Do something uncomfortable today. By stepping out of your box, you don’t have to settle for what you are – you get to create who you want to become.” Howard Walstein
From the moment I started talking with Antonio Tarrell, I knew that I was in for surprises. That he was a man who lives life outside of the box. And he did not disappoint.
Antonio, owner of the Antonio Tarrell brand, started cutting hair behind his grandma’s house in the small town of Bruce, Mississippi. After hanging around his uncle’s barbershop for years, he knew in his 11-year-old brain that he was more than qualified to do a good job. Getting tired of having the townspeople around, as they waited to get a cut or a trim from the boy with the magic clippers, Grandma turned her shed into a barbershop for Antonio.
Antonio was destined for greatness as a basketball player, and was on his way with his uncle to check out a college where he could exhibit his talents on the court, when he knew in his heart that he wanted to work in the beauty industry. He shared this with his uncle, who could see how serious Antonio was, and turned the car around and drove back home.
Antonio enrolled at Creations College in Tupelo and spent every weekday driving over an hour each way to attend school and learn the trade of cosmetology.
He laughs as he tells the story of not knowing female hair at all. On his first day of school the teacher asked the class to put a part in a head of hair. Antonio looked for the clippers because that’s how he weaved his magic. When he was told about making a part with a comb, he knew that he didn’t know what he didn’t know, and he had to take things seriously. He got used to using and perfecting with ICON shears, eventually, and graduated in 1994. But he was still known as ‘the guy who had cut hair with a clipper, an used a flat iron and very little product’.
A short year after graduating, Antonio became a platform artist, a rock star among hairdressers. Part educator, communicator, salesperson and entertainer, he ‘performed’ on stages to promote the beauty industry.
So Antonio, what do you think is the biggest challenge for you as you educate the millennials in the world of beauty?
Without any hesitation, Antonio responds. “First, they grow up thinking they know it all. They fear stepping out, taking risks, possibly failing. They seem to be afraid of the creative aspect of doing hair. So they cover up hair with weaves and other things.”
And the oldest student you’ve had? I hear a chuckle and I wait. “A lady in her 80’s. She inspired me. She is still out there learning.” I got the feeling that he wanted to be like her when he grew up.
I detect excitement in Antonio’s voice as he talks about his love of education, sharing knowledge, helping others move ahead in their own lives. “I want to do for others what people did for me.” He takes his duty to pay-it-forward very seriously.
Antonio’s dreams don’t stop here.
Entertaining the thoughts of opening his own spa, Antonio went to massage school. If anyone ever told him he couldn’t do it all, he didn’t listen. He felt pressed for time as he traveled and did house call massages, until the demands of both worlds became too much. The beauty world took precedence.
Adding film school to his resume, Antonio is a true believer of using talents to the max. A hair dresser, massage therapist and fingers in film, Antonio also has his own shear line, DACurve by Antonio Tarrell and a shear line AK Series, and still maintains a close relationship with ICON Shears. With this man, the sky is the limit. Or maybe, beyond the skies! A role model for students of any age who dare to dream.
Antonio points to his idols, Harry Green and Paul Mitchell, who inspire him to keep being the best version of himself. And then more.
Some last words from a man whose wisdom is way beyond his years. What advice would he give kids nowadays? “You have to find out what you wanna do. Keep hustling to make it happen. Find out what’s best for you. What is right for one person may not be good fit for another. Don’t let anyone limit you. Don’t be afraid. Don’t quit. And never let anyone try to put you in a box. Never. Ever”
There’s a big world out there and it could be scary. But in the words of a wise man, Antonio Tarrell, “Don’t let fear stop you. Fear is mental, and you are so much stronger than that. Take the next step and the next and keep going.”
And looking at his beauty school and film success, maybe, just maybe, he knows what he is talking about.