Interview led by Behind the Chair:
All hairdressers can tell you the moment they discovered their passion for hair, and when we heard the story of Kristyl Rodriguez (@tacticalbarberofficial)—a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who’s currently enrolled at Bellus Academy in Poway, Calif.pursuing an education in professional beauty—we knew there was an important message to share. “It doesn’t matter where you begin or how you begin. I want to be able to spark that passion into people where we’re making this industry ten times better, we’re learning from our history and we’re carrying on that legacy,” shares Kristyl. Read her story below.
The Beginning: Inspiration Can Strike Anywhere
Kristyl joined the Marine Corps in 2014 and was enlisted at the age of 19. Her first duty station was in Okinawa, Japan, followed by a field operation in Korea. Every Sunday during Kristyl’s time in Korea, a barber would visit the site and give haircuts to the Marines. But then, this happened: “I was in a tent doing my own hair,” shares Kristyl. “I would just do shape ups and line ups for myself, nothing too crazy, when I had a Marine Sergeant come up to me and ask me for a haircut. I had never cut anybody’s hair before but I jumped right into it and he ended up loving it…and with his outreach and leadership, literally the next day, I had 13 Marines lined up for me.”
This is the first moment that Kristyl considered barbering as a future career—she settled on charging $5 a haircut and that was it. With a strong intrinsic motivation and entrepreneurial spirit, she worked overnight shifts on guard duty from 12a.m. to 8a.m., then cut hair during the days. What Kristyl learned was profound: Hairdressers touch more hearts than heads and every time you service a client, there’s impact.
The Impact of A Haircut
“As a Marine, the standards for appearance are at an all-time high. The uniform has to be squared away and ironed. Everything needs to be flush, measured properly—there’s a lot of attention to detail,” shares Kristyl. “I was looking at Marines from head to toe. It tore up my heart because we’re the finest people of this nation and we need to be walking around as such. That’s where the impact in my mind and heart came from, and I wanted to be able to transmit that through my hands to the people around me…and have them walk around feeling proud and good from head to toe, and representing this nation as such.”
Finding Creativity Within Strict Limitations
Kristyl found opportunities for creativity and personality within the strict military protocol. “You can still be free and have structure,” shares Kristyl. The universal men’s grooming standard is skin fade (100 percent automatic) and there are three options: medium fade, high fade or high and tight. “I wanted them to have personality as well, so they could still be themselves while respecting regulations,” says Kristyl. “You don’t want to lose your identity, but when you’re being so restricted you’re bound to in a sense, so you need to remind yourself of who you are and don’t forget it.”
Similarities In Service: Military & Barbering
After returning from service, Kristyl asked herself what the next challenge and chapter in her life would be. That’s when she decided to pursue her education as a barber at Bellus Academy. Learning from her own history and looking forward, she found many similarities in her service and serving as a barber:
- Leadership and the ability to lead oneself, admit your own faults and weaknesses and always seek self improvement.
- The use of measurements on uniform translates to the attention to detail on a haircut or the structure of the haircut.
- There’s logic (go by the books) and there’s freestyle (when sometimes the books don’t work for certain heads.) There’s measurement and there’s free will where you figure it out on your own.
Beauty Changes Lives: The Power of Education
As Kristyl continues her education, she continues to challenge herself like entering (and winning!) the Sydell & Arnold Miller Family “Art of Haircutting” Student Scholarship which is administered by Beauty Changes Lives. The scholarship covers tuition for a student up to $5,000. “I think education is so important,” shares Kristyl. “I want people to know me as someone who educated themself, to see my selflessness to serve my country and now this industry—and my giving heart.”
To watch her Beauty Changes Lives entry video click here: