Allie: What brought you to the DC area?
Maurissa: I’m a Northern Virginia girl born and raised. I grew up in Fairfax County (go Woodson Cavaliers!), and I live in Annandale now.
Allie: Tell me a bit about your job.
Maurissa: I heard about NGLCC (National LGBT Chamber of Commerce) through an old colleague of mine. He knew that I was looking to make a change and we had worked together at my last job, and he told me he wanted me on his team. I’m the Corporate Relations Manager and I couldn’t be happier.
We are the only national certifying body of LGBT businesses. We look for businesses that are 51% or more owned and operated by a member of the LGBT community. I work with Fortune 1000 companies that are working to put their money where their mouth is and show that they are actively helping LGBT businesses.
Allie: What motivated you to take on this role?
Maurissa: I am bisexual. It’s important to me that there is an organization fighting for visibility and inclusion, as well as advocating for LGBT businesses.
Allie: I want to hear more about your side hustle.
Maurissa: It’s called Designs by Maurissa, I do makeup and clothing design. I took down my website, but one of my goals is to give it a facelift and get it back up in 2020.
Growing up, I was always doing people’s makeup and really enjoyed it. I wound up going to school to be a theater teacher but when my program was cut, I switched my track to hair and make up design. I also took a costuming class and fell in love with it. I started making my own clothes and fixing clothes I found at thrift stores. I once won a costume contest based on Purple Rain by Prince.
Allie: How do you find clients?
Maurissa: At this point, most of what I do is theater-related or one-on-one consultations. Community theater doesn’t really pay, but it’s a fun world to be in. For consultations, I have found that very few women need more make-up, they just need help using what they already have.
Allie: Do you do wedding makeup?
Maurissa: I try not to do weddings anymore since there is so much pressure, but I’ll do weddings for close friends and family. I joke that I haven’t paid for a wedding gift in years since I’ll offer to do the bride’s makeup.
Allie: What are your goals for the future of Designs by Maurissa?
Maurissa: I am pretty happy with where my makeup is. I would love to be more intentional about making money from my sewing projects. I just got my first commissioned project a few weeks ago for a wedding dress. I am very excited about it. I think when my website goes back up, I’ll market more towards the sewing side and enhancing clothes that exist.
Allie: I heard you had your Bat Mitzvah in Ireland! Tell me more about that.
Maurissa: My mom’s family is actually Irish Catholic, and I’m Jewish on my dad’s side. But my mom is the most Jewish non-Jewish person ever. We were raised Jewish, but we had the opportunity to experience both. My sister is only one year younger, so when it came time for us to have our Bat Mitzvahs, we wanted to be inclusive of both sides of our family.
We had our Bat Mitzvahs at a castle that was built by my mom’s family in Galway. It was a 3-day event for 70 people! Thursday was Thanksgiving, Friday was Shabbat, and Saturday was the service. One of my favorite memories is of my grandpa and great uncle on my mom’s side singing Danny Boy in this beautiful castle at our bat mitzvah.
Allie: Walk me through your dream day in DC or NoVA.
Maurissa: It’s April 25th, so the weather is not too hot and not too cold. I would start with a bottomless brunch at El Centro, then visit the FDR memorial. I’d have a little picnic near there and see lots of dogs. I would then go see a matinee at The National Theater, followed by dinner and an evening performance at The Kennedy Center. I’d have drinks on The Kennedy Center balcony after that.
Allie: What is your favorite Jewish holiday and why?
Maurissa: Passover. The traditions around the holiday itself are incredible. As a theater person I can appreciate good story-telling and my family has some cool Passover traditions. My dad is really extra and to play off of the idea that you should be comfortable at the seder, he always wears a bathrobe on top of his clothes.
My girlfriend and I are hosting this year and are making robes mandatory. Passover also has the best food. Also, my grandma makes the best brisket. Really.
Allie: What’s something people would be surprised to know about you.
Maurissa: I do ballroom dancing! I’m also a grandma at heart. My dream night is sitting at my sewing machine with a cup of tea watching Golden Girls and then hopping in bed by 10.
Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…
Maurissa: Great things happen.