Mark Bustos: Hairdresser to the Homeless
Mark Bustos’ motto is a phrase that also sums up his life project: “ Be awesome with someone ”. This is precisely what he’s been proposing for eight years, using the tool he knows best, his hairdressing scissors.
Mark Bustos is a celebrity hairstylist from New York who works in the exclusive West Chelsea area of Manhattan, New York. He provides his services at Three Squares Studio, a sophisticated beauty salon where the city’s richest and most famous hang out.
A haircut with Mark Bustos costs several hundred dollars, except on Sundays. That’s the day he sets aside to roam the streets looking for homeless people who want to change their appearance. The stylist works on their hair for free, week after week.
“ To generous souls every task is noble.”
Mark Bustos, a dedicated hairdresser
Mark Bustos’ family came to the United States from the Philippines, many years ago. He was born in New York and, from a really young age, he was interested in hairdressing. In fact, he started out doing his own hair in a makeshift salon in his garage. Today, he says that he’s never earned a penny that didn’t come from haircuts.
Over time, Bustos began to gain fame as an amazing stylist. That’s how he became a hairdresser to both celebrities and aristocrats. However, there was something that tormented him. He felt that there was too much negativism in the world and he wanted to do something inspiring to feed hope.
His life changed during a vacation in 2012. He visited the Philippines with his girlfriend, LaLa Javier, who’s also of Filipino origin and a stylist. The two set up a salon in what was her late father’s barber shop. There, they offered free haircuts to poor children and young people.
An inspiring task
Mark’s experience with the children of the Philippines left a great impact on Mark Bustos. He’s always claimed that appearance isn’t everything but that it does play a huge part. In fact, he insists that a person with a good haircut tends to inspire more respect among others. However, the most important thing is that the beneficiary of a haircut increases their self-confidence.
During his trip to the Philippines, he was struck by the great emotional effect that his haircuts had on the children. So, once back in New York, he decided to continue with this kind of work. He started to dedicate Sundays to giving haircuts to those most in need. Since then, he’s continued to carry out this task that benefits six people per week.
He goes out early to look for homeless people who want to change their appearance. He walks up to them and usually says, “ I want to do something nice for you today.” According to him, about 80 percent of them accept his help.
Before giving them a haircut, he gives them some food and also a kit containing grooming products. If they agree to get a haircut, he starts cutting immediately, in the middle of the street. If they don’t want to change their appearance, they simply keep the food and grooming kit.
Mark is always accompanied by a photographer friend of his, Devin Masga. From the start, he wanted to have a record of his work with the aim of inspiring others. Furthermore, while performing haircuts on homeless people, he also takes the opportunity to learn their stories. When he publishes the photographs on his social media, he always shares them.
Without a doubt, the experience that marked him the most was that of the first homeless person whose hair he cut. He was a man named Jamar, who spoke little and seemed completely indifferent to what was going on around him.
However, when Mark finished his work and Jamar was able to see himself in the mirror, his mood immediately changed. In fact, at the end of the haircut, he asked if Mark knew of any place where they were hiring employees. That made the hairdresser see that a change in appearance goes far beyond something physical. Indeed, when these people see a better version of themselves in the mirror it gives them a glimmer of hope.
Mark Bustos is proof that making others happy, even with the smallest of contributions, is a way to feel better about ourselves and give greater meaning to our time in the world.
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Yubero, S., & Larrañaga, E. (2002). Concepción del voluntariado desde la perspectiva motivacional: conducta de ayuda vs. altruismo. Pedagogía Social. Revista Interuniversitaria, (9), 27-39.