When people ask this self-proclaimed “girly girl” what she does for work, she shows them the calluses on her hands.
Melissa Borsellino began her career in a setting where many beautiful young women find success: behind the bar. But after her stint as a pub manager left her feeling overwhelmed by the nightly crowds, the 27-year-old decided to follow in her father’s footsteps and train as a plasterer.
Now, she’s walking onto building sites full of men — and has “yet to meet another woman” working in the field.
“I needed to leave the hospitality industry because it was making me anxious, but I am dyslexia, so my options were limited as I struggle with computers,” Borsellino told Mercury Press. “I thought, ‘What can I do to earn a decent income like a bloke?’”
“Then I had a light bulb moment,” she said, and asked dad Tony, a tradesman of 40 years, to show her how to plaster.
Of course, women have long been part of the construction industry, but it’s not everyday you see one “with 24-inch hair extensions and false nails,” according to Borsellino.
“I have learned to ignore the shocked faces,” she added.
Though Borsellino initially lacked the stamina, she had the motivation to earn her place. Her father, 56, was her first skeptic — so she painted his shed to prove she doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty.
“I couldn’t even lift a bag of materials when I first started,” she said. “So I joined the gym and within weeks I was flinging it over my shoulder.”
Nevertheless, the glamorous tradeswoman has also had to adjust to “undermining” comments she receives as a female plasterer in a male-dominated industry.
“There’s nothing more daunting than having to work on a construction site with just men,” Borsellino admitted.
“It can be patronizing, but I have learned to shake it off,” she continued. “I have been told I am ‘too pretty’ to be in this profession, but I didn’t realize there was a certain look for it.”
Borsellino told Mercury Press that she hopes her story inspires other women to persevere at work — especially in a male-dominated industry.
“It is a man’s world, but it doesn’t have to be,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what others think … The only things that matter are being happy within the workplace and continuing to thrive.”
Three years after she first started plastering, Borsellino spends her days wearing overalls and steel-cap boots while still donning hair and eyelash extensions and fake nails.
Working in construction has also helped her anxiety by allowing her to step out of her comfort zone and face her fears.
“Work is fun, and I am always laughing and joking,” Borsellino said. “We spend the day singing to songs whilst working so it is home time before we know it.”