How One Female Barber Is Working To Make The Industry More Inclusive

Cassie Kurtz at the CT Barber Expo

Cassie Kurtz has a knack for surprising people, even herself. After suffering a dance injury when she was 17, she said goodbye to her ballerina dreams and set her sights on becoming a makeup artist, the first of a few left turns that led to where she is today. “I knew I wanted to stay in the industry, but my mom and dad kind of looked at me sideways,” Kurtz says. “I just wanted to get to New York City, and this was one way to do it.”

Her Chair His Hair's 2nd Annual NYC Showcase & Fundraiser. 

As a freelance makeup artist, Kurtz’ mentor, Margina Dennis, taught her everything she needed to know about business, rates and navigating the industry. “She taught me how to create really clean skin, too, and I developed a reputation for that, especially for men’s grooming on set,” Kurtz says. “In 2012, I decided to go to barber school and learn the basics to help me on set. For the first few years, I swore that I was a makeup artist who also did grooming and had the license as a backup, but I ended up falling in love with it,” she adds. “To this day, if someone talks to Margina about me becoming a barber, she’ll start cackling because I swore it would never happen.”

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Come 2014, Kurtz had a year of barbering experience under her belt and launched Her Chair His Hair, a nonprofit dedicated to giving women an equal platform in a business traditionally dominated by men. “It all started because people outright laughed at me and questioned how I could possibly be a female barber,” Kurtz says. “I figured there had to be other women like me and a community I could reach out to, but there wasn’t, so I thought I’d make one.” Each year, Her Chair His Hair hosts a range of events, donating 100 percent of their proceeds to micro loans and scholarships for women in the barbering industry who may encounter difficulty obtaining funds to pursue their career, start a business or grow the one they already have. In the past four years alone, Her Chair His Hair has raised approximately $16,000 for charity. 

Her Chair His Hair's 2nd Annual NYC Showcase & Fundraiser. 

This fall, Her Chair His Hair is celebrating five years of empowering female barbers and Kurtz doesn’t plan on slowing that momentum. “I think as long as this industry doesn’t become stagnant, people will react to us accordingly,” she says. “I’m curious to see how we innovate as long as it’s of quality,” she adds. “There are some things that end up on social media and I’m like, Wait, that’s not the future right there.” And for those who question a woman with clippers, Kurtz has some choice words. “The women that I’ve seen grow over these past five years, the women that I’m just starting to be introduced to—they’re insatiable,” Kurtz says. “They are hardworking and kind and helpful and everything you want to see in a professional, on top of being talented. So, when people doubt me, when they doubt the women I surround myself with, it’s just like lacquering a wood floor and lighting it on fire. It’s the biggest push we could ever ask for, and I just say, Oh yeah? OK, watch this.”  

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