Spa Talk with Stephanie Rest

Meet Stephanie Rest, spa director at Argentta at The Watergate Hotel (Washington, D.C.).

How many years have you been involved in the spa and hospitality industry?

Hospitality is in my blood. I grew up on a golf course, and at nine years old, I could drive a range-picker before a car. I worked in all aspects of the industry from culinary, golf, spa, wellness, to sales, and in most recent years, event and association management. 


What was the path that led you into the spa industry?

When I was in high school, The Tides Inn, a four-diamond property, was hiring spa coordinators. I immediately decided to hang up my golf cleats and work in the spa. Hospitality has always been about people for me, building the relationship with the guest, co-workers, and eventually my own staff. Spa people are empaths, life learners, adaptable, quick on their feet, and healers. At 16, I knew I had found my tribe.


What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of working in the spa industry?

Our relationships are the most rewarding. We are an industry full of amazingly brilliant, talented, caring, creative—I could go on forever—people. Life is demanding a lot from all of us, and the world can be a scary place. We provide a sanctuary to turn off, heal, and go to a place without judgment. The services we provide are the most important gift we could offer the world.


Staffing is a challenge for everyone, but I’m going to take it a step further. We must bring awareness to how rewarding and financially lucrative a career in spa can be. My other (challenge) soapbox is making wellness available and affordable to everyone. The industry is at a critical mass point of needing to do some major outreach to the world in showcasing the benefits of a spa career and the knowledge we have about a healthy lifestyle. I challenge you to get involved to help solve these epidemics. 


Presently, I am working with the Global Wellness Institute on the Careership Committee, Caribbean Wellness & Education, and I’m an ambassador for Global Wellness Day. 


What has surprised you most about the spa world?

How little we all walk the talk. I tell people all the time how important they are and their health is and what role spa plays in that. However, our personal self-talk and making time to care for ourselves is important, too, and I’m working on it. 


Where do you think the industry is heading?

We know the numbers—we are growing, and wellness is growing. Spa is now a full 360 experience, with fitness, nature, and food now offered in every category of spa. Spas are becoming communal back to their roots, simplifying. That all being said, technology is changing and will continue to change the game, from the amazing Gharieni beds to being able to order a massage like an Uber, and it’s thrilling to think about what is to come. 


What is the strangest client request you’ve fielded?

The coolest was in Turks and Caicos, where we would set up a spa tent on a private island for groups. Clear turquoise water, your closest friends, live music, gourmet food, massages.


What is the most bizarre treatment you’ve experienced?

My favorite treatment ever is the Abhyanga four-handed massage with Shirodhara, specifically at Mii Amo (Sedona, AZ). Stop what you are doing right now, and schedule this.


What new spa treatment would you like to try?

I have been trying to connect with Eastern Vibrations to try their Tibetan bowl treatment utilizing sound therapy. It sounds amazing.


What’s your go-to spa treatment?

Deep-tissue massage.


Tell us two things about yourself we don’t know.

I went to Morocco alone and traveled by train from Casablanca to Marrakesh. It was a wonderful experience. The people were some the most genuine I’ve met, and the architecture there is stunning. 


In another life, I was a financial planner with a boutique money wealth management company in New York. We took a technology company to market with an IPO. Now, every time I watch the Big Short, I’m reminded of that time as we spent countless hours contemplating if there was a housing bubble. Thank goodness you good spa people took me in.


If you could work in any other profession in the world, what would it be?

I’d be a novelist. Also, I have a huge calling to build social programs, particularly in the Caribbean. I’d love to spend my retirement doing this.


How would you sum up your personal philosophy?

Strong people stand up for themselves. But the strongest people, they stand up for others.


What’s the best advice you’ve received?

Sometimes I find myself spinning in a moment or a challenge. I do not like pep-talks, they annoy me. However, someone clever once said, “If it were easy, everyone would do it.”