On a rainy March evening at Thornebrook Village Shopping Center, around 50 people gathered to watch Ziba Ahmadi attempt to break her own Guinness World Record for the most pairs of eyebrows threaded in under an hour.
The only thing missing: the participants.
Originally Ahmadi had over 200 people signed up for the event, but the weather did not cooperate.
“The rain came, then lots of people didn’t show up,” Ahmadi said.
To beat her previous record of 90, set in June 2021, Ahmadi would need at least 91 pairs of eyebrows to thread in under an hour.
Family and friends of Ahmadi frantically pulled in shop owners, employees and customers from neighboring stores in the shopping center.
“Everyone was telling me how much I’m special when people from other stores grab random people to sit on a chair because Ziba is going to do your eyebrows,” Ahmadi said.
Forty-five minutes later than the anticipated start time, Ahmadi went to work. Quickly and carefully, she threaded one eyebrow after another.
After many obstacles, Ahmadi smashed her previous record: 102 pairs of eyebrows with 15 minutes left to spare.
Her photo proof of the record is still awaiting Guinness verification, but the feat appears to be at least the second time a Gainesville resident has set a world record in recent months.
“I really liked how people rallied at the end there,” said participant Lauren Pasqua. “It seemed like a lot of it was based on people just really caring about Ziba, which was really touching to see.”
Ahmadi, originally from Iran, moved to the U.S. in 2009 and started threading in a mall. Just five years later, she launched Salon Ziba.
The single mother of three daughters has built a large following and presence in the community. She is a member of the Greater Gainesville Chamber of Commerce.
There are 15 other eyebrow threading shops in Gainesville, but Ahmadi’s ability to perform quickly is not the only thing that makes her stand out from the competition. She attracts business due to her unique technique.
“The way I do it, no one knows that,” Ahmadi said. “Most people here don’t make the arch with the thread. They do that with the tweezer because it is too hard. I’m the only one who goes in the eyebrow with only string because of the confidence I have.”
Eyebrow threading, which originated in Eastern culture, specifically India and Iran, has become an increasingly popular way to manage facial hair. The process includes using two strings to remove hair directly from the root. Unlike the other popular method of hair removal, waxing, threading does not pull any skin along with the hair.
“We do waxing in Iran for other areas,” Ahmadi said. “I tell everyone to not do it in your face because it’s going to make your skin saggy after pulling on it.”
However, Ahmadi doesn’t principally credit her background for her talent.
“My perseverance and effort is where it comes from,” Ahmadi said. “I work for the love that I have for my clients.”
Ahmadi’s personality has also contributed to her popularity, client Cassie Malec said.
“I would describe her personality as bubbly,” Malec said. “She’s always making jokes and telling me about how my new eyebrows will fix all of my problems. It makes the pain of getting them threaded more bearable.”
Ahmadi’s business strategy includes taking her services to the sororities at UF.
“The sorority girls came to me and loved what I did on their eyebrows,” Ahmadi said. “They told me that most of the girls don’t have cars to come here, and they gave me the idea that it’s possible I go to them.”
She started by only visiting three. But as word of her ability and efficiency spread, she began visiting all 18 sororities on campus.
Malec is a member of one of the sororities and often gets her eyebrows done at the sorority house by Ahmadi.
“She connects with sorority girls through their relationships,” Malec said. “It’s really fun interacting with her because she’s always so lighthearted.”
Ahmadi also owns a second salon in Clearwater, due to her mother’s plan to move there soon from Iran. She visits once a month to see clients from St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Bradenton and Sarasota.
“They wait because they don’t want anyone [else] to touch their eyebrows,” Ahmadi said. “Or because of love. They know how much I love them, and I really do.”
Due to her popularity, Ahmadi has hired a public relations team. The team picks and promotes new locations for her to visit and show off her skills.
This year she has visited or plans to visit Miami, Hollywood, Jacksonville, Tallahassee and Orlando.
“When I come to my hotel, they come and book their appointment,” Ahmadi said. “I select 35-40 people each time I go, but my goal is to get more than 50.”
Whether it be her quickness, skill, passion or personality, Ahmadi hopes to continue succeeding in her business while making an impact on her clients’ lives.
“When I work on people’s eyebrows, I’m not working for the money,” Ahmadi said. “But for me what’s really important is that you come here, I do your eyebrows and you leave with a smile.”