The Balayage Bae

People Over Profit

Anne Sweeney

I always say that my job is more than just doing hair. It’s never been about the money or becoming Instagram famous (those are just an added bonus!). However, I have never really dwelled on the reasons as to why I always put such an emphasis on this. I wanted this article to really showcase the moments in my life and career that made this more than a job but a true passion.

When I was in beauty school, an elderly man came in for a haircut and I was assigned to be his stylist. We made small talk while I cut his hair which is when he told me that his late wife had cut his hair for the entirety of their marriage - over 40 years! At the end of the cut, I asked him what he thought of it, just like I would any other client. His response left me speechless. He told me it was the best haircut he had had since his wife passed 10 years ago.

It was in that moment that I found my reason as to WHY I wanted to be a hairstylist. It was such a fulfilling moment for me to hear him say that; I had no idea I could accomplish something so wonderful with my skills. From that point on all I wanted to do was to bring joy to others through hairstyling.

After this, I felt a genuine shift in my attitude towards school. When I had started, I knew I wanted to get in and out but I seemed to just be going through the motions instead of really enjoying what I was doing. After my “aha” moment, everything started to come so much more naturally! I truly loved what I was doing and had a major confidence boost. I stopped second guessing myself which became apparent to my teachers and peers.

Among these teachers was Jessie. Jessie was the coolest, most badass teacher you could ask for. To be honest, she scared the crap out of me the first time I met her. She was honest, direct and drop dead gorgeous. She also pushed me really hard because she saw something in me that I didn’t. There were days where I didn’t know if I could pull off a certain color service or I would be afraid to try something new, but she would always tell me to trust myself. She would look at me and roll her eyes and tell me I already knew the answer. And she was always right. I truly don’t think I would be the stylist I am today had I not had her as a teacher. And once I got over being afraid of her, she quickly became one of my closest friends.

On October 12th, 2013, Jessie was shot by her ex-husband. She died later that night after being taken off life support. The loss of friends and loved ones is unfortunately one that I’m not unfamiliar with, but it never gets any easier. Jessie’s death was one that came with more than just the textbook stages of grief. It came with a different kind of anger. I was angry she was gone but I was more angry at the man who took away such an amazing mother, friend and teacher. My heart was full of hatred towards this person.

My beauty school held a fundraiser to raise money for Jessie’s two daughters. Current students and graduates came in and provided services in exchange for donations and we did a great job. It was a strange feeling being at school without Jessie, but there was something in me that kept pushing me through the day. It was like she was still there watching over and telling me I could do it. Ever since then, I have that feeling when I am working. I’ve had those moments where I think to myself, “Am I really cut out to be doing hair?” and then I hear her tell me, “Shut up, you know exactly what you are doing.”

Jessie taught me how to be a confident stylist, but her death taught me to pay attention to what people say, and the things they aren’t saying. Part of being a stylist is being a listening ear, and in lots of situations, a therapist. I can’t sit here and say I’m directly saving people from DV situations, but I hope that my open ears and open heart let my clients know I will always do what I can to help them-even if it’s just a confidence boost from a good haircut.

From a different angle, I have already held one fundraiser to help victims of domestic violence and plan to do more to not only help victims of domestic violence but to encourage others to as well.

Building confidence in others the way Jessie built it in me is something that I am strong believer in, especially as a young mother. Becoming a mom is one of the most wonderful things that can happen, but it can also be one of the most isolating and disorienting. There’s nothing like lack of sleep and the constant smell of spit up to make you feel like you’ve lost your swagger.  Nothing makes me happier than making a fellow mama feel like herself again. As much as we love our children, all of us remember that time before we had kids when we had time to look and feel amazing. There’s a saying, “Your vibe attracts you tribe” and that definitely rings true for me and my clients. I have so many mothers that come see me and it’s awesome. For a few hours they get to relax and let me take care of them and it’s amazing what a difference a little time for self care can make. I think that is true for everyone though, not just moms!

I talk a lot about the importance of self care and with good reason. It’s kind of like a reset button for our bodies and minds.  I recently had a client whose husband had committed suicide. Shew was hesitant on still coming for her appointment but decided it might be good for her. We talked about her husband, we talked about her kids, we cried and we laughed. At the end of the visit, she told me having her hair done made her feel somewhat normal again and she was so happy that she decided to still come in. It was an emotional appointment but it just reminded me again why I do what I do. I am grateful that I can use the skills I have to give someone else that sense of comfort or normalcy.

Starting beauty school, I thought I wanted to do hair because I just liked doing it and I had zero interest in going back to college. After these major moments though, and all the other moments in between, I do it to make a difference. Even if that difference is just making someone feel younger because we colored the grey hair, it’s worth it. It will never be about the money or fame, just about the people and bringing beauty into the world.


“If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” - Marc Anthony