“I started as a barber in 2014. My license expired in New York and I renewed it since then. That’s how long I’ve had it. My mom moved to New Orleans 7 or 8 years ago, and she had been trying to get me to move here for a while.”

“I did some research and I found a couple of shops that would have me work for them as a guest barber. A lot of people do that here because of the way that the law is, it’s so hard to get in and most people don’t actually follow through and get the license because it’s so difficult.”

“I moved from New York in February of 2020 right before the pandemic. I secured a job as a guest barber and was brought on as an employee. I was willing to go through the process of getting my license the proper way. I still am. I went to school, got my financial aid, and went through the program but then I realized, ‘What am I doing this for? I already did this. I could teach this class.’

“I decided to drop from the program and even the teacher told me, “Yeah, you don’t belong here. You’re willing to go through the process, however, we don’t think it’s necessary. Have you tried the apprenticeship program?”

“So, my boss was willing to do the apprenticeship paperwork. But now, the program I work under takes $100 of dues from my account automatically. And four years ago I already took the tests. They’re OSHA exams, tests about electronic current, infectious disease, the history of barbering, chemical process, and you have to get a 70% or higher to move to the next one. I have almost 2,000 hours, but it’s a 4,000-hour apprenticeship.”

“I think anybody would kind of give up. Who would want to do that? Especially when you’ve done it already. It shouldn’t be this difficult for people to do the right thing. Am I supposed to go to college and put myself in debt to try and get another job?”

“Everyone seems so open-armed about welcoming new people down here, but when you actually move here and try to make a life for yourself, the state makes it so hard.

“I’ve definitely embraced this community, made it my home, and want to continue to. If it’s virtually impossible for me to do that, I don’t know what I’ll do. This is a harmless act of wanting to better my own life and help a community that can use it.”

“Being a barber is doing a service for people. That’s why I do what I do. At the end of the day, it feels good to give a kid their first haircut or help somebody who recovered from cancer get a hairstyle that helps them feel good about themselves. These are all things that barbers do for the community.”

“I truly believe in the traditional American Dream. Your work speaks and shows for itself. My dream in moving to New Orleans was to open a barbershop. I’d be on a better path to my dream if it weren’t for these licensing issues.”

“We’re all just trying to help others and help ourselves get to doing what feels right to us. We all want to be able to make a living and put a roof over our heads. I don’t want to have to go back to New York, but there are moments where I feel I’ll need to go back.”

– Jessica Miller |  Barber | New Orleans, LA