SURPRISE! As I mentioned yesterday on Instagram, we will be featuring another lady barber this week - back to back! I know, I know, it's kind of crazy and I kind of love it because now I have an excuse to talk to more talented ladies. DOUBLE!
I wanted to end September with a bang and the first woman who came to mind was Rocky "Roqkandy" Graziano. She has been a huge supporter since day one but I have had my eye on her work since I started Her Chair His Hair because of her impeccable attention to detail and hustle on or off social media. Currently, Rocky works at Blades Barbershop in West Haven, Connecticut and is also SuperMom to her 3 year old son. Like I said, the hustle never ends for this spectacular Lady Barber and it makes me so happy to share her story with you all.
HCHH: What inspired you to become a Barber? Did you start off as one?
RoqKandy: I started off in Cosmetology school and realized that I was more interested in the Barber aspect of cutting hair. Initially, I asked around about it and the other Barbers who were in my class [to officially obtain their license] tried to discourage me. They would say I was a female and don’t know what [I'm] doing; sometimes they would just say that it’s harder than it looks. If someone tells me I can’t do something that’s my cue to try harder or start something.
My mother passed away shortly after my son was born but I'd like to give her credit, too. She was the first person I touched with shears well before I even went to Barber school. Hindsight is 20/20 and looking back I was so happy cutting her hair and she loved it. She was the first one to buy me clippers even though they were the ones you can buy at Walgreens and I always knew she was my biggest cheerleader no matter what I pursued.
HCHH: I'm so sorry to hear that but I'm glad you've got an Angel. Tell me, the guys in your school reacted poorly to your desire to become a Barber. How do other people react when they find out you are now a licensed, working Lady Barber?
RoqKandy: Some people I went to art school with will ask me if I still dance [I went to college for dancing and eventually became a teacher]. Usually, I tell them I try to do both: dancing as a hobby but barbering has become such a big factor in my life.
For people that don't know me like the guys that walk in [to the shop] and see me will automatically think I’m a receptionist. But then I put my coat on and they realize not only am I a Barber but I’m good at it. I have to say, all the barbers- all my brothers, back me up 110% telling me I’ve come such a long way and I do great every day. I’m excited to cut new clients because it gives me an opportunity to show I do belong here. I’m not just eye candy. The most rewarding part is someone leave my chair and look surprised in the mirror because they can’t believe that I didn’t only give them what they want but better than their old barber.
HCHH: That's great that you can flip it into something positive and grab some new clients while you're at it. How many clients do you think you see on average?
RoqKandy: On an average day, I see about 6-8 haircuts which includes kids, guys, women, shape-ups. I'm slowly building but again I give all the credit to my barber brothers who will text me to ask if I can take care of a certain client. From there some of the clients stay with me and that's how I've built up.
HCHH: You mentioned you cut women and children as well. Do you think you see a lot of kids? How about your son, does he let you touch his hair?
RoqKandy: I definitely get a lot of teenagers since we're surrounded by colleges like Yale and 2 others in 25 mile radius and plenty of high schools. My favorites though are the little ones ages 6-10 or sometimes even up to 12 because they want extravagant designs.
My son does not let me finish any of his haircuts. He will say,“I want you to be Mommy, not my Barber.” [laughs] I love it but the guys in the shop usually have to finish the cut for me. He goes with his father and brother to their own shop though and who am I to take away that bonding experience?
HCHH: So you're all truth and no sugar when it comes to saying what you think. I'd love to know what your biggest pet peeve is in the shop or with a client.
RoqKandy: You're right! Hmm..my biggest pet peeve is when clients are happy with your work or maybe sometimes not even happy but they will use their haircut as an attempt to bag you. Some will say, 'Oh I’ll text you later,' and I will tell them they can take my card with the shop number on it. Just because I’m your barber doesn’t mean I’ll treat you different than the guys would. I’m Italian and black, I’ve got a mouth on me - it’s lethal.
You’re my client, keep it strictly business. I want women to speak up more about it because it happens a lot in shops. I'm not saying to be mean but put them in their place. I want to gain respect as your barber, not just as a woman but because I give you an awesome haircut every time.
HCHH: Note to self: Don't get on Rocky's bad side. Okay, so when you're not too busy cutting people with your tongue, what is your go-to tool?
RoqKandy: Masters are my ultimate favorite followed closely by my Heroes and then my straight blade made in Japan. It was a gift from my boss when I first started because I was using the plastic black one that is super cheap. I have never put it down since I started so I think I'll need a new one soon.
HCHH: *Cough* maybe that Pacinos blade...
RoqKandy: Yes! I've been looking at the gold Pacinos blade it goes really well with my skin tone [laughs]. What I love most though is that he’s a regular dude; he’s awesome but he always has this aura. You can see his mind working even when he’s not speaking. I kind of get star struck, I can’t help it because they’re at the level I’m reaching for. All barbers famous on IG are regular people and so open to meeting other people, I love that so much about this industry.
HCHH: Speaking of our industry coming together, do you have any events or projects coming up that you'd like to share?
RoqKandy: We [the shop] just came back from Atlanta Bronner Brothers Hair Show so now our main focus is the barber battle coming up in October in NYC. Not sure if I’m going to compete yet but I definitely want to go and support. A lot of people will be there but especially my ladies! You always have to support the amazing Lady Barbers that show up. Also, when I go to an event I’m never alone, I always know someone and even if I don't know a single person, I feel the Barber community is so open to meeting new people.
HCHH: So when you're so busy being SuperMom, a Lady Barber and traveling to support your colleagues, what its your go-to favorite snack?
RoqKandy: I'm trying to stay on a health kick. Lately it’s been trail mix or nuts as a go-to snack. But that's not my favorite! If I had a choice it would be Twix candy. So bad but so good. To drink? Water is my best friend - as a dancer I was conditioned to drink water and have taken that with me.
HCHH: You've already accomplished so much in a short time. You only obtained your barbers license recently, right?
RoqKandy: Yeah, I was at another shop first shortly but I've been working at Blades since end of February, beginning of March. I only received my license in January but all of my hard work has paid off primarily thanks to the help of my boss. He doesn't hold my hand like they do in school, I have to be hungry, but if he has a client I sit and watch. I always ask questions after, too.
HCHH: So it's definitely fair for me to ask if you have any goals, hopes or dreams pertaining to your career as a Barber. Care to share?
RoqKandy: Absolutely. I just want to be one more face added to the crowd [of inspirational Lady Barbers] to let that 12 year old girl know it’s ok to be unique and shave the side of your head or 18 year old girl it’s ok to work in a barbershop. Anything is possible as long as you put your mind to it. I just want to be able to show these women who may be feeling insecure that they have deep down and pull it out.
HCHH: You mentioned you were a dance instructor at one point. Do you think from the help of your boss that you're inspired to continue that and teach other barbers eventually as well?
RoqKandy: I definitely think I will be teaching other women. If I have the opportunity, I won’t think twice about it. We all need someone to be patient, to grab your hand and help you out when you're having trouble. I truly believe in paying it forward.
What amazes me every single time I speak with a Lady Barber is a willingness to speak up and speak out. So many people still don't know about our community but as Rocky pointed out multiple times on the phone that we are growing and thanks to women like Christina at LBU and Kerry over at She's My Barber, we are finally gaining recognition.
Rocky's story is so inspirational to me because she is so new to the industry like our lovely Mariela Perez but such a strong force already. I cannot wait to continue watching her grow as a Barber and artist while still playing the role of Mom to her (adorable) son. Oh and she's only an hour north of me so you know I'm going to convince her to come to the city for drinks, STAT!
As always, it has been my pleasure meeting another phenomenal woman with an equally great story. Until next week, Mondays and Thursdays 11 AM EST! Oh and don't forget to support your EIGHT Lady Barbers on the ScissorSalute™ Show on Monday at 7 PM EST where NastyBarbers will announce the winner of their competition. See you then!
Until Next Time,