Barbering and Cosmetology Leaders’ Haircutting Stories 

September 8, 2023

Every career field has its breakout stars and their stories–especially in the barbering and cosmetology field. Haircutting stories are a “badge of honor” for those who tame the tresses of celebrities and civilians alike. Cosmetologists and barbers work in every sector of the economy – from behind the scenes at New York Fashion Week to salons on Main Streets dotting the Midwest. And every cosmetologist and barber has their share of haircutting stories.

Below, we look at some icons in the industry. This includes celebrity hairstylists and barbers as well as accomplished, award-winning cosmetologists and barbers working in the industry. Whether their specialty is makeover magic, barbering battles or educator extraordinaire, every stylist has haircutting stories. These stories then help distinguish their career.

Ted Gibson: The Maestro of Makeovers

Salon owner. Reality TV star on the Paramount Plus series Blowing LA and TLC’s What Not to Wear. Non-profit ambassador. Product line formulator. Celebrity hairstylist. These are all just some of the roles this Texas native has held in a career spanning more than two decades. From transforming tresses on the TLC TV program “What Not to Wear” to chopping off Anne Hathaway’s tresses for “Les Miserables” to sculpting sleek and stunning styles for Angelina Jolie. Gibson blends hairstyling how-to with intuitive listening and admirable interpersonal skills.

And he brings that same command of talent and compassion to every interaction. Whether it’s teaming up with Bellus Academy for San Diego Fashion Week or working with some of the world’s most elite fashion designers to interpret their visions at New York Fashion Week. A savant when it comes to business and communication. Gibson counsels, “Your talent can open doors, but your connections keep them open. His grace in paying his success forward continues to benefit the industry. Gibson and his partner in life and business, Jason Backe, recently founded the Worth-Up initiative. Worh-Up Alliance raises capital for up and coming talent.

Sabra Clark: Lady Barber Worthing Up

Sabra Clark is the founder of the SoCal Lady Barbers event. She is the owner of Straight to the Cut barbering studio and a barbering educator at Bellus Academy. During the 2023 America’s Beauty Show,  Sabra was presented with a $10,000 check onstage by Ted Gibson and Backe.

As a finalist in the Worth Up competition, Sabra along with other finalists was invited to Chicago. They participated in a pitch competition involving some of professional beauty’s most accomplished stylists. While winning the award was a dream come true for Clark, an even bigger dream was meeting celebrity hairstylist Ted Gibson. “Watching What Not to Wear I was mesmerized by Ted’s consultations with clients. How he cared for each and every person who sat in his chair. I wanted to be just like him when I ‘grew up’,” said Clark. “Meeting Ted Gibson was like meeting Elton John, Aretha Franklin or Whitney Houston. Like them, he’s someone who changed the game. And Ted and Jason together are the perfect sushi roll of sparkle and awesome!”

Scholarships for Barbering and Cosmetology

Sabra credited Beauty Changes a non-profit that empowers next gen talent and raises awareness of beauty as a first-choice career. “When I started barbering 17 years ago, there were no scholarships. The mentorship, support and esteem for this career just weren’t there,” said Sabra. “Today, barbering and hairstyling are first choice careers and we’re more than people who cut hair. We’re therapists, coaches, and changers of lives.” Gibson and Backe founded Worth Up in 2021 to help beauty and wellness professionals “worth up” in their industry.

Gibson noted, “Equipping and empowering future hairstylists to own their worth is at the heart of what Jason and I seek to achieve with Worth-Up and is the mission of Beauty Changes Lives, so it was a natural fit.”  Sabra will invest the Dream Capital to elevate SoCal Lady Barber events. “I want to help lady barbers level up and take their place in the industry,” she said.

Adrian de la Parra: An Educator and an Inspiration for Barbering and Cosmetology

As a barbering instructor at Bellus Academy, Arian has expanded Bellus Academy’s curriculum. He continually advances professional development programs for Bellus Academy’s team of educators. He’s also added more than a few awards to the trophy case of Bellus Academy, an elite cosmetology school with campuses in Southern California and Manhattan, Kansas.

A 2019 Wella Beauty Envision Awards winner under the category Sebastian SebMan and a 2016 Pivot Point Next Gen artist, Adrian has served as a haircutting, barbering and hair color instructor at Bellus Academy for seven years. Beyond the classroom, Adrian is an advocate for professional mentoring and credits Mike Varela, owner of The Kingly Group with inspiring his career success. “Working with Mike as a haircutter specialist and educator’s assistant at The Kingly Hair Group Salon and Academy was professionally life-changing.

I learned and still learn so much from Mike, and my skills as a haircutter and educator have grown thanks to him,” said Adrian. The Bellus Academy culture and its investment in students’ success also inspires Adrian’s approach to education. “I love the passion owner Lynelle Lynch puts into the school and how she used her enthusiasm for professional beauty careers to found Beauty Changes Lives. That effort is lifting up the industry for everyone and really celebrating beauty as a career of choice,” he said.

While Adrian originally planned to work in a salon, when Bellus Academy approached him joining its education team, he remembered how much his mother enjoyed developing daily lessons and watching her students succeed. 

Kim Kimble: Natural Hair Know-How

A native of Chicago, Kim Kimble’s hairstyling journey began at a young age, and she quickly rose to prominence in the entertainment industry. The celebrity hairstylist is widely recognized for her starring role work on WE TV’s L.A. Hair and she is the head of the hair department of HBO television series, Euphoria. Known for her hairstyling expertise working with high-profile celebrities such as Beyonce, Kim understands the power of adaptability. She advises future hairstylists to “diversify your skill se, from wigs to natural hair, and never stop learning.”

Education and Commitment in Barbering and Cosmetology

Beauty Best Practices

All of these professionals’ hairstyling stories share a few common theme – education, hard work and paying success forward. These themes are also at the heart of Beauty Change Lives, a 501c3 non-profit that equips and empowers future beauty and wellness professionals. Founded by Lynelle Lynch, a preeminent thought leader in career education, non-profits and the professional beauty education sector. As founder of Beauty Changes Lives, Lynelle worked with leaders throughout the beauty sector. An entity is established to fund mentoring programs and tuition scholarships. Ted Gibson was an early ambassador for Beauty Changes Lives. Securing a scholarship can be the first step toward a successful career path in barbering and cosmetology. But there are other steps as well.

Below are some best practices for aspiring hairstylists and barbers who want to begin their own journey to success.   

Start with education.

Select a barbering and barbering school that will go beyond preparing you for the stat board. Consider the faculty and the awards they’ve achieved in the industry. Ask about the “soft skills” education they offer students. See what opportunities you have to enter competitions and meet leaders in the industry.

Master the basics in barbering and cosmetology.

Before you can create trendsetting styles, it is essential to master the fundamentals. Invest time in perfecting the essential haircuts and styles, as these will form the foundation of a skill set.

Build a robust portfolio.

A hairstylist’s or barber’s portfolio is their visual resume. Document your best work, including before-and-after photos and regularly update it to showcase your growth and versatility. Don’t keep this asset to yourself. Update it regularly with new photos.

Collaborate and Network.

To some degree, success really is a function of who you know and the relationships you forge. Attend local, regional and national beauty events. Seek opportunities to learn under the tutelage of those more experienced and be receptive to collaborations with other professionals to broaden your network.

Keep the inspiration sparked.

Fashion and beauty are ever-evolving fields. Whether on Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest or influencer blogs, it’s important to stay engaged with influencers who are leading the industry forward.

Barbering and Cosmetology Education.

Education is a lifelong process, not a one-and-done for those in the beauty sector. The most successful personalities never stop learning and attending courses. That’s one reason Bellus Academy and its team offer advanced education courses to alums and professionals in the industry.

Embrace Technology.

From social media marketing to online booking systems, technology can help hairstylists and barbers connect with a larger audience.

Last But Not Least, Give back.

One of the loveliest aspects of the professional beauty industry is the philanthropic efforts of brands and individuals. Speak with a successful hairstylist and chances are, they’ll be able to mention a mentor (or two) who helped advance their careers. Giving back can be time, treasure or talent, and beauty professionals give generously of all three.

Your future is waiting. Ready to move forward? A friendly career advisor at Bellus Academy can help you take the next step forward and help you start sharing your own haircutting stories.

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