Martino Cartier’s bringing back the traditional definition of “wingman” so he can help all stylists boost their pride and fly without wings.

As a child growing up in Key Largo, Florida, Martino Cartier swam with manatees in his parents’ private canal. The dream-like picture this evokes is spot-on, and maybe the reason his life has always been such stuff as dreams are made of—literally. When he dreamed a killer whale knocked the family boat free, morning found its holding post gone and the boat in the distance. Adopted at 6 months old, he says a dream also lead to the discovery of his birth parents.

“I knew they were Christian Egyptians living in New Jersey and my mother’s name was Miriam,” he says. “I dreamed a woman with auburn hair told me my middle name, Ayad, was really my last name.”

After 21 years of bureaucracy and legal roadblocks, he not only discovered that his last name was Ayad, but that his birth mother had left a letter for him in his adoption file. When they finally met five years ago, she showed him an old photo of herself with auburn hair.

Winging it

In a way, Cartier’s search for who he was lead to who he wanted to be. He discovered self-assurance in hairdressing, because, he says, “when you make others feel good about themselves, it empowers both parties. It’s not just about shears.”

He attended beauty school in New Jersey, and opened his first three-chair salon there in 1998. Today, there are two Martino Cartier salons, in Sewell and Cherry Hill. He built them with hard work, passing out 500 flyers at a time. If they only got him one client, no matter—he knew that one could lead to 20. He has made a name through his charity work and his belief that you should “never take more than you give.”

Cartier raised $7,000 for a 9/11 widow. When he discovered a client’s son had brain cancer and just months to live, his cut-a-thon raised enough to pay the client’s mortgage for two years, so she could stay at home with her sick child.

“The boy lived two more years— you can’t make this stuff up,” says Cartier, who is also Keratin Complex’s international artistic director. “I changed his life with the help of my clients; I could not have done it without them. You know that song Fly Without Wings, about what makes you complete? As hairdressers, every day we help others fl y without wings—who else can say that?”

Cartier’s new goal is to uplift the profession by giving every stylist pride and stature in the world, by helping others. To that end, he founded a network of salons, stylists and beauty leaders who pledge to never charge a woman undergoing breast-cancer treatment for hair replacement services.

Dream Weaver

Cartier Confidential

Most Grateful for: “My wonderful son and my staff, who have always supported me.”

Secret Hobby: Collecting Michael Jackson memorabilia. Cartier has an award MJ was given at NYC’s Tower Records, and flew to LA for the funeral, for which there was a lottery to attend. He got in.

Coveted Superpower: To heal others

Dislikes: The word “adoptive” mother. “I call the woman who raised me my mother.”

Grew Through: Hard work, giving back and a fabulous TV appearance on Tabatha’s Salon Takeover. “It was wonderful for me and my business!”