Jan 062015
Mark Bustos
Mark Bustos [via Another Fashion Interpreter]

During his Sundays off from an upscale New York salon, Filipino-American Mark Bustos puts together his own portable salon and scouts the neighbourhood for homeless men and women who will let him do a nice thing or two for them, for free.

“I want to do something nice for you today,” is Bustos’ opening line when he approaches his target “customers” which he says is the same way he would speak to a best friend who desperately needs help.

That something nice is a free haircut from an expert stylist who over the past two years has used his talent to help the less fortunate take the first step to a change their lives.

When a homeless person agrees to this stranger’s proposal, the hair artist sits him or her down right

there on the sidewalk, the street corner, or the park and immediately works on giving them a new cleaner look. Bustos says he purposely does it in public to inspire people walking by to empathize with the less fortunate and show them it is all right to look at and say hello to the people living on the streets.

When his offer is declined, Bustos doesn’t stop there; he gives them a care package with basic necessities. He then goes on searching for the next homeless client.

Bustos treats his homeless clients as he would his more glamorous paying clientele which includes musician Norah Jones, designer Philip Lim, and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon – carefully disposing hair clippings, disinfecting hair tools, and using clean towels and cutting capes between cuts for his 6-10 street customers every Sunday.

He also finds unsuspecting new customers through referrals of clients at the classy Three Squares Studio and friends who tell him about homeless people in their neighbourhood.

The transformation goes beyond the outside look, and Bustos recounts how his homeless clients’ reactions have affirmed his resolve to keep giving free haircuts.

One of his first cuts in a park in the Lower East Side was for a man named Jemar Banks who after seeing his new look told the hair stylist, “Do you know anybody that is hiring? I want to get a job.” Bustos says he knew then that he was doing the right thing.

The stylist says that although he wishes appearances were not so very important, he notes people with neatly styled hair are treated better. He has also seen how people are more enthusiastic to improve themselves because they feel better about themselves.

Mark cutting the hair of a homeless man
Mark cutting the hair of a homeless man [via Instagram]


Photographer Devin Masga has teamed up with the 30-year old stylist in documenting these Sundays with the homeless. Bustos tells a story about the homeless person on his Instagram posts of before and after shots. The duo’s Instagram posts use the hashtag #BeAwesomeToSomebody to inspire people to share their own photo documentation of themselves using their talents and gifts to perform random acts of kindness.

The hashtag has since become a movement noticed by international media and has made Bustos even more of a celebrity with features on the Huffington Post, CNN Money, People Magazine, The

Today Show, and more recently, The New York Times. Bustos appreciates the attention that has given more exposure to his cause of “changing the world one haircut at a time.”

He imagines the many lives that can be uplifted and empowered if he can inspire every single stylist to do just one haircut on the street or in shelters.

His Instagram following has swelled to over 215,000 with some donating supplies and gift cards amd asking how to join his team. Bustos responds that there is no need to join him and that anyone can do his own random act of kindness wherever he may be.

The Philippines to NYC and beyond

The idea for offering free haircuts to people who cannot afford them started when Bustos and girlfriend Lucille Javier travelled home to their parents’ native Philippines in 2012.

As a tribute to Javier’s recently demised father, the couple went to a barber shop the Javier patriarch frequented in Magalang in the province of Pampanga, north of Manila. They rented a chair in the barber shop and gave free haircuts to the poor children in the area.

The experience was so gratifying to Bustos that he resolved to do the same work in his New York City home. He has since brought his mission on vacation and travels in Los Angeles, Jamaica and Costa Rica.

The 30-year old stylist was born and raised in New Jersey and first visited his parents’ native country when he was 12. The abject poverty stunned the boy and taught him to be more compassionate and observant of other people’s plights when he returned to his home.

Bustos credits his parents for his Filipino upbringing. He was raised in a Catholic family which went to church every Sunday. Surrounded by Italian families in Nutley, it was difficult for the young Bustos to understand why he wasn’t allowed to do certain things that his friends were doing. The Bustos household was a middle-class family where money was not the focus. Now that the Bustos hair artist is surrounded with people with money, he stays grounded because he doesn’t forget his beginnings.

Bustos began cutting hair when he was 14. Bustos was self-taught at first and then went on to college studies in business management, and then a license in cosmetology at the Artistic Academy.

The post Fil-Am celebrity hair artist gives free cuts to homeless appeared first on Good News Pilipinas.

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