Cover photography: joanna gray
Michael Jordan changed my life. I was in grade 5 when I found out who MJ was. I fell in love with what he was doing and how inspiring he was. He made me fall in love with basketball. My parents bought me a basketball for my birthday and in no time, I was obsessed. Every free moment I had, I practiced. I even got my family watching the Chicago Bulls. I played basketball at every level; I would move and switch schools just to play.
In the beginning:
Michael Jordan changed my life. I was in grade 5 when I found out who MJ was. I fell in love with what he was doing and how inspiring he was. He made me fall in love with basketball. My parents bought me a basketball for my birthday and in no time, I was obsessed. Every free moment I had, I practiced. I even got my family watching the Chicago Bulls. I played basketball at every level; I would move and switch schools just to play. Basketball brought out my competitive side; it showed me how much I like to win. I loved what basketball represented. ‘Look good, feel good, play good.’ I mean, you had to have that swag. It led me to taking care of myself; in particular my hair. I bought a pair of clippers from Walmart and started cutting my own hair. I was trying to create my own ‘cool’ look. At the time, I didn’t really have money for the barbershop and I was pretty nervous to go into one. I thought barbers were so cool. My barber at the time was Randy Cheddesingh. Everybody was getting their hair cut by Randy. I remember Genuine was “my artist” and I wanted hair like his. I used to get a perm and then go see Randy for fades, tapers, and long side burns.
Where did your cutting Career start?
I loved cutting hair. Like I said, I started cutting my own hair. Then I’d cut my brother’s hair, and then my basketball teammates in the school washroom. When I built up a little more confidence, I went to see Lebert Blackstock. Lebert was the G.O.A.T; he was one of the owners at Imperial Barbershop. He offered to train me. The first thing he did was put new clippers in my hands. He gave me the Fast Feed, the 76 and the Andis T outliner… what a different cutting experience. Imperial was where I learned how to work on 4C hair. I had the privilege of working with some very talented barbers, and I was able to pick up techniques from all of them. Imperial was more than just a barbershop; it was a family. I was introduced to so many new things. Everything from my love for different music to my love for fashion, all came from there. We had a uniform, we were classy, we were cool.
What was the process like for you?
Basketball was my life, all I wanted to do was play. After graduation from high school, I went on to play ball at the university level. I had to try-out for the team and there were only two spots available. Believe me when I say I had everything to prove. I was this tall skinny kid trying out for the university basketball team. I did it though; I made the team and I was proud of myself. But it was a tough year – I hurt my knee, and everything that I dreamt about had stopped. I wasn’t playing basketball anymore. I guess when I stopped dreaming, I stopped thinking about my next steps. I hated school. I hated university, so it took me a long time to finish. Then I tried a few other things. I went to fashion school and I didn’t finish. I tried pilot school and didn’t finish that. I guess I was really trying to figure out who I was going to be, what my purpose was, and at the same time make my parents proud. They wanted me to go to school and become a doctor or a lawyer. I found myself on a bad path for a moment, so I went back into the barbershop full time in Streetsville. I wasn’t happy though, I felt stuck and I didn’t want to be there. I just wanted to start over. Then an opportunity came for me to move to Montreal to work at Notorious Barbershop. Some of the most talented barbers were at Notorious, and world-renowned barbers would make guest appearances. I wanted to be around that energy. Once I got there, I never looked back. I became obsessed with the craft, just like basketball. I would stay late and practice. Any free time I had to better my skills, I was doing that.
How’d you get into teaching?
I always wanted to teach, so I just did it. I planned a trip to Barcelona, stayed in a hostel and organized a class to teach 15 barbers. I didn’t speak the language, but hair is truly universal. I then planned a class in Prague – the class was much smaller but the experience was big. I came back with so much more confidence to start teaching more in Canada. This is when I was asked to Join the L’Oréal Professional team – but even though I worked with such a prestigious team, I wasn’t completely confident in my cutting abilities. I didn’t know how to cut with scissors. I was teaching the art of fading but didn’t understand the other fundamentals. Trust me when I say this gave me many sleepless nights as I watched other artists master these skills. So, I took a three-day cutting course at Vidal Sassoon. When graduation day came, I still had no idea how to hold scissors, take diagonal sections or use elevation to cut. I was so ashamed, I felt like I was failing myself. So, I spoke with my teacher about it and she said, “if you want to be the best that you can be, you have to go to the best school. Vidal Sassoon in the UK.” So, I packed my bags and off I went for 6 months. For the first time, my parents gave me their blessing. It meant everything to have their support. I learned everything I needed to take me to the next level. I had to spend 3 hours a day on the train to school. Every day I dreamt about putting together GRADIENT.
Living in the UK gave me the push I need to dream bigger. I knew that I wanted to start an online e-comm. I wanted to create a brand about hair, lifestyle and fashion. GRADIENT has been the name for the last six years. I moved to Vancouver right before the pandemic. I put together my creative team and during lockdown we created our website, selected our products and wrote my book, which took a full two years. The entire process has been magical.
This entire process took forever, it was very time consuming and extremely draining. But it was something I wanted and the process made me believe in myself and everything I was doing. GRADIENT has been recognized worldwide; we have an academy with a 5-day course we are teaching around the world. GRADIENT was created to inspire the world and showcase art through my lens. I feel like that’s what we’re doing right. Hair has taken me on an amazing journey.