Giving back is at the root of what Hairdressers at Heart do best, whether they’re behind the chair, backstage at New York Fashion Week, or visiting a cosmetology school.
Sebastian Professional International Artist Omar Antonio has done his fair share of all of the above, but one recent visit changed the way he approaches mentorship.
Omar’s roots are in San Francisco, but when an instructor from neighboring Alameda asked him to speak at Avalon School of Cosmetology, he volunteered to organize and facilitate a panel—at no cost to the school. Instead of bringing stylists from his salon, Omar invited a diverse group of salon pros. They were at different stages in their careers and had different specialties, from a barber to a makeup artist to a fellow Sebastian platform artist. Each panelist shared how they achieved the goal of doing what they love for a living—and all within a commuting distance to Alameda.
“A lot of the time, in cosmetology school, the students only look to the salon down the street. This panel showed them that a whole lot more is achievable.” The panelists—Diva Poulos, Renato VanDine, Hannah Roebuck, David Nazionale, Nick Loot, Paul Miller and, of course, Omar Antonio—told the aspiring stylists about behind the scenes work that goes into creating a career. Omar hoped students could envision their future by seeing themselves in the visiting panelists. “It’s very important to show all walks of life. Everyone started somewhere.”
“The place I’m at in my career right now has a lot to do with the opportunities Fabio Sementilli gave me through his mentorship.” As a leader in education, the late stylist taught Omar one big lesson: pay it forward. “At the beginning of my career, I was trying so hard to be a star. Fabio showed me how to give back. He showed that life to me.” Omar has carried that lesson with him ever since. “I don’t think my career grew until I started paying it forward and giving back.”
Early in his career, Omar was inspired by a visit from Sebastian Professional educators. He hoped the panel would inspire a new generation of aspiring stylists. “You get to show students how to focus on the fundamentals. You can’t become a platform artist without the fundamentals.” Omar wanted to continue the strong tradition of education and mentorship that brought him where he is today.
He saw that potential in Paul Miller, a recently licensed cosmetologist. “I chose him to be my assistant. He’s a natural in the studio!” Mentoring offers its own unexpected challenges and the teacher often ends up learning powerful lessons. “Just meeting Paul and seeing how I can mentor him—not just behind the chair, but also in life—and become his friend, like Anthony did for me, has been really rewarding.” By Anthony, he means his fellow Sebastian Artist Anthony Cole. “We work together, we travel together, and now we’re on the Sebastian International Design Team together. He’s my best friend.” Bringing it full circle, Omar invited his mentee to join the panel.
Paul could share what he has learned working closely with a platform artist and, as a recent graduate, he was also relatable for the students. “I thought about the student who is in the back of the room and does not want to be in class today. I wondered: how can I make this impactful for the students? It’s important for them to see that Paul made it. He surrounds himself with positive, creative people.” That couldn’t be more true than on the day of the panel.
“Everyone on the panel loved the experience! To become a mentor in only 2 hours was incredible.” It looks like this motley crew just might get the band back together for another tour of mentorship. “When the panel finished at the Avalon School, we were all hugging and saying: We’ve got to do this again!” The connections happen quickly you can truly impact someone and open doors, change the course of their career, inspire them. That’s what it’s all about.