LEOMINSTER — Mandy Roberge of Wicked Good Henna is not your typical henna artist.
She challenges the misconception that henna can’t be both good and fast, offering simple designs for up to 15 people per hour and around 12 an hour for more intricate designs.
“What I love most about henna, aside from its physical beauty, is the way it allows me to connect with people from all walks of life, which is an honor I have never taken for granted. As an introvert, I especially enjoy the opportunity to make conversation with people over a shared interest and learn more about each person as an individual. I can’t think of too many art forms that allow for such connection,” Roberge said.
It all started with a request from a loved one.
“My best friend and I were both pregnant in 2006 and she brought me a henna kit and asked me to do a design on her belly. I had never heard of henna before and I was instantly in love,” Roberge said.
She has now been practicing henna for over 16 years and holds an International Certification for Natural Henna Artists.
“I have always been a creative and crafty person but henna has allowed me to fully uncover the artist inside me. Like any art form, henna involves a fair amount of technical skill but as you master various elements and styles, you can start to see how the artist’s brain kicks in,” she said.
Roberge was a freelance writer for 15 years, doing programs for libraries on the side such as crafts and kids’ yoga. In 2015, she couldn’t keep up with the growing demand for henna (and other library programs) while doing her freelance work and trying to balance life as a mom. She told herself she was going to give henna her full attention for one year and see how it went — and Wicked Good Henna has been thriving ever since.
Roberge does her henna at libraries, music festivals, parties, corporate and college events, bat mitzvahs, at her studio in Acton, and even makes henna house calls. Many of the people who hire her do so year after year or as a regular part of annual events.
She still does more than henna with libraries who want her back monthly or seasonally but don’t want henna each time, such as craft classes or decorating cookies — or even teaching others how to do henna and how it works on the skin.
There are also workshops having people make their own natural henna.
“Not everyone is aware that henna is a plant and the paste is made using that plant and a few other simple but natural ingredients. Henna that is purchased at the store is often full of chemicals that can be incredibly harmful, and therefore teaching people to make their own henna is a public safety issue,” Roberge said.
Apart from the art of it, Roberge loves running her own small business, setting her own schedule, and deciding her own terms. She said she has “a pretty strong commitment to working hard and playing hard and there is nothing I love more than answering only to myself when decisions need to be made.”
But she’s not a fan of the paperwork, or managing the web presence and social media.
Roberge has a bachelor’s degree in Communications from the University of Rhode Island, where she spent over a decade living before moving to Leominster to be closer to family. She said she has “thousands of hours in professional development from watching YouTube videos”, which was the most available resource to learn henna for American women from central Massachusetts when she first started.
She’s also been to a number of henna conferences and working retreats, and just returned from a 10-day trip to Morrocco in order to learn from their henna artists.
Her husband Jeff is “a wonderful man who has supported me every step of the way in my business because he believes in my talent,” she said. They have three daughters, aged 22, 19, and 16.
The girls have followed their mom into creative entrepreneurship, doing glitter face paint and fairy hair as part of the Glitter Girls. Originally they went to festivals for fun and to help Roberge with crowds, but then they started offering their own service as an accompaniment and grew into doing events on their own.
“I couldn’t be more delighted to see my kids creating their own joy,” she said.
At this point in her own career, Roberge wants to “keep doing what I love to do but to also honor my own time and mental health. This means creating some boundaries around how much I am willing to work and taking the time to breathe and enjoy my family, my friends, and myself.”
She said she’s worked hard to create a thriving henna business year-round, not just in the warmer months when it’s most popular.
“My goal is to enjoy the ride from here, and maybe even spend some time at the beach this summer,” Roberge said.
Wicked Good Henna will be at Celebrate Milford on May 20, Fitchburg Civic Days on July 3, and Newton on July 4. Festival appearances will include Northlands Live Music Festival, Green River Festival, and Levitate Music & Arts Festival.
To learn more or easily book an appointment online using Calendly, go to Roberge’s website at wickedgoodhenna.com. She can also be found on Instagram and Facebook @wickedgoodhenna.