Making Work Visible
City University of New York / Labor Arts
When people come to visit the hairstylist, they think they’re getting a bang trim, or a haircut, some highlights, a root-touch up. Most of the time what they’re actually getting is a therapy session. They make think they’re changing the color of their hair, but they’re really there to change the way they feel about themselves. People say they want to look beautiful, but they also want to feel strong, secure, more confident, more centered in their gender. They want to nail that interview, have an amazing first date, improve their marriage, feel less empty. When hairstylists pick up our shears, we also pick up all of these heavy things. Through this work, I have been a hairstylist, and I have also been a grief counselor, a social media strategist, a chemist, a painter, a gossip columnist, a receptionist, a personal assistant, a punching bag and a friend. I have been behind the runway, behind the chair, behind the camera, I have been there for weddings, photoshoots, commercials, break-ups, pregnancies, graduations, school dances, and I’ve done it all on my feet, smiling, being watched in a mirror.
Legendary stylist Vivienne Mackinder made a documentary in 2005 called “I’m Not Just a Hairdresser”. For veterans of the industry, this is a mantra we understand on a visceral level.