When Anastasia Soare came to America from Romania in the ’90s she quickly became known as the “Eyebrow Queen.” Thanks to her art school education, Soare, who was working as an esthetician, realized that grooming, shaping and growing brows out could dramatically transform people’s look. At a time when women were tweezing their eyebrow hairs into nonexistence, her impeccable technique changed the way women — and Hollywood — thought about their brows.
Since then, Soare has transformed her passion for brows into a booming business. She opened her flagship Beverly Hills salon in 1997 and launch a cosmetics line, Anastaisa Beverly Hills, in 2000. Her brow products, like the iconic Brow Wiz pencil and Clear Brow Gel, quickly became cult-favorites in the beauty community. Then over a decade after its launch, Soare’s daughter and ABH brand president, Claudia Soare (also known as Norvina), turned the brand into a household name though its expansion into all color cosmetics, including eye shadow palettes, liquid lipsticks, blushes, highlighters and more.
As Anastasia Beverly Hills prepares to celebrate its monumental 20th anniversary next year, PEOPLE caught up with Soare and her daughter to discuss their rise to the top.
When did you first discover that doing brows was your calling?
By working with most of the supermodels of the early ’90s I realized nobody paid attention to eyebrows. When I went to art school in Romania, we learned the Golden Ratio Technique Theory, which taught us that when you draw a portrait and want to show an emotion, you change the eyebrows. They are the most important feature on the face. I remember then looking at my eyebrows and I looked surprised all the time because I realized I was tweezing them the wrong shape. So I started going to the library and developing this technique on how to shape eyebrows according to everybody’s bone structure.
Can you break down your brow theory?
The eyebrow should begin above the middle of the inside of the nostril. The end of the eyebrow should be at the outside of the corner of the nose [lined up with] the outside corner of the eye. The middle of the iris should be lined up with the highest point of the eyebrow. That’s the general rule no matter what face shape you have, or how big or how small the eyes are.
So how were you able to convince people to let you do their brows?
For the first year when I was working at a salon on Melrose Place, I didn’t even charge because people didn’t believe that brows should be a service. Before a facial, I would remove a few hairs and talk clients through my theory. I started doing this little by little. Many of my clients were agents who represented celebrities and supermodels, which is how I started working with them. Soon, makeup artists would see what I did and noticed it was easier for them to do makeup after I did brows. So they began sending me their clients.
Who was your first major celebrity client?
I was fresh off the boat from Romania, and one of my clients was the agent to all of the ’90s supermodels: Gail Elliott, Naomi Campbell, Stephanie Seymour, Cindy Crawford. I had no idea who these girls were! They were so gorgeous, absolutely the most beautiful women I have ever seen in my life. Then Michelle Pfeiffer and Faye Dunaway started to become regular clients. It was all word of mouth, how everything got started. I was so lucky in the beginning to work with so many celebrities. They validated my work. Because of them, everybody else started looking into eyebrows.
Now you work with Kim Kardashian West! How did that friendship start?
I knew her for so many years and every time I would see her at a party, I would tell her I want to do your eyebrows! But she would say, “No, I do my own eyebrows.” If you look way back in older photos, you will see her brows were stronger and more square-shaped before. Once she let me finally do them, she couldn’t believe herself. What changed her look a lot is her eyebrows. Now they’re cleaner, softer and compliment all her features. I think her eyebrows are one of her most beautiful features that pulls her whole look together.
Kim famously visits her esthetician at 10 p.m. to squeeze in late-night facials. Does she do the same for brow touch-ups?
She comes to my house in the morning, but she doesn’t have any crazy requests. I have to say, she is one of the most professional clients I work with. If she says, “I will be there at 9 a.m.,” she will be there at 8:55 a.m. I do all of [the Kardashian-Jenners] and it’s crazy how all of them are so on time and professional. I have to say Kris Jenner really taught all those girls well. They’re like army generals. They know exactly what they have to do.
Michelle Obama is a client of yours too. What does it take to audition for the FLOTUS?
You need to know your eyebrow shaping technique! I’ve been doing her for a few years. I started convincing her to let her eyebrow grow a little thicker so now they’re a bit fuller. It completely changed her look. I think her brow represents who she is: powerful and smart.
How would you describe her eyebrow shape?
She has a high arch eyebrow. I would call it flawless — the way she is. She’s one of the most incredible people I met in my career.
When did you feel like you “made it” in your career?
Being asked by Oprah Winfrey to be on her show and do her eyebrows in 2006. To me, that was like getting an Oscar. It was a stamp of approval from a woman that is incredible. It propelled my career to a different level.
Were you nervous?
I wasn’t nervous at the beginning until my daughter said, “Mom, do you know she hates to get her eyebrows done? She said several times on her show that she doesn’t like it.” I thought, “Oh God,” but when I got there she just let me go. She saw that I knew what I was doing and she said, “Oh my god. This is not painful. Did you use numbing cream?” And I said, “No. This is how it is!” She is the one person I admire so much, so I got my Oscar by meeting her.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
There are challenges, but I call business a challenge. Every day there are different problems that you need to solve. But I think the good part of being born in Romania is that I’ve seen that in this country, we have access to everything. We are so lucky to have so many opportunities to learn. People don’t understand how lucky we are.
What’s the best part of what you do?
I love every single part of it. I love to work with celebrities. I love to work with women that are mothers, which in my opinion, they are the biggest heroes. I learn something everyday from someone I work with.
What’s one of the greatest lessons you’ve learned?
I’ve known Oprah since 1998 or 1999. It is incredible how amazing she is. When you are around her, you see how considerate, giving and wonderful she is with the people around her. You’re thinking, wow, if she is like that, we need to be better too. I want to be at least 10 percent of what she is.
How has social media affected the beauty industry and your business as a whole?
Anastasia: I’d like Claudia to answer that, because she is the mastermind behind it!
Claudia: Before Instagram and social media, we were just a brow brand — a very successful brow brand, but pretty much only a brow brand. This allowed us to be a full-fledged makeup brand. Right around 2012, we were like, “What’s next?” But it was really challenging to transition and be more than what we were labeled as, which was brows. So we decided to pretty much talk to the consumers directly about our products, Anastasia’s method and makeup in general. It started off with the Contour Kit, and then it blew up.