped pay bills and school tuition. As Joleen studied skincare, she continued to help people. She became the go-to makeup expert, and her friends came through when she needed them.
“Everything was coming together,” she said.
Finding a focus
Once Joleen received her esthetician license, it was time for her to figure out what to do next. She wanted experience working in the field, but she didn’t want to work in someone else’s spa business. Joleen wanted more than another 9-5 job.
“I just feel like it was God saying no, you just have to trust, walk in faith and keep going,” she said. “It was something that I really wanted to do. Even though you hate where you are sometimes, you just have to focus on where you can be.”
That’s when Joleen got in touch with Jaz, a small business owner in Thornton Park. Jaz owns SimplyJaz Eyelash Extensions, another aspect of beauty Joleen is interested in. She offered to introduce Joleen to the owner of the space so Joleen could open her own spa.
Joleen opened Skin Belief in October 2016, and took the risk of opening her own spa without an established clientele. Since opening, the art community has been supporting her tremendously by booking facials and referring people to her establishment.
There were many highs and lows for Joleen with long days and nights between school and work, but it all paid off.
“I kept going back to what do you wanna do? Where do you see yourself? You just need to keep going.”
Growing her nonprofit, Defining Movement
Joleen continues to be the ultimate multitasker, performing on the side and working part time at a church. Joleen is thankful. She tries to look at what she has to do for the whole month, and breaks it down to a week to find a balance.
Building a dance community has been so important in her life. She started promoting one of her ideas, IDEM (pronounced eye-dem), which stands for “I Define Every Movement.” Then, she shortened the name and started a nonprofit known as Defining Movement.
Joleen wants to create a dance company to help children and put on shows and performances. “I just wanna be able to dance and oversee it rather than teach it. I wanna build something.”
Defining Movement includes dance battles, showcases, and other creative outlets. Joleen celebrated by throwing a huge, dance party to bring the community together.
“In dance, you wanna be your own. You don’t want to look like everybody else.”
But she wasn’t stopping there. She went on to create the Beyond Creativity Conference – a dance competition and arts conference.
Joleen says BCC is her favorite dance event of the year. Nearly 300 people showed up to the conference the first year. It was difficult in the beginning when she called gyms for sponsorship and venue support. Everyone said no. “The moment I said hip-hop, they said no.”
Once Joleen started asking churches for help, they helped her out, providing her with a safe space to host the conference and to practice her craft.
Supporting the urban arts
Joleen’s number one goal is to setup a community center to provide jobs and classes for artists. She really wants to push for the urban arts, such as dancing, painting, poetry.
There are so many different styles of dancing – urban arts could include flexing, turfing, popping, locking. These are all forms of street style dance.
“We’re trying to raise awareness that dance and the arts need to be more relevant here,” she said. Jazz, tap, and ballet seem to have dance programs. Now it’s time for the urban arts to offer classes.
“We want anybody who’s any kind of artist to have a hub,” Joleen said. “Makeup artist, dancer, painter, anything. This is a hub for you.”
Joleen says a lack of education and stigmas give people the wrong idea about graffiti and dance. Joleen mentions graffiti as a form of street art. Unfortunately, the songs on the radio don’t make these misconceptions any better.
“It’s not as bad as you think it is,” she said.
Joleen says it’s not just about hip-hop – there are other styles, but hip-hop is more well-known. The elements of hip-hop includes freestyle dance, a DJ, a breaker, an MC, and graffiti.
She wants to push for the urban arts, but encourages all dance styles to get involved.
“I’m down to reach out to any style of dance,” she said. “Even if you wanna do ballet – if you wanna get down with us, come get down with us! It’s more of a freestyle thing. We just love the arts.”
Through all of the highs and the lows, Joleen feels that every artist will face difficult situations.
“Being an artist, and going through this whole lifestyle change, and then going through ups and downs…it really tests your faith.”
Faith plays an important role in Joleen’s life. She grew up going to church with family, but drifted away from it later on.
She returned to practicing her faith around age 25 because she felt like there was an emptiness in her life, and aspects of her life weren’t clicking.
“I don’t know about everything else, but so far you [God] have told me several things, and I said I’m going to keep listening to that.”
Joleen says, “It’s definitely not the easiest,” and that she could use a little help. “It’s real to me. You can’t literally walk in my shoes. I can only tell you about it.”
When she turns to her faith, she feels stronger, and situations in her life make sense.
“It’s just love,” she says. Praying helps her focus and get back on the right path. “That’s my backbone. That’s something that nobody can take away.”
Opening Skin Belief – Joleen’s Spa Business
As an esthetician and makeup artist, Joleen encourages clients to “learn to love yourself without makeup first.”
“If you don’t believe in yourself, then all of this is fluff.” She wants women to feel good in their natural skin before covering it up. “I want them to feel amazing about who they are.”
Joleen likes to cater to people and pamper them. Some of the services she offers at the Skin Belief spa include makeup, facials, waxing, and soon she will offer lash extensions.
Whether it’s starting a business or finding a solid support system, she says it’s important to believe in yourself. Sometimes family might be skeptical about opening up a business. They care, and they’re nervous for their children.
“[My family] looks at me like I’m crazy. I’m already a vegetarian. And I’m Puerto Rican. So that doesn’t make sense,” she laughs. “And then this girl is running around and trying to dance and do makeup…Now, they love it.”
Joleen is the first person in her family to open up a business. Word-of-mouth referrals help spread the word in the community.
“It’s important to support other people. You might not expect it back at all, but it does come back.”
Joleen’s word of the year for 2018 is FAITH. “It’s difficult when you start any kind of business. It’s scary and it’s nerve-racking…but so far, the amount of blessings I’ve been getting has been insane.”
What’s the best part of owning a small, local business? “It’s mine,” she says. “It’s a lot of hard work, and then when it’s done, it’s like, ‘I did it!'”