I didn’t choose hair, hair chose me.

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was visiting my grandmother and I happened to be in close proximity to her when I heard her say that she needed a relaxer.  Without any prior knowledge of chemical service application, I volunteered to complete the hair service. After opening the at home relaxer box, I read the instructions and mixed the components.  With her hair divided in four section, I applied my first relaxer.

From that point on, hair became my passion. After some time passed, I was able to see a picture and complete a look that was close to the desired look. This was all without any formal education or professional licensure, styling hair came naturally to me.

I continued to do hair though until shortly after I graduated from high school. I did my cousin’s hair for her wedding when I was only 14 years old. After high school and after joining the military, I hid that part of myself. I hid my gift. Being from the south and with my stature, it wasn’t cool for a man to be a hairstylist. Over the years my gift brought me shame as there were many who thought I should use my natural build to play football or be more sports centered. As a result of this gift, I was called names and made fun of on the regular. So, I did what many would do, when I decided to join the military I left that chapter behind in the small town of Waycross, GA. I then reinvented myself.

After joining the military and becoming a combat medic, I deployed to Iraq within two months after I arrived to my first duty station. It was in Iraq that my unit was one of the first units on the ground and during the invasion of Iraq, there was little to no infrastructure in place. There were no established bases for us to occupy. It was there in a foreign country that hair found me again.

I was near my platoon sergeant when one of the mechanics happened to mention to him that he needed a haircut. He looked at me and said, “Lewis, do you want to learn to cut hair?” I would find out later that he was a trained barber and after that first haircut when he gave me the basics of doing a fade that I would become the barber for the squadron. As a combat medic, I would pull a 12 hour shift in the aid station (clinic) and instead of going to bed, I was so eager to get back to barbering. I cut hair for the remainder of that and my subsequent tour of duty to Iraq…..

After two deployments, graduating from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, and becoming an Army Officer, I left active duty in 2015 and enrolled in the Cinta Aveda Institute in San Francisco. I initially chose to forgo my masters to complete the dual licensure programs. I graduated in December 2016 and subsequently became a licensed barber and cosmetologist.

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