Barack Obama once tweeted to a community of college students that where you start does not have to be where you end up. To be honest we have all heard that saying at least one time in our lives and this story I am about to share rings true to that statement.
I met Lamont Lawrence of the Virgin Hair Lounge through working here on the blog, he is a stylist from the Atlanta area and frequently shares his work online with his audience and has graced our social channels a few times now.
The thing that intrigued me about Lamont was his story! It wasn’t any ordinary story because Lamont did not have a clue that he would become a stylist judging from his early life, he became a stylist through mentorship after a life of being on the streets. I asked Lamont to share his story with us because of how inspiring it was and here is what he shared:
Tell me about your early life, where are you from, and about your parents
I am originally from Baltimore Maryland, a tough place to grow up no matter what area you live in. When I was very young around 6 years old, I was constantly picked on because I was overweight and bigger for my age.
I had to deal with being attacked by older kids often getting into altercations with three or more kids at a time. I developed anger issues during this time and became very short tempered to protect myself from beng hurt.I knew very early to attack anyone who attacked me!
With that said, I was always fighting and trying to prove myself in my neighborhood. We lived in what was considered a “good area” but in comparison to many neighborhoods around the States it was still a rough place to live.
My parents are the total opposite of each other. My Mother is an angel but my father was very hard and very angry. He had a tough childhood and just didn’t know how to deal with me or my siblings the right way.
I became angrier over the years because of the strained relationship I had with my dad and I had to learn a lot of things on my own. My mother however, gave us balance and tried to instill great values in me despite where I was headed with my life.
In later years we ended up losing the house in the “good neighborhood” and had to move into an apartment in a much rougher neighborhood surrounded by drugs, thugs and killers. I had to really fight constantly and on any given day I never knew how the day would play out.
I never shared anything that happened on the streets with my parents because I didn’t want them coming to my school and embarrassing me so I handled things as they came. When I was 11 years old, my family moved to Atlanta for a new life with better opportunities. We had family in the South already because my mother is originally from Florida, and we packed everything and moved to Atlanta to stay with my Aunt.
What made you get kicked out of high school, what was it that made you become rebellious as a teen
As I mentioned, my family made the decision to moved to Atlanta for a better life for my sister and I, but for me, it became even harder.
I was the new kid on the block from up North and the war between the east coast and the south was in full effect at that time.
I was considered a “New Yorker” even though I was from Baltimore and I had to establish myself and earn my respect through fighting and never backing down. I joined a gang for protection and to have someone watching my back because at the time I had a lot of enemies.
I had many transitions in Atlanta moving quite a bit and linking up with different cliques. I went deeper into the streets, stealing, fighting and dabbled into selling drugs. I had many brushes with death even pistol-whipped and shot at but somehow always made it out.
I became a very popular person over the years around Atlanta and had gained the respect I thought I needed. By the age of 16, I was really running the streets skipping school a lot and getting into alot of trouble.
I was always in the Principles office and getting suspended to the point where I spent more time out of school than in school.
I was kicked out of high school by my Sophomore year for intent to distribute Marijuana. I was then sent to an alternative school called Hamilton and this was the last stop before being banned from all schools in the State of Georgia.
They literally had all the thugs and drug dealers under one roof which meant they had metal detectors at the door and even had a police station inside the school that would do random security checks searching for weapons and drugs.
I remember we could hear the sound of the metal detectors in the other rooms and everyone in the classes would be scrambling to hide their weapons and drugs. I was very angry there and lashed out at everything and everyone, I just didn’t care and was kicked out of that school as well.
That was the end of the road for high school, my only option after that was getting a GED.
What was your turning point? Your ah ha moment! Was it a struggle for you to turn things around?
My Mom had been praying for me to change, I was out of control and she could no longer handle me. I was smoking weed, drinking and running the streets.
My turning point came while hanging next to a salon called Tom Harris! There was a deli spot next door where my boys and I would hang out checking out all the beautiful women going in and out the salon.
We use to act silly and mess with the girls going in and out and we eventually got to know some of the stylists that worked there. It was then that things started to evolve.
When I started to see that this Salon had a lot of men that worked there and that they had all the women surrounding them it changed my mind on what I originally thought about men that did hair.
The owner of the shop, Tom Harris had what we called a “Big Boy Benz” and had a swag About himself that was totally different from the norm.
The clients loved him and my Ah hah moment was when he confronted me and my boys for harassing the clients and actually offered me the opportunity to work in the salon sweeping the floors and grabbing stuff from the store.
It was very hard for me to get away from my boys and the streets in the beginning but once I realized the opportunity I truly had in front of me I got focused and worked on it.
Tom Harris became my mentor and 2nd, Father, he changed my life forever and took the time to teach me the hair business and about life, being responsible, and that I could do anything I set my mind to.
I worked my way up from sweeping the floors, to being a shampoo boy, to an assistant, and then to becoming a master hair stylist while under his apprenticeship.
He pushed me to get my GED and then taught me a craft that now will forever feed my family. I can’t even begin to express how much this man impacted my life but in short, he saved my life.
Without him stepping in at that perfect time, I would have ended up in prison or dead without a doubt because many of my boys ended up that way.
Unfortunately Tom Harris lost his life to cancer in 2013 due to exposure to Asian Orange while in Vietnam. He was the strongest man I ever met, strong in spirit and in mind. He touched many lives, he instilled in me to stay true to myself and leave a legacy behind.
What piece of advice would you give to a young struggling stylist
My message is simple! Stylists should remain vigilant about their craft, treating each customer that sits in there chair like a king or queen never take them for granted. Always focus on healthy hair because no matter what, it will always come back to the basics.
Looking back what would you change about your life?
I use to want to change something’s about my life, but now I am so grateful because it has made me into the man I am today and has given me a story to share that can hopefully encourage others no matter what the background or obstacles they may face.
What is life like now — what is the impact you want to leave on the hair industry?
Life now is Awesome! I have been Blessed with one of the most beautiful Salons in GA and have 4 products that I have developed under my wings.
I went from the streets to the Boss that Tom Harris has Always seen in me. Now I am able to employ and encourage others by paying it forward with some of the opportunities that were given to me.
I am on my way to being a Multi-Millionaire and it’s all because of the things I have gone through and learned over the years. I hope to leave a major impact in my industry and the world as someone who beat the odds and never gave up. A story of a young boy from Baltimore that fought to leave a Legacy behind.
You can find Lamont at his amazing salon, The Virgin Hair Lounge, located in Lithonia, Georgia.