Imagine growing up surrounded by people who believed short sleeves were risque, refused to cut their hair or enjoy the results of some well-placed highlights or wear makeup – including Chapstick. Imagine living well below the poverty level, surviving without many – most – of the “luxuries” we take for granted like heat and running water. Imagine residing in a community where most people have minimal education, spend their days in church or in prayer and, not surprisingly, have zero tolerance for homosexuality.
Daniel Mason-Jones didn’t have to imagine it, it was his life.
Mason-Jones grew up in Easley, South Carolina, in a strongly religious (one he chooses not to identify), conservative community. He knew from an early age he was “different” from everyone else but was not able to identify what exactly made him not like the other boys in his community. The gentle and soft spoken Mason-Jones was beaten up at school and regularly called names. He was called a “sissy” because he moved his hands around too much. He was bullied. He tried to do as expected and fit in. Mason-Jones struggled and regularly failed.
Life was torture, but he decided it was what he had to endure. “I accepted that life was going to be this way for me,” he says. He sat on his hands to keep them still. He got a girlfriend and tried to be “normal” – Easley, South Carolina normal that is. “I did what they thought was right. I tried, I really tried.”
It was the last straw for the community when Mason-Jones announced that he would like to go to college. Although the Pastor - the leader of the community - said “I forbid it,” Mason-Jones pressed and explained why he should go. That conversation ended abruptly. Later that day, without warning, Mason-Jones was forced to stand up in church (men in the front, women in the back of course) and watch as the Pastor pointed his finger at him and say: “You are excommunicated.”
It was a startling blow with shocking ramifications. Mason-Jones was denounced and forced to leave the community. “I was shunned immediately,” he says. “People literally turned their backs on me. People I grew up with, my family. It was heartbreaking.”
Mason-Jones was gone from Easley the next afternoon.
Settling in Atlanta, the new life for the young Mason-Jones presented tough transitioning problems. He questioned every move he made and became depressed. Suicide was never far from his thoughts.
“Now that I reflect on that time, I realize all the challenges were for a reason,” he says. “I didn’t realize I was being set up by ‘Life’s Perfect Design’ – for what I call the right life for me.”
That “Perfect Design” life began when he found work at a funeral parlor where he was paid $6 an hour embalming bodies and helping in cremation. Other duties included helping to prepare bodies for display for wakes or memorials.
It was during this time when an opportunity presented itself to Mason-Jones. “One day the hair and makeup artist called in sick. I jumped in to help.” Sprucing up the recently departed was quite satisfying for Mason-Jones and he did it well. It was an immediate and wonderful fit. “I was a natural,” he says. “I knew it was meant to be. People were so grateful that I made their loved ones look beautiful and peaceful. I knew I would never go back home."
Mason-Jones changed gears and began an apprenticeship in a salon in Atlanta. He thrived. He traveled the world, trained in 9 countries and learned from the best including superstars like Luis Llonguerras in Barcelona, Jacques Dessange in Paris, Charles Worthington in London and Franco Curletto in Rome. Working hard and dedicating himself to his craft, Mason-Jones quickly grew a devoted clientele and eventually, a staff (which he calls a team.) He has styled hair for film, music videos, fashion shows and his work has since appeared in several magazines including Allure, Elle and Vanity Fair. Visiting celebs, like David Duchovny, Demi Moore, Julie Bowen, Amber Heard, Lauren Hutton, Ian Somerhalder, John Travolta and others call on the artist and his team for fresh looks when in Atlanta. Clients line up for his balayage and color finishes and fashionable cuts, and he alone generates more than one million dollars working in the salon each year.
Many years have passed since then and life for Mason-Jones has completely turned around. He is married. He and his husband, a retired hairdresser, have a child. Together they founded the Muse Salon and Spa in metro Atlanta (Johns Creek) which offers a tolerant, creative and comfortable environment for dozens of hair and skin care artists working under its roof. Muse is a paradise for many who are benefitting from Mason-Jones’ tough Easly years. “We opened Muse to create a nice lifestyle for so many others. Our goal was to help empower.”
As an educator for L’Oreal Professionnel and Salon Centric, Mason-Jones travels internationally as a platform artist. Training others has become a passion for Mason-Jones - what he calls “lighting a candle.”
According to Mason-Jones, “It felt like an eternity” before he reconnected with his family. During his excommunication, his father passed away, but he now has a comfortable relationship with his mother and cousin, and he goes back to Easley to see the rest of his family for holidays.
Things we take for granted, Easly taboos, are now enjoyed by Mason-Jones. “Now I have Christmas trees,” he says. “Lots of them. I go bowling. I’m around women who wear pants and sleeveless blouses.” He has gone to concerts and is obviously around people who have their hair cut and colored. “I can now go to a ballgame. I haven’t, but I can!”
As he looks back, Mason-Jones believes “I was made differently so I could love different people. I was born into a family of poverty so I could turn it all around, make money, and help poor people and people in need.” He is quite charitable donating more than $100,000 a year to various charities including CURE Childhood Cancer where he and his team donate 100% of every dollar earned on a specific day each September. "It really adds up," he says.
Mason-Jones has taken his struggles to make a better present and future - not just for himself - but for all of those around him. Life is now good for the artist - a life by a perfect design.
His ride(s): "I LOVE cars! My main car is a black Porsche GTS. Second main car: Porsche Panomera. For running errands like going to the lake and hauling my dogs around: an Infiniti QX80 SUV – 'It’s like a house.'"
His Motto: "Get up and do something great every day and stop making excuses. The only person an excuse sounds good to is the person making it."
Best piece of advice ever received: "Work hard and be nice, the rest will fall into place. (Thank you mom.)"
His secret weapon: "My team! Having a great team around me is my secret weapon. People don’t work for me, we work together."
Follow him: Instagram: @DanielMasonJones You tube and Facebook: Daniel Mason Jones