Jason Schneidman, aka The Men’s Groomer, has taken to the streets. Spurred by his personal experience with addiction, the Los Angeles-based celebrity stylist applies his professional skills and natural ability with people to provide grooming services to the sprawling city’s homeless population.
What made you decide to do this work?
When I first got sober—I’m 13 years sober now—I knew that part of my recovery was being of service, so I worked with addicts one on one. Then my life and career got really full, and it ultimately hit me that I could be of service to people through my work as a stylist by focusing on the “homeless addict” side of it; the success rate for addicts recovering is better when they’re helped by other addicts.
How do you know whom to approach on the street, and what do you say?
I used to do a lot of promotion work, so I worked through those fears of approaching people on the street a long time ago, and I can read people really well. I just get next to someone who’s staring off into the sunset and I stare off into the sunset with them. Maybe I’ll say, “What an amazing night,” or “Check out that bike.” And I start schmoozing, which opens up into “Hey, I’m doing haircuts, what do you think about a haircut and beard trim?” And the guy might say, “I’m growing my hair out but a beard trim sounds cool.” And we’ll go from there.
Does making an external change in someone’s appearance really help?
Yes. Changing a homeless person’s appearance helps us perceive him differently. Also, when you’re an addict, the problem is not wanting to “show up” and not feeling good about yourself. The drugs and alcohol get you to “OK.” So we work on the outsides first. Everyone loves a makeover, and when I ask the people I work on if it’s all right to take their picture afterward most of them are into it. Eventually we’ll start talking about where they’re from and their family and it goes into my saying “Hey, is there something I can do to help you, maybe connect you with someone?” Then what happens next is to hopefully bring in facilities and programs to help work on the insides.
So many people want to help, but it feels like the problem is so huge.
There are 50,000 homeless people here in L.A. alone and it’s getting worse. The County and City are all working to figure out ways of helping, so this is my part. I’m trying to bring awareness to the issue. I talk to my celebrity clients, I reach out to other stylists through my Instagram, and a lot of people are ready to pitch in. If we all do a little we can help a lot.
[Image: Courtesy of Jason Scheidman]