When I was about 13, I was going in to get my first haircut. My mom took me to her salon and I was so excited, I knew exactly what I wanted and I even had a picture. It was supposed to be short, think industrial goth, super – angular bob, where it’s textured in the front. As soon as she was done - it was an hour and a half later - she spun me back around and it was an embarrassing chin-length bob parted down the middle, reminiscent of a mushroom.. It was horrific… And you know, when you're 13, you're all misshapen and weird. I had a huge nose, huge ears, braces and pimples. The whole awkward tween package. So, it was really traumatic for me to get this kind of a haircut. I swore after that, I would never let anybody else touch my hair. Except for me. And I moved up to New York and then realized, "Wow. I can actually make a career out of this.”
My original passion was doing color. And then, I started getting into the geometry of cutting hair. Especially with men’s hair. I found men’s hair to be more challenging, which I enjoyed. Because there's so many different shapes and styles you can do with it. A lot of people think it’s a simple thing, ‘just a men’s haircut”, however there's a lot of different obstacles to overcome- like head shape and hair texture. Are they balding? What's their style? Do they work in Wall Street or are they a bartender? There's all these environmental factors you must think about. And it's sometimes hard for men to communicate what they want. A lot of people don't bring in pictures. So, I felt it's kind of like there was a gap in the barbering industry that kind of needed to be filled. I just fell in love with it.
I feel like I kind of understand where men are coming from. It's really hard, like I said, for them to communicate exactly what they want, what's bothering them. The one problem I’ve run into is that there is a sort of trust issue. Guys get nervous when they come and sit down in my seat because they really don't know if I understand what they want or ... because I'm not a guy. I don't wear men's clothing. I don't have a short hairstyle. So, I feel there is still that gender issue. But that's part of the reason why I like doing it. Because I'm on the forefront of feminism in 2016, basically. I am doing a man's job.
I have clients that come from all 5 boroughs to sit down in my chair. There aren’t a whole lot of chicks who know how to really nail a dope skin fade like the boys in the hood shops do, so I assume the travel to Williamsburg to see me is worth the price of looking good. A couple of my regulars have told their friends after inquiry where they get their haircut and that a girl does it, and they still don’t believe them.
I’ve spent a lot of time working in salons all throughout NYC and really had a hard time fitting in. It felt a lot like being in highschool all over again. There was always an underlying competitiveness and unwelcome energy that made it really hard to focus. That was what I loved about being in barbershops. A place where you can hang out, listen to Metallica, and get a fresh fade without feeling the pressure like it’s a simple transaction. I did a lot of hunting before committing to location to settle down in my craft, but I managed to stumble into Fellow Barber. Getting to know the folks there, I realised they were all like me. Not just barbers, but artists.
Overall, it's just so fun and energizing. I could wake up and have the worst day and as soon as I get that first client to sit in my chair and start talking to them, I get the catharsis of "Oh, I'm doing something creative," and I'm having this organic interaction with this person. It’s also important for me to have a real relationship with my clients. I avoid the whole "Oh. Who are you? What do you do? Where are you from?" sort of thing. Instead, it’s "What do you do in your spare time? What do you do for fun?" It's good to kind of have it not just as the utilitarian thing like, "Yes, I am here to cut your hair." But, I want to develop this relationship. Every day I wake up and I'm excited to go to work. It's this rare thing not everyone gets to experience.
There are things I am involved with outside of hair as well. I just kind of fell into performance art. I've always been an artist of some sort. You know drawing, painting, printing, and typography. I used to do graffiti, too. So, I've just been kind of all over the place. But the one thing that I liked about performance when I was first introduced to it, is that it's intangible. You can't hold it. You can't buy it. It can't be taken from you and sold. You have this idea and this message that you want to get across and you're just simply using your body and your actions and your emotions and you're sort of translating that for the viewer.
So, it's really cool. I can reach a different angle... As far as traditional art goes, you can see a picture in the MoMA of somebody holding a knife up to somebody's neck and you will have a certain reaction, probably one that isn’t that strong. But if I physically do that to you during performance, you're going to feel afraid or scared. Unsure. All these different emotions. So, I love being able to break barriers like that.
I do solo works and then I also work within a group called "Non Grata." They're based out of Estonia so they do a bunch of tours in Europe. The longest one I was on was three-and-a-half months on the road. We did 19 different countries, 39 different cities. Sometimes multiple performances within the cities, too. There are times we also teach at universities and hold workshops. So, it's an amazing opportunity that I'm able to travel and do this. More so being able to teach about this extremely misunderstood art form.
Travel is always exciting, the kind of energy that each place has is so different. I feel like, when I was in Belgrade in Serbia, that was the most powerful sort of energy. And it was great because we'd always do this one performance where we actually brand people. We had these cattle brands from the Soviet era that we offer up if anybody else in the audience wants to get branded. They can come get branded. The window's only open for about two minutes. If nobody comes up, then that's fine. But this one guy, he was passionate about our performance and he was like, "Yeah, I'll get branded." And so, we're warming up the brand and this woman comes out of the audience and is like, "No! What are you doing?!" Trying to stop the whole thing. We had to explain, he wants to do this so, ... He's doing this. So, it's pretty powerful when you get that type of reaction out of people, to the point where they even want to stop the show.
When it comes to my vision for the future I'm kind of selfish. I just want to be able to experience things. And, I think the whole traveling thing is ultimately what I enjoy doing the most. But also, if I can get people thinking at the same time; that's kind of what performance is about. It's a trigger to get people to start thinking and asking questions that they've never asked before. I feel like, if I can impact people in that way, I'm going to keep doing what I do. I live ... I have no real ultimate lifelong goals. I'm just kind of going where the wind takes me. And with performance and hair, I'm able to do everything and express my creativity in different ways. If you think about it a little bit, both jobs involve connecting with people. That's the base thing. I think that I'm kind of an introvert, but this is how I interact with people. And it's an intimate thing.
It’s not easy though, doing things that are so different. I think, trying to learn as much as possible and perfect what I do, has been the most challenging thing. Especially when it comes to hair. It takes a very long time for you to figure out what you're doing. But, also there's this other layer where you have to predict people and be able to manage their thoughts, basically. And it's almost being like a psychologist. Cutting hair is 30% of it, the other 70% is all interaction and understanding them through communication. And communication didn’t come easy to me either. Growing up, I was raised kind of as an only child. My older sisters are 15 and 18 years older than I am. So, I didn't grow up having that sort of intimate social interaction. I kind of had to learn that from 18 and on. So, I feel like that's probably the most challenging thing, learning how to communicate with people properly.
Creativity is innovation. Without it we are a dead end society. I will never be able to make a lucrative career from my art, but I do it because it’s keeping me alive. Art is ultimately what separates us from any other animal in the kingdom, and all it requires from you is to open your senses and absorb what you can from it.