Celebrity barber, entrepreneur and philanthropist Lisa B. is living proof that girls really can run the world. She has flourished in an industry dominated by male barbers. The Los Angeles native has been recognized as WE tv’s newest breakout star. Her work has been featured in EBONY, Vogue, ESPN The Magazine and XXL thanks to her high-profile clientele, including Martin Lawrence, Cedric the Entertainer, Mike Tyson, Morgan Freeman, Shaquille O’Neal, and Mike Epps, among others.
Rolling out spoke with Lisa B recently to discuss her new book, Concrete Rose, her hair care line, Lifestyle by Lisa. B, and how she got her start as a barber.
When did you realize that you wanted to become a barber and pursue a career in the beauty industry?
I’ve been cutting hair for about 20 years. I kind of just fell into doing hair. I dropped out of school at a very young age and got caught up in the street life. Back in the day, hustlers and hairstylists went hand in hand during that time in Los Angeles. Salons were a place where money was frequently [laundered]. My kid’s father encouraged me to attend beauty school and open up a shop. I just had a natural gift. I never did hair or picked up curling irons. At that point in time, I was abused and left homeless only to end up working in a barber shop. I learned how to cut hair from watching at the shop every day. I saw it as another hustle and this was a way for me to provide for my kids and myself.
How did you get into cutting celebrities’ hair? What was your first big break?
My first experience was with Montell Jordan, I was working on his video shoot. I started cutting hair for a lot of rappers, actors and some of the Lakers players. I got a big buzz around Los Angeles area for my work. The city has a very small circle of celebrities, so when you cut hair for one word spreads and your business begins to grow. The first movie I did was Bad Boys II. Martin Lawrence got me involved the union and I became his personal barber on set. My initial reaction while being on set was overwhelming, because I had nothing to compare it to. Working on a movie of that level was a lot for me. I was in Miami by myself, so I just wanted to take the opportunity to learn as much as possible. Martin and his camp were very demanding, so the things I thought were normal as I went on to work with other actors was totally opposite.
Other than being Lisa B. the barber, do you have a niche that you are known for by your clients or industry peers?
I think it’s just the fact that I’m a female. A lot of guys prefer to have a woman, because they will trust her opinion more when she tells him what looks good and what doesn’t. It’s kind of a catch-22 sometimes, it works for me and sometimes it works against me. Overall, I have learned to embrace my femininity while working as a barber.
Describe a typical workday for you.
Right now, I am all over the place. I have a barbershop in my house for my personal clients, my book launching and I have a product line coming out. I am really focused on building my brand. I feel like there is no female at the level where I am in this line of business. I want to blaze a trail for other females to come behind me.
What is one of the biggest misconceptions about barbers and the industry?
I think the biggest misconception is people thinking we are the lowest on the totem pole or looked at as the help. A lot of people think we don’t eat good off of barbering. This job has been very good to me financially. As barbers, we don’t really get the respect that we deserve in the beauty industry. It’s not looked at like art [as] opposed to hairstylists being noted as the creatives of the business.
The barbering industry is a male-dominated business. Do you feel women are treated as equals?
Not at all. This really doesn’t pertain to the clients, but more so gaining the respect from the other barbers. This has always been a battle for me, because I am a girly girl. The other females in the industry are boyish and tend to get more respect, because they blend in with the others. You have to realize it is a male dominated business and environment. If you are a woman and doing well as a barber they become jealous, feel offended or just simply don’t like it. I am not going to downplay my femininity has a female just because it’s run by men.
What’s the story behind your new book, Concrete Rose?
This book is the story of my life and I began writing it about four years ago. My ex-husband is apart of Black Mafia Family (BMF) and when the federal indictment came down I started writing about the things that I was going through. It was therapeutic for me to write about my life. I had so many people questioning me about the BMF life, how I became a celebrity barber and so many other things. The book is really about winning against all odds against me. Man people told me what I couldn’t do and I did it. People should never give up on their dreams, because something is always on the other side. I want people do read my book and feel like if she could do it I can.
Can you give some details on the launch of your male hair care line, Lifestyle by Lisa B.?
It’s amazing! This is something I always wanted to do. As a female barber, I can tell a man what will work for him when I am cutting his hair and he will trust my opinion. The line was created for [those] who have dry, itchy scalps, and there is also a beard oil. The line was inspired by the various needs my clients have. They would always ask me for tips, so I knew this would be the perfect time to launch my line.
For more information on Lisa B. and her business, log on to www.thereallisab.com. She can also be followed via social media on Instagram and Twitter @1thereallisab.