Nearly 30 years ago, Kristi Faulkner picked up a Wahl Peanut trimmer and Wahl Designer clipper and never looked back. She’s a current Wahl Education & Artistic Team International Platform Artist going into her 14th year with the brand. A licensed cosmetologist, she shares how she developed her passion for short hair.
“My first job out of cosmetology school was at Sheer Magic in Junction City, Kansas near a military base," Faulkner says. "The shop was owned by a Korean woman, Anne, and my co-workers were two other Korean women, four Black women and two Puerto Rican men. Anne gave me a Wahl Peanut and Designer and said I should cut short hair, so I did! I still did color and chemical services while I was cutting every hair texture that came in the shop. Back then, a haircut was $4 and I kept 40% of each cut. Anne taught me the importance of learning to cut hair texture, not a person’s skin color. ”
In 1995, the blond-haired Faulkner opened the first multicultural barber shop in Clearwater, Florida—Kristi’s Barber and Styling. She had to overcome the stereotypes and suspicion of her new shop. She laughs now, “It was hard to gain trust in the Black and Hispanic communities, first off, I’m female and I’m white, they thought I was an undercover cop.”
She overcame the stigma by patiently working, networking and connecting to the community via the Urban League and the board of directors of the local YMCA. Her work on her trusted clients spoke for itself, as they were asked, “who cut your hair?”
More Than What Meets the Eye
Faulkner stands out in multicultural barbering not just because of her looks, but because of her skills. Her first teaching stint happened at a Bronner Brothers Show in Atlanta, Georgia. She was invited onto the Wahl stage to perform a cut next to Garland Fox—Gwhiz. She recalls, “I was terrified with everyone looking at me, waiting for me to mess up. But as soon as I turned on those clippers, everything was fine.”
Since that fateful day, Faulkner has taught on many stages and in the classroom. While she is a licensed-cosmetologist and barber by trade, her passion is short hair.
She says, “I tell all my students to broaden their services. For cosmetologists, learn and use a clipper and trimmer for men’s cuts, for barbers, don’t be afraid to cut women’s short hair. Women prefer a softer front hairline, not as hard and precise like men. Use different blades to create texture.”
Sometimes she encounters someone who is skeptical of her skills based on their preconceived notions and they think they know more. She says, “That’s when I ask them if they know the speed of their clipper and why they’re using the motor they are for their cut. Do they know the angle of the teeth on their tools?” With Faulkner, school is always in session.
Overcoming cultural barriers has been Faulkner’s career. On behalf of Wahl, she taught in Sao Paulo, Brazil, “Brazil had so many different hair textures and they were eager to learn.” She also traveled to China for an eight city teaching tour. She didn’t find a warm greeting and no one had questions in her classrooms. She says, “I thought they hated me! Typically I look for my students’ faces for that ‘Aha!’ moment and I know they understand what I’m teaching. But then my interpreter informed me that culturally they have stoic expressions and are taught to respect authority and teachers. By the third city, I gave a student a high five, and that broke down the cultural barrier. Most have never seen a blonde female before, let alone a blonde female instructor.”
Faulkner is a firm believer that when you know your stuff, people will listen, regardless of race or culture. She hopes to encourage other hair professionals to look outside the box, and focus on the hair texture. As a mother to two biracial children, she knows the future of hair services will be more about texture than skin color. When she’s not teaching classes, Faulkner is still cutting at her shop alongside Connie Fisher and Tasha Hobson, her salon mates for more than 20 years.
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