E29 The Unlock Moment: Cinta Miller – How to Become Your Own Safety Net

Gary Crotaz 0:00
Hi, Gary here. So let me tell you a little about this episode of The Unlock Moment you’re about to hear. Cinta Miller is one of the top stylists in the business. She’s worked for some of the biggest brands in the world. She’s created looks for London Fashion Week. She’s worked with the likes of Robbie Williams and Ed Sheeran. But she didn’t make it to the top in her field by accident. This is a story that starts on a council estate, a challenging school environment, scraping by, living on tips to make enough money just to afford the bus fare to be able to get to work the next day. If you want to hear what it sounds like to make it through passion, grit, hard work, and serious amounts of hustle, this is the episode for you. Cinta is an amazing storyteller, honest and real. Maybe you feel the odds are against you. Maybe you feel people are knocking you back. Listen in, and this will give you the confidence that you can make it if you find your focus, back to your talent and your skills, and just refuse to give in. Let’s jump into this incredible new episode of The Unlock Moment. My name’s Dr. Gary Crotaz. And I’m a coach and author of The IDEA Mindset, a book about how to figure out what you want, and how to get it. The Unlock Moment is that flash of remarkable clarity, when you suddenly know the right path ahead. When I’m in conversation with my coaching clients, these are the breakthroughs that are so profound, that they remember vividly where they were, who they were with, what they were thinking when their Unlock Moment happened. In this podcast, I’ll be meeting and learning about people who have accomplished great things or brought about significant change in their life, and you’ll be meeting them with me. We’ll be finding out what inspired them, how they got through the hard times, and what they learned along the way that they can share with you. Thank you for joining me on this podcast to hear all about another Unlock Moment. Hello dear listener, and welcome to another episode of The Unlock Moment podcast. Today I am delighted to welcome Cinta Miller to the podcast. Cinta studied at the London College of Fashion before pursuing a career as one of the top hair and makeup designers in the music and fashion industries, as a brand collaborator and as a creative director. Cinta has worked with many of the biggest names in styling and fashion, including Revlon, Burberry, Estee Lauder, Tommy Hilfiger, and many others. And of course, many famous names in the music industry, including Anne Marie, Tom Grennan, Craig David, and JLS. She’s also responsible for me looking not so shabby on the cover photograph for this podcast! All the time I was looking serene, actually Cinta was in my ear, telling me what to do. I’m looking forward to hearing about her journey in fashion and music, and what she learned about staying sane in a crazy world. And of course, the remarkable moments of clarity, when she figured out the path ahead. Cinta, it is my great pleasure to welcome you to The Unlock Moment.

Cinta Miller 3:10

Gary Crotaz 3:12
Thank you so much for joining. Tell me a little bit about where this all started for you. Tell me a bit about your upbringing, and how you got into this world of fashion and music and makeup and hair and all this kind of thing.

Cinta Miller 3:24
Funnily enough, I never really thought I would be going in at a young age, I would go into a job that entailed hair and makeup. I always thought I would go into something a little bit more academic. And it’s funny that I should say the word academic, because I think in hair and makeup, there’s a real, it’s an it’s a bit of an old wives tale that people think if you do hair or makeup, then you weren’t necessarily that academic at school. And that’s a saying that kind of, you know, that bothers me a little bit. In terms of my childhood and upbringing, I’m one of five kids. I’m the youngest of five children. And I was raised up until a certain point by a single mum, we lost my dad when I was a child. And my mum remarried when I was six. So we live in… it didn’t feel like that then but looking back on it in retrospect, quite a rough council estate. But as a child, to me, it was just the best. It was the era where we were all going out in summer holidays, having water fights and you know, everybody knocked in each other’s doors and you know, you’re coming out today, you’re coming out, or we’re all going to, you know, we’re going down the field, or the rope swing. There was a real sense of community, which I don’t really think you see that much anymore. My secondary school actually wasn’t the best secondary school in the whole town, let alone in the area. They had a really, really terrible reputation. And I had friends that went to the, you know, the local grammar schools, oh were like, oh God you go to that school, ha ha, it’s really rough, doesn’t this happen there, doesn’t that happen there, don’t you just all smoke behind the bike sheds? And to be fair that did happen. But actually, I think coming from quite a big family, having lots of older siblings, and a single mum, my mum was Italian. I said my mum was because she actually passed away five years ago, but my mum was this incredible force of energy. She was just an absolute unstoppable woman, for the area that we lived in, and for the upbringing that I had, I… as a kid, I always thought we, you know, we had quite an affluent life and lived in a really affluent area, because we wanted for nothing, we were always fed. You know, there was always a three course meal. And when I say a three course meal, I literally mean a three course meal every night, at the table. The table was always laid properly, we always had dinner, sat at a table, no TV, we all had chores, the house was run like clockwork, and we just went without. But I think having older brothers and sisters kind of look down, you know, watch my back kind of thing. They were always the people that I felt like I needed to earn their respect or I wanted to impress. So I feel that even though I went to quite a naff [uncool] state school, quite early on in life I realised that I liked the praise from my brothers and sisters.

Gary Crotaz 6:45
And were you close in age with your siblings?

Cinta Miller 6:47
No, I wasn’t. I’m the youngest of five. And the next youngest was 10 years older than me. So there was a 10 year age gap. And then I had a brother, I had a brother that was 10 years older than me, a brother that was 11 years older than me, a sister that was 13 years older than me and another sister that was 15 years older than me. I felt that when… well, I learned at a very young age that when I came home with good school grades or good school reports, I got reward. And I got praised.

Gary Crotaz 7:19
And does that fuel you, people’s opinion of what you can achieve?

Cinta Miller 7:23
Yes, people’s opinion, definitely fueled me. And I think that stemmed from being fueled, originally, by my older siblings, you know, their opinions really mattered to me, as a kid, which made me work harder. For sure.

Gary Crotaz 7:40
It’s so interesting, because you’ve painted this picture of, you know, growing up in, you know, reasonably difficult environments and surroundings, but your mum creating this incredible home environment that enabled you to flourish. But then there’s this element of internal drive that you’ve built up, as you’re going through school to, to want to work really hard and achieve the best you can and not be held back by the environment around you. And so there’s this sort of different dynamics all shaping the person you’re becoming through those formative kind of teenage years. So as you come out of school, and you made it to the London College of Fashion, I think didn’t you? What did that journey look like? Where you started to see a direction ahead and start to think about what it was you wanted to become?

Cinta Miller 8:32
I was one of those kids that used to go up to London and buy The Stage newspaper at 14 and read the ads in the back of The Stage. And I could never quite decide which thing I wanted to do. When I auditioned at this particular college, which was in Oxford, Oxpens College, for this Performing Arts course, I got accepted, but I left that audition and went home feeling really low because I thought, actually nobody in that class takes it seriously. But I do, and what I’d learned up until that point is that everything I did, I put my heart and soul into, whether it be a GCSE art exam, maths exam, a dance competition for the youth club, cooking dinner for my mum on a Sunday to surprise her, I always put my heart and soul into everything. And I couldn’t bear being in a three-year course with people that weren’t really taking it that seriously. So I changed the course, I decided to do fashion. And again, the first thing that happened to me when I enrolled in the fashion course is that I took my work in, we got given this, it was like a little small project to do over the weekend, just so our tutor could monitor where we all were, creatively. And I remember bringing my work in on a Monday morning and my teacher looked at me, looked at my work, looked at me, looked at my work, and almost looked at me with disgust. And was like, Did you paint these? Did you draw these? And I said, Yeah. And she was like, You didn’t trace them? And I went, Well they’re on watercolour paper. So you can’t trace on that paper it’s not see-through. And everybody looked at me and was like, No way did you draw that? Because I’m, you know, I’m just really artistic. Straight away, my teacher kind of put me on the back foot. So I felt like I had to really, really excel in class in front of her own eyes, so she could see that I was good at it. I always felt like I had to prove what I was doing. And I, I did that course for a year. And whilst I was on that course, just had my tutor forever saying to me, You’re really creative. But I just don’t know if you, if you’ve got the commitment. I just don’t know if you can commit. I just don’t know if you’ve got a commitment for this career. You know, this, this career is hard work. And I thought, Wow, I’m getting the bus for an hour and a half, from Aylesbury to Oxford every day. Like, that’s commitment, I’m having to leave my house at 6:30 in the morning, to walk to the bus stop to get the bus here. And albeit I get there, and I was just knackered, and I just, again, lost my enthusiasm. So actually, because she kept nagging me and embarrassing me, I ended up leaving. And I thought, right, okay, maybe I should just get a job and earn some money. So I got this job, registered for temp work. And I got a job at a life insurance company. And my job was to take the staples out of stapled pieces of paper, people’s life insurance notes that were stapled, I was to take the paper clips out and then file them properly. And after two days, my fingers were blistered, and I just thought, is this what my life is going to be? So I left.

Gary Crotaz 12:06
It’s interesting, the themes that come through that are so powerful are this inner drive and commitment that you’ve always had, to some extent, driven by, you know, people, even from a young age, not believing that you’re capable of achieving as much as you think you’re capable of. And it comes back to this sort of passion and drive that you have to make something of yourself. And that story keeps coming through and through and through in all these different scenarios that you’ve been in. And then when you do have an experience of being outside of that environment, that job didn’t work out, because you very quickly saw, this isn’t me.

Cinta Miller 12:49
So I was there for two days, my fingers hurt. And I sat in that room. And I looked around the office, and it was one of those huge offices with about 1,000 desks in them. And I left. And I remember going back to the recruitment agency, and saying to them, No, that wasn’t for me, didn’t like it, what else have you got, I need something more creative. And then the next job they gave me was… I think they wanted to teach me a lesson because I thought, they probably thought I was being a bit cocky! The next job they gave me was sitting in a factory with these butterflies that were attached to… these paper butterflies that were attached to an elastic band. And you would have to twist the elastic band and then slide the butterfly into an envelope. So what would happen is the person that received this envelope would open the envelope and the butterfly would fly out. And basically it was marketing, marketing material. So again, I sat in this room, winding up butterflies for two days, and essentially winding myself up. Because I thought, What am I doing? This is worse than the thing I did before! So off I trundled back to the recruitment place, said to them, you know, can’t do that. I can’t do that, you know, you know, I told you I’m really academic. You know, I’ve, you know, I’ve got these amazing GCSEs, I’m really creative. And, you know, I’ve got my head screwed on and I’m a hard worker, and I’m a fast learner. So they were like, Okay, well, why don’t you go back to the life insurance company, and you can work on group pensions. And now I’m entering numbers onto a computer. Morning, noon, and night. Literally, this person’s pension number, this person’s this, this person’s date of birth, this person’s address, calculating this, entering it, printing off a certificate, doing another one. And the guy, the floor manager used to come over and put his hands on his hips going, Right, who’s going to who’s going to enter the most data today? And there was like this really smug lad on there that was really fast on the computer. And he used to always win. And I actually remember saying to my supervisor on that floor, God don’t, aren’t you bored. And he actually fired me for saying it. Because I said to him, Aren’t you bored in this job? And then I was sacked.

Gary Crotaz 15:27
So I talked to a lot of the people that I work with, in coaching, about creating an environment that plays to their strengths, their natural talents and strengths. And they can describe the two ends of the spectrum. At one end of the spectrum, they can describe what it feels like where they’re in an environment that plays to their natural talents and strengths, and they feel at home. They feel it’s easy, they feel it’s fun, they feel like they look forward to going to work. But then they can also describe very clearly what it feels like when they’re in an environment that doesn’t play to their strengths. And this thing that you’re talking about here, it’s so interesting, that moment when you said, I turned to my boss, and I was like, Aren’t you bored? And what did it feel like to be you, right at that moment, when you, you just felt, I’ve got to say it, I’ve got to say it?

Cinta Miller 16:21
If I’m honest, I’ll never forget that day, because in that office, I was made… because I was an office junior I was made to feel quite worthless. And when I turned around and said to my boss, Aren’t you bored? It was almost like he used his superiority to belittle me in front of everyone. He took me in the office and he was like, Cinta. You know, this clearly isn’t for you. I need a team that are productive, I need a team that are focused, I need a team that are determined, I need a team that have got their sights set on the goal. You know, you could have a very promising career here. But obviously, this is not for you. I think you know, after today, we should call it quits. And I left there, as I said, you know, no college education, not doing the course I wanted to do and now not earning any money. But I left there thinking, thank God. And actually, what I will do is, I’m going to do something that makes that guy that’s just fired me, look back, you know, maybe stumble across me one day and go, Wow, that girl worked for me once and I sacked her. And actually, it made me want to kind of get to a position where he almost felt, like, belittled by whatever position I decided to take over. I suppose he gave me that drive to do better than him, is what I’m trying to say. When he was like, you know, People come to this company, because it’s got great career opportunities, and they have their eyes set on the prize, you clearly don’t have that. This company, you know, you’re not a good fit for this company. I definitely don’t want to be sat in an office morning, noon and night, in the town that I grew up in, married to someone that was probably two years above me at the same school, or lived two streets away, whose families know each other, and have kids to go to the same school that I went to. That is not my life. And I remember sitting in my bedroom at home and thinking, hold on a minute? My tutor at college makes me feel like I wasn’t enough. But actually, if she was any better, she wouldn’t be teaching. She’d be doing what we’re all trying to strive to do on that course. But maybe she isn’t as creative as me. And maybe probably didn’t want the best for me. So I need to prove her wrong. And maybe this guy sees that actually I’ve got a bit of sparkle about me. And a bit of pizzazz. And actually, I make him look dull in his office, which is why he got rid of me. So I thought, Actually Cinta, you have got sparkle, you have got pizzazz. Just do what you want. Just follow your own thing. So at that point, I thought, why did, why on earth did I do fashion at Oxford College? Why did I not go to London College of Fashion. So I applied to London College of Fashion, got accepted immediately. And started.

Gary Crotaz 19:38
So that was a real, that was a real moment of clarity?

Cinta Miller 19:43
Yeah, absolutely!

Gary Crotaz 19:44
You pulled together all those experiences. But actually what you thought about was what does it mean for you? And what does it mean for your path ahead? It wasn’t just looking back on those experiences and saying, Well, this wasn’t right for me, and this wasn’t much fun. And you know, this wasn’t a job that I should be pursuing, you know, going forward. It was actually about saying, you know, What do I want to achieve and why? And what does success look like for me, because I’m hearing that you’ve got your own inner drive for success. But you’ve also got this strong drive to prove to people that doubted you, that you can be more than they ever thought.

Cinta Miller 20:26
And I’ll tell you, I suppose what The Unlock Moment thing is here is, this is a fact of life. We can sugarcoat it as much as we want, and we can hide from it as much as we want. There are people in life that are not going to be happy that you will be successful. And there are people in life that will try to scupper your chances. And there was a real moment of clarity. Not everyone is going to champion you in life, not even your tutors, you have to champion yourself. So I thought to myself, Okay, I can go to London College of Fashion. It’s the best fashion college in the whole country, if not Europe, if not the world. Let me see if I can get in. And now I’ve got the best tutors in fashion saying to me, Do you know what? Not, but is this career for you? I’ve got these tutors going, We need you at our at our college. We need you, the likes of you, in our alumni. Because you’ve got drive, you’ve got chutzpah, you’re creative. You’ve got your own ideas, you’re visionary. It was about placing myself amongst the right people.

Gary Crotaz 21:45
A quick one for you. I’m getting a lot of feedback from listeners to say they’d like to know more about my own philosophy on how to achieve an Unlock Moment in your life or career. Go and buy a copy of my book, The IDEA Mindset, to discover your identity and direction for a future with engagement and authenticity. In it, you’ll discover more about my own story, my learnings on how to achieve clarity and change. And of course, lots of interesting self-study exercises in bite-sized modules. You can get The IDEA Mindset in physical book, ebook and audiobook format, from all the usual sources. Thanks for listening. And back to the conversation. Taking your first significant steps into one of the most challenging, most uncertain, most competitive industries that there is actually what had been formed in you already by the age of 18 was the foundations to give you the resilience to survive and thrive and succeed in that environment. But it was already there in the 18 year old Cinta from all those experiences.

Cinta Miller 22:55
Oh, yeah, absolutely. And I think that paired with a mum that raised me to be, if you’re not working, you know, if you’re not in education, you’ve got to be working. And if you’re living at home, you’re paying rent. That was basically my situation. So when I used to commute into London, I would take these magazines from the Tube, these free magazines, and there was this one called the Metro. And in the Metro there used to be these classified ads or these coupons to go for a free haircut at Toni & Guy. And so I used to rip them out and go and queue up at the academy to go and be a model to get my haircut. And I’ll never ever forget the first time one of the art directors said, Oh, can I actually cut your hair on stage and use your hair for a demonstration? I was like, Yeah, fine. And I remember sat in this classroom and everyone looked really cool. And all the guys are really hot. And all the girls were really pretty. And everyone dressed super-trendy. And then in between cutting my hair, the guys would be going, Oh, yeah, you working on that show at London Fashion Week this week? And they’d be like, Oh, yeah, we’re, you know, we’re working backstage at Missoni or we’re working backstage at Alexander McQueen. Oh, are you coming to the Stella McCartney show? So I’d be hearing all these buzzwords, you know, in this room, this academy, and then I’d hear other people, other students in the room coming out to people going, Oh, you know, can I come and assist you? If you need any help? I’ll clean your brushes. And the next time I’d go I’d be like, Oh, did you do that Stella McCartney show? Yeah, yeah, yeah! You know, there was always this amazing, this amazing atmosphere at Toni & Guy. And I remember going into college and saying to people, Oh, you know, I’ve got my hair cut at Toni & Guy, and it was, Oh my god, Toni & Guy’s so cool, so and so gets their hair cut there. And then I remember seeing Toni & Guy quoted in fashion magazines and you know, like, just like teen magazines like More magazine and Mizz. And I’d be like, these, these guys are really cool. They cut hair. But they’re backstage at Fashion Week, they mingle with celebrities. Like, these guys are rock stars! I want to be, I want to be one of those, I want to be part of that. And it was at that moment, I thought, Actually, I could spend another two years at London College of Fashion studying to do fashion to then go on to university. Or I could maybe get a job at Toni & Guy. So the next time I got my haircut, I asked the question. I was like, Um, if I, if I wanted to train here, do I have to pay for a course, or do you do internships? And they were like, Oh, no, no, no, we do internships. And basically, that was exactly what I went there for, for that piece of information. I literally took the phone number. I had to make a phone call to the head office. And they did an open day. I went to the open day. I got an interview, I got accepted. And then that was it. I took the job on at Toni & Guy as an assistant, an apprentice hairdresser. But I started at the academy. So I was learning with all the art directors from day one. So straightaway, I was going backstage at London Fashion Week, cleaning their brushes, carrying their bags. But I was always the first there and the last to leave. Even if it meant, you know, sweeping hair up backstage at a show. I was the first one there, the last one to leave. But guess what, when it came to doing the bigger shows at London Fashion Week, I was always the first to be asked. So it was always making yourself, you know, available. Out of all the people that were assistants at Toni & Guy at the time, I lived the furthest, I had the least money. Everyone was just jumping on a tube. I was getting a train and a tube. But I just wouldn’t let any hurdles get in my way. Oh Cinta, can you come work on a show with us on Sunday? There wouldn’t be any trains on a Sunday. I would get up extra early, I would take a bus, I would take a coach, I would ask a neighbour to drop me off. I would barter with my brothers to iron their T shirts for a month to give me a lift. I’d do any which way, I would, I’d make sure I was there. I was completely, completely resilient.

Gary Crotaz 27:12
And what really challenged you in those early years?

Cinta Miller 27:16
In those early years, the things that challenged me the most was, I was really financially challenged at that stage. I just knew that I did not want to end up in the town I grew up in. I knew, I knew that I had a set of skills that could essentially change my life. I just needed to be set in the right environment. And being financially challenged meant I had to work even harder. I had to work harder for my tips. I had to be really good, quick. I had no chance, no choice but to be good at it. And very good at it in a very quick amount of time. So if I was shampooing your hair, listen, I bet you bottom dollar you’d never get a head massage like it, the head massage I’d give you, like at the backwash. Because I needed the tip. I needed the tip to get to work the next day. You know, if I was blow drying your hair, I can put my life on it, you wouldn’t have such a shiny, bouncy, blow dry. Because I needed the tip. And then on a Saturday and Sunday morning I’d work in… I had a little weekend job in an art and craft shop, framing pictures, just to make ends meet really. But I knew that I had to do that job because I needed the money to get to work. Because actually, even though I was an apprentice, and I was earning money, I was on 60 quid a week when I first started for the first year, and my travel was 100 pound a week. So I needed to make up that extra 40 quid.

Gary Crotaz 28:55
And what was the first moment when you turned round and sort of suddenly figured out where you were in your career? Was there a particular job or shoot or something where you suddenly sort of, Wow, I’ve, I’ve made it! I’m with these people, I’m in this environment?

Cinta Miller 29:11
I’ve had three stages in life that have done that to me. And it’s funny, because obviously you, you know me well and you know the, you know, my roster of clients I’ve worked with over the years. As you’ve mentioned, I’ve worked with people like Craig David, and Anne Marie, and Rudimental, and Robbie Williams. And you know, I’ve toured with Ed Sheeran. I’ve done all of these things, but actually, the three pinch-me moments were… Very early on in my career. I remember working backstage at the Clothes Show Live, which was this, this fashion show that used to happen in Birmingham once a year, and it used to be televised as well, so the kiddos would watch it. And when I was working backstage at the Clothes Show Live, I literally thought, Wow, I’ve arrived! Here I am! Here I am! I didn’t know the difference between the Clothes Show Live and London Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week. And I really thought this little fashion show in Birmingham was it! I thought I’d arrived, this was it, my career is, you know, I’m hitting goals. Until maybe 10 years later, I headed up my first Fashion Week show at London Fashion Week. Like a proper, on schedule, Fashion Week show. You know, the journalists from Vogue are on the front row, all the top fashion buyers are on the front row. And I remember doing that show. And the show wrapped and the designer came out and did the walk and everyone was clapping. And there was all this like, amazing atmosphere backstage. And I remember putting my backpack on and walking down Piccadilly Circus, just on my own. And I just cried. I thought, Wow, ten years ago, I was doing the Clothes Show Live. And now I’ve just done a real proper fashion show. But not a real proper fashion show that I’ve assisted on, a real proper fashion show that I’ve just taken the lead on. I’ve designed the look for that show. My name is going to be in Vogue magazine. And I literally just, I cried, it was like this little secret celebration, a real pat on the back to myself. My mum was the kind of person that, if you’ve phoned to kind of gloat about that kind of thing, it was really wasted on her. Because she didn’t get it. My mum was excited by if she saw my name on the credit of like Ten Years Younger, or something, she’d be a little bit excited about that. Or if I told her I’d walked past Tom Jones on the street, she’d be a little bit excited by that. But she didn’t really get the whole fashion thing. So that moment was a real, it was a moment for me. It was a real personal moment for me because I thought no, this is what I came into the industry to do. And I’ve done it and I had to kind of pat myself on the back. And it was a real silent win I suppose. I like did that little walk down Piccadilly Circus. And I literally, I really, I did, I shed a tear that day. And then the third time it happened was, I was doing, I was working with Anne Marie, who’s a really big pop star here in the UK. And she was performing at the BRITs with Rudimental. And I was going to the O2 to go and do her hair and makeup. Yeah, I arrived at the O2. And I was looking around and thinking, Wow, you know, I’ve ticked my box in fashion. But I’m at the BRIT Awards. And not only am I at the BRIT Awards, I’ve got an access all areas pass, like I’m going backstage. I ain’t hanging out in front with the riffraff. I’m going backstage, you know, I ain’t hanging out at the front, you know, waiting to see people with an autograph book. And I’m definitely not sat at home watching it. I’m backstage! And like, the gravitas of that for me, I couldn’t get my head around it. And then I went backstage, I got my pass. And I’m walking round and my kit case got caught on a wire. And there was rehearsals going on on stage, sound checks. And I remember my, my kit case getting caught on this wire. And it was dark. And I was like, Oh sorry, sorry, sorry. And somebody came over to me and they were like, Sorry, sorry, Beyoncé is just rehearsing, we’re just in sound check with Beyoncé. And I was like, Oh, yeah, no, like Beyoncé? We’re not talking about Caroline that I grew up next door to. We’re talking about Beyoncé! She was like, You know, sorry, just be careful. Like Beyoncé who’s like 12 foot away from me was just sound checking. And this guy grabbed my case. And he said, Hey, I’ll help you. Hey, I’ll help you. Where are you going? And he took my case, and it was dark. And I was like, Erm, I’ve got to go to the dressing rooms. He went, Hey, this way. And he took me through, and we walked through this door where it was light. And it was like, Let there be light! And I looked and it was Pharrell Williams! Pharrell Williams carried my case backstage at the BRITs. And I thought, hold on a minute! What is going on? I’m at the BRITs. I’m backstage with a AAA. With Beyoncé doing a sound check, and Pharrell carrying my case! Like, is this real? Is this actually real? And for me, that was like, if I don’t ever work in music ever again, I don’t care. Like, I’ve ticked that box. So for me, there was like, there were three, three really significant things in my career. Because they were all an evolution of the other thing that had impressed me, I suppose.

Gary Crotaz 35:07
And I think something that is really clear when you tell that story and I know my listeners will have picked up on this as well, is that the journey you went on was not something that landed in your lap as some sort of gift from on high, you know, you had to work really hard. And you had to make intentional choices along the way to put yourself in an environment where that path could set itself out for you.

Cinta Miller 35:34
Oh, absolutely. I definitely, I had to, I found every little niche going, and I had to act on it. I didn’t wait for somebody to do it for me. I didn’t ask for anybody’s help. I had to act on it. And, you know, albeit when I was assisting, there was hairdressers that worked in my salon that I would, you know, it’s, it’s actually quite sad when I think back on it. And not sad in a, in a sombre way. It’s sad as in, Wow, I really went through that. You know, it’s quite emotional. You know, I would, there’d be days where I’d say to a stylist, you know, can you lend me 10 quid till next week? And that 10 quid would be to get to work and to buy some lunch. Because actually, what I was was too proud to ask my mum for it. I never ever asked my mum for it. My mum had it, if I’d have asked my mum for 50 quid, she would have given it to me. If I’d asked my mum for 100 quid, she would have given it to me. But there was something ingrained in me that made me feel like I could never ask her, because I always wanted my mum to be my absolute safety net, like worst, worst, worst, worst case scenario, your mum’s there. So what I used to do is try and fish my way out of scenarios to not make them the worst case scenario. So, when actually looking back, probably, God, I was in some pretty bad scenarios. You know, I, I slept on sofas of people that I didn’t know. If I tell you, and I’ve never, I’ve never really told anyone this, a couple of people know this, because we will work together. And actually my old boss did. But there was a couple of times I even slept in the salon. Because I couldn’t afford to get home and get back the next day. I slept in the salon. And I would get up, I literally used to put, we used to have a beauty room downstairs. So I would sleep in the beauty room and lock the door. Or I would put all the towels on the seats in the staff room. And I’d sleep on like all these towels. But what I would do is I would wake up, I’d set my alarm clock and wake up at like 7:30. I’d shower in the beauty room, get ready. And then I’d go into the laundry room, put a wash, like put loads of towels on. And then I’d fold all the towels. And then when anyone else came in, it just looked like I got into work early and I was there folding the towels and cleaning the salon. So if the cleaner came in, it looked like I was just there. Oh I got an early train, my train got in early. But I would sleep in the salon. I did that a few times, because I couldn’t afford to get home. And if I ever told my mum that, my mum, rest her soul, would probably turn in her grave. To think that I would do that rather than ask for her money. And for her help. I don’t know why, I just got this, I had this thing that I just had to prove, that I could stand on my own two feet.

Gary Crotaz 38:53
And what’s very interesting hearing you tell that story is that I talk a lot to people about what you need, what you want, and what you’ll compromise to get it. So some of the people that I work with and that I talk to and some of the people who come on the podcast who have become really high achievers, are really, really focused on, these are the things that I need. And what I need is food in my belly and a roof over my head. But it doesn’t have to be a great roof. It needs to be a roof. And it doesn’t need to be exotic food. It needs to be food. And I’m prepared to make some pretty extreme compromises that a lot of other people wouldn’t ever consider. But that’s because I have extraordinary goals. And this is the route I know to give myself the best chance of getting to where I really want to get to, and that’s what I want to hear in your story. And where I’ve heard it before is with the kinds of people like sports people who are trying to become world champion in their discipline, it’s that sort of level where they take really extreme compromises. And they’re really focused on what their, what their minimum needs are, to enable them to focus in and, and achieve these really extraordinary goals. That’s what I hear in your story.

Cinta Miller 40:16
Yeah I mean, it’s actually really, when you put it like that, I actually find it quite flattering that you describe it in that way. But I suppose it really stems back to my mum, I just, and having five children, I just thought to myself, you know, my mum didn’t just have five children because she was just a single mom and had… my, you know, my dad got killed in an accident when I was a baby. My mum didn’t speak the best of English. But my mum was tenacious, she never ever let us go without. And only as an adult, I really can look back and see the sacrifices that she did make. And I just thought, I need to do this, there was always an element of, so I need to do this, because actually, I want my mum to, my mum’s later years to be comfortable. It’s funny, I’ve actually got a letter from my mum that she gave to me. And literally a month before she passed away. It was Christmas, and she… My mum used to make this point that she, she would never really buy us presents at Christmas. And this particular Christmas, my mum gave me an envelope. And there was, there was some money in that envelope. And she wrote a letter to me, and it just basically said, Thank you for just always looking after me. You’re just such a good girl, thank you for always looking after me. And basically, that’s all I think I really wanted to do, was to look after her. But what that’s done as a result, she’s now gone. And that was the other next Unlock Moment, I suppose when I lost my mum, I really felt like my world fell apart. Not because I couldn’t do anything. It’s because that absolute safety, safety, safety net that I’d never ever relied on, that I’d never needed to call on. Except, you know, the time that I really, really fell on hard times, which never really came because I was pushing so hard to not let that really hard time come. But if it did come the safety net and my mum was there, was then completely swept away from me. So I was like, my mum’s gone, I don’t have that safety net any more. But then it was the Unlock Moment of actually, you have got it because I’ve created this set of skills in life, this reputation in life. And I’ve carved out this career to a certain standard where I’ve become my own safety net. My reputation’s my safety, my safety net, my skills are my safety net. My, my word is my safety net. When you called me up and said Cinta, I need to do the front cover of my book, I need a photographer, I need a stylist. I know my, my recommendations are respected because of the level of my skills, and where I am at my career now. I’m trusted. And that has all stemmed from my hard work. I’ve become my own safety net.

Gary Crotaz 43:42
So that’s interesting. So the moment when you realised you didn’t need a safety net was when the safety net wasn’t there any more.

Cinta Miller 43:51

Gary Crotaz 43:53
And do you remember where you were, what the moment was when you realised that suddenly?

Cinta Miller 44:04
What, realised that I was the safety net, or realised that the safety net had been pulled?

Gary Crotaz 44:08
Realised that you didn’t need it any more.

Cinta Miller 44:14
Yeah, I do. I do. And it’s actually it’s a really, it’s quite a deep moment for me, actually. I… after I lost my mum, I went through a really bad time, just everything, everything seemed to go wrong, everything. There was just no, no structure. And I couldn’t make heads or tails of anything. And this went on for about a year. And I was trying to find happiness in the wrong places, hanging out with the wrong people, convincing myself I was really in love with somebody who wasn’t good for me. And it was just, the more I was trying to convince myself. I think, like I just said, I was trying to convince myself that I was really in love with somebody that wasn’t good for me. It’s because actually what I was looking for was that safety net, right? So I booked this Muay Thai bootcamp in Thailand. I went on my own. I got the flight, went on my own. And I embarked on this Muay Thai, three week Muay Thai bootcamp. And where we had to do these hikes every day as well. Anyway, there was this particular hike that was really hard. It was probably like a 10k hike. But it was really, really steep. And at the top of this hike was this huge Buddha. And I kind of swerved this hike for a couple of weeks. And thought right, beginning of week three, I’ll give it a bash. So by this point, I’ve made a few friends and so we all embark on this hike together with the group. And you know, I’m kind of like walking a steady pace in the middle. And slowly, slowly, I start kind of getting more and more to the back, because everyone’s substantially fitter than me, until I’m literally at the back. And even my mates that I’m walking with, they’re like, well ahead of me, they’re just like can’t be bothered to wait, they’re like, I can’t be arsed, they just want to get to the top and get back. So I, I’m so far back that even, you have like a team, team captain, from the bootcamp that walks behind you with a walkie-talkie. They’d even gone past me. So every time I went round this corner or wrapped around this bit of rock on this hike, I just thought, Please let me get around this corner, and there’ll be the Buddha. And I’d go around this, this corner and there’d be like another stretch of hike that looked like it was just leading to the gods. And I was like trudging up, trudging up, trudging up. And this hike was meant to take about three hours. And I’m about four and a half hours in, and I’m not even halfway up. So anyway, I remember getting around the corner and I see this Buddha. And I’m like, I’m on the last stretch. So it kind of spurred me on but I mean, I almost quit so many times. So I ended up trudging on, and I got to the top and everyone. I mean, they could have gone back a couple of hours before, but everyone stood at the top of that mountain waiting for me. And I got to the top. And when they saw me everybody cheered. And it was like I felt like I’d won the, I’d run the marathon or something. I’d crossed the line. I got to the top and everybody cheered. And I climbed up and I remember sitting on this Buddha, at the foot of this Buddha, and putting my hands on my face, and I burst into tears. Because I couldn’t believe I’ve done it. And everyone’s like, well done, you’ve done it, you’ve done it, you’ve done it. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And then I looked up. And when I looked up, all I could see was all these islands. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Thailand. But you know, when you’re flying in Thailand, you see all these little islands. I’d hiked so far up on this mountain that there was all these little islands that you could see. So I looked up and I thought what on earth have I got to be depressed about? I’m literally sat here on the top of the world with all of these faces around me, that waited for me, to champion me with smiles from ear to ear. And I’m so lucky. I’m so lucky, I’ve done this, I’ve created this. I’m here because I’ve done it. I’ve made this happen. And then I thought to myself, but not only have I made this happen, look at how lucky I am. And then I thought I need to enjoy my life. I really, really need to enjoy my life. And actually, I need to stop feeling sorry for myself and being about a pity party, because actually, things are going wrong because I’m trying to chase the wrong things. I’m trying to chase the safety net. And actually, I am the safety net. Because I’m looking after myself. I’ve got myself to the top of the world alone. And that’s it. I’m the safety net. And at that point, if I tell you I skipped down that mountain. And the following week, I skipped up it again. It was easy, easy breezy. And from that moment, I came back, I met somebody, I got into a relationship. You know, it was the exact kind of relationship that I, you know, that I wanted. It wasn’t a relationship that I was chasing or convincing myself. It was a relationship that found me. You know, my circle of friends got wider because actually I didn’t need to chase the wrong crowd. Or chase certain things. I just needed to be around, just wanted to be around good decent people. And the jobs came in, my, and my career just completely upscaled again. Because going back to 18 year old Cinta. I found my self-belief again. I backed myself. So, yeah, I suppose that’s basically the common denominator in all my big, my big life changes. It’s just by backing myself.

Gary Crotaz 50:40
It’s amazing. And you hear that arc from the early past in your career where you said, people didn’t champion you as much as you did yourself. And actually come, you know, to the near part of your career, suddenly, you had this realisation that there were people around you, at the top of that mountain in Thailand who did champion you. But then you said this thing that’s incredibly profound, actually, you said, All this time I was chasing the safety net. Until I figured out that I was the safety net.

Cinta Miller 51:13
Yeah, absolutely.

Gary Crotaz 51:16
It’s amazing. So what would you… if you could spirit yourself back in time, and go meet the 12 year old Cinta that you described taking her exams, and looking at that life ahead, and seeing those people around her doubting that she could make anything of herself, and you could whisper something in her ear based on the life you’ve had, what would you like to say to that 12 year old Cinta?

Cinta Miller 51:41
I would say, Do whatever you want to do. Because it is totally possible. If you want to do something, just do it. There’s nothing to say that you can’t. Just do it. That’s the bottom line. You just have to do it. And if it doesn’t work, nobody knows. Because there’s no rules. Make your own rules, and just do it. Try and try again. Just keep going.

Gary Crotaz 52:10
I love it. And there’s so much of the story that I never knew and you’ve completely blown me away with it. So you’re on Instagram, you’re @CintaLondon, and your website, CintaLondon.co.uk. We’ll put the links in show notes as well. The Unlock Moment is that flash of remarkable clarity when you suddenly know the right path ahead. For celebrity stylist, hair and makeup designer and creative director Cinta Miller, it was realising the people around her didn’t champion her as much as she did herself that gave her a powerful sense of drive, purpose and control, and made her fearless. She’s a person with incredible inner drive and commitment to go from a council estate and tough state school to building a successful career at London Fashion Week, the O2 and the BRITs, and through the ups and the downs of a career in the music and the fashion world, she’s one of the most resilient people I know and I’m so grateful for her coming onto the podcast and sharing her incredible story. Cinta, thank you so much for joining me today on The Unlock Moment!

Cinta Miller 53:18
It’s been a real pleasure! Thank you so much.

Gary Crotaz 53:22
This has been The Unlock Moment a podcast with me, Dr. Gary Crotaz. Thank you for listening in. You can find out more about how to figure out what you want and how to get it in my book, The IDEA Mindset, available in physical book, ebook and audiobook format. Follow me on Instagram, and subscribe to this podcast to get notified about future episodes. Join me again soon

Cinta Miller is one of the top stylists in the business. She’s worked for some of the biggest brands in the world. She’s created looks for London Fashion Week. She’s worked with the likes of Robbie Williams and Ed Sheeran. But she didn’t make it to the top in her field by accident. This is a story thats starts on a council estate, a challenging school environment, scraping by, living on tips to make enough money just to afford the bus fare to be able to get to work the next day. If you want to hear what it sounds like to make it through passion, grit, hard work and serious amounts of hustle, this is the episode for you. Cinta is an amazing storyteller – honest and real. Maybe you feel the odds are against you. Maybe you feel people are knocking you back. Listen in and this will give you the confidence that you can make it if you find your focus, back your talent and your skills, and just refuse to give in.

Cinta Miller

Cinta Miller on Instagram

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