A Troy University alumna is making her mark through her own beauty business, known as Upgrades.
Conleigh Gilmore started her education at the University of Alabama as a public relations major, but transferred to TROY in 2014 after having the honor of representing Pike County at Miss National Peanut Festival.
After graduating with a degree in Broadcast Journalism from TROY in 2016, Gilmore moved to Mobile, Alabama, for a full-time position in marketing, as well as a part-time position as a makeup artist for Iredale Mineral Cosmetics.
Gilmore’s love for makeup began at the age of 4 when she and her grandmother would spend hours trying different lipsticks and shades of eyeshadow.
“In high school, I worked as a sales associate for Glow, a beauty boutique which still sits in the same downtown location,” Gilmore said. “At that time, Glow carried six or seven brands of makeup.
“My favorite days were when brand representatives came to teach us about the products’ ingredients, best practices and sanitation guidelines. My love for makeup transformed to a love for helping other women feel their best.”
In 2019, Gilmore found herself unsure of her career path.
It was when Gilmore moved back to Troy, Alabama, that her future began to look a little clearer.
“I knew I could do two things very well and with little investment to survive: makeup and spray tanning,” Gilmore said.
In October 2019, Gilmore obtained her business license and her company Upgrades was formed.
“I took out a small loan to buy a tanning machine and other supplies and sprayed my first client the next day,” Gilmore said. “My client walked closer to her mirror, checking out her freshly tanned body when she turned and said ‘Oh my god, I feel amazing!’
“My heart fluttered. She was already amazing.”
Along with her new business, Gilmore began her journey to become a licensed esthetician, but upon paying back her very first loan, the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic began.
Shortly after mandated shutdowns began, Instagram became Gilmore’s source of inspiration.
“We became a community of support for each other,” Gilmore said. “It was the most incredible movement I’ve ever been a part of.”
Gilmore made it her mission to support small businesses by sharing content and doing clothing try-on sessions for local boutiques, all while running her own.
“It’s my hope that men and women will be inspired by my story to dream bigger, despite the challenges life continuously brings,” Gilmore said. “I’d like to let you know that you are beautiful and capable.
“There are so many people cheering for you, silently. You will be supported. You have every resource to build the life you want, and I am here to help you in any way I can.”
In early January, Gilmore was Miss Troy USA, representing the city at the Miss Alabama USA competition, and finished within the top 16 contestants.
Gilmore says the most empowering part of the experience was meeting women from across the state with a hunger to spread “a similar energy of hope.”
“I used to go into competitions wondering if I was good enough to hold the title, comparing myself to other contestants and allowing a bad outcome to lead me down a path of questioning my own self-worth,” Gilmore said. “I know now, through life’s mountains and valleys, I will love myself and feel proud of my work and dedication to my goals.”
Gilmore is now a certified esthetician and is working part-time at a medical spa in Montgomery while running Upgrades.
Gilmore’s own brand of tanning products is set to launch in March.