Arizona Governor Doug Ducey proved his appreciation for American veterans and his support in assisting them to get back on their feet. There have been several stories in the news featuring hair stylists offering their talent free for impoverished individuals needing a service such as a haircut which would help them look presentable to find employment. The state cosmetology board banned the humanitarian gesture, calling it a “public risk,” but Ducey is fighting back.
Juan Carlos Montes de Oca from Tucson, Arizona, “was inspired by a man in London” who cut the homeless’ hair for free to do the same, helping out those in his community. He also does it “out of the memory of” his mother who lost her hair. Montes de Oca is still enrolled in cosmetology school and is not yet licensed, however, he knows the basics of hair cutting and styling. He took his talent and kindness to a homeless shelter for veterans called Camp Bravo, where the director says, “he’s part of the family.”
The aspiring hairdresser became a local inspiration to others, unfortunately attracting the Arizona State Board of Cosmetology’s attention. Last year, the board notified Montes de Oca that he was to stop volunteering his hair cutting services and appear in court due to “operating without a license,” which normally takes 1,000 hours to obtain. This has received political attention, and Ducey is supporting a state senator’s bill to de-regulate the cosmetology industry for certain exceptions, preventing technicalities such as this one.
Governor Ducey was appalled upon hearing the story that a state board would intervene in a charitable cause over a technicality that was not hurting anyone. Viewing Montes de Oca as a positive attribution to society, he has announced his plan to join State Representative Ugenti-Rita to amend the rule which is trying to prevent Montes de Oca from his volunteer work.
First of all, Montes de Oca and other hair stylists who offer free services are not looking to take paying customers from establish and licensed professionals. They are performing a necessary service for free, so a professional is not required. An individual with such a need is unlikely wondering whether the person cutting their hair is licensed, but rather is just thankful for their willingness to do so. The bill would not allow unlicensed professionals to perform chemical treatments, but only simple services, such as applying makeup for a product demonstration or shampooing.
Ducey also adds that hair cutting should not be taken as seriously as the cosmetology board is suggesting it is. He provides the statistic that a cosmetology license is more time-consuming to obtain than that of “an EMT, certified nursing assistant, or truck driver,” professions all which are riskier to public safety than hairstyling could ever be. There is admittedly significant time and effort that goes into becoming a licensed cosmetologist, and while some are threatened that un-trained professionals will come in and take all the jobs, it would mostly be entry-level positions that are filled.
State Representative Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who introduced HB 2011, added that it also costs upwards of $10,000 to obtain such a license and that helping those in need, even if it is only an amateur job, should not be limited to licensed professionals. In December, Ugenti-Rita introduced a bill to “de-regulate hair styling” in Arizona. Her reason is to make more jobs available in the beauty industry in places such as blow-dry bars, where there is no cutting or coloring involved. Ugenti-Rita’s bill is not necessarily to benefit the homeless, but Ducey is still in support of HB 2011 as another option in helping Montes de Oca’s case.
The cosmetology board in Arizona has tried to prevent other non-licensed beauticians from working for other petty reasons in the past. A woman named Essence specialized in braiding hair, having over ten years’ experience; the board determined she needed a cosmetology license. Juana, also from Arizona, was a self-taught eyebrow threader, also with more experience than students just graduating from beauty school, who was told that she could not continue her business without a license either. Both women won in court, as the material covered in cosmetology trade schools does not generally include hair braiding or eyebrow threading, so it would not make sense to mandate the women with specialty talents to receive a formal education that would not benefit their trades.
Businesses providing services to help the homeless help themselves is not a new trend, though it is an admirable one no matter the form. Laundry mats, for instance, sometimes will wash clothes for job interviews. Montes de Oca wanted to be able to contribute to helping homeless veterans using his passion for hair. The board of cosmetology determined that this was a “real risk,” to which an AZ Central journalist asked, “more than living on the streets?”
The stylist in training has expressed that he fears the publicity from the board’s citation will negatively affect his career in the beauty industry. So far, it looks like anything but that. His future clients can see through this incident that Montes de Oca genuinely cares about his clients, both paying or receiving a complimentary service. Governor Ducey has further expressed his approval, saying, “Juan Carlos, you go ahead and keep cutting hair and doing the right thing.”