Celebrity hairstylist Mark Bustos gained fame in Hollywood for working with high-profile clients like Norah Jones and Marc Jacobs, but the New York-based Filipino-American has made international news for his weekly charitable missions.
Bustos would roam around the streets of New York on weekends to give free haircuts to the homeless, a practice he started when he visited his parents' hometown in Pampanga.
"From the moment I did it in the Philippines, I knew that I could do this anywhere. I could just bring my scissors with me anywhere and make people happy. That’s what I do for a living— I make people happy," he said.
He said he would usually begin his conversation with the homeless with a simple “I want to do something nice for you today.”
“If you approach anyone with a genuine heart and genuine compassion, nobody’s gonna turn you down,” he said.
The haircut, he said, is the cherry on top. He said he presents the homeless with "options," offering them a meal and gives the haircut while waiting for it to arrive.
If he gets recognized while doing the haircut and people would ask for his photo, he would introduce the homeless instead and share the person's story.
"There’s all different sorts of scenario that have brought them out on the street. It’s difficult to understand it at times, but as long as I’m able to be there for them and just make them happy for that very moment, and show them some compassion, I think it will make them a little better," he said.
Despite the different stories that brought them out on the streets, Bustos said, if they say that they're happy where they are, that's all good for him as well.
But his haircuts, as basic as it is, and his interaction with them seem to lift the homeless people's spirits in a way. He has received all sorts of reactions after he unveils their new hairdo, but Bustos recalled one in particular that sticks out: his first 'customer,' Jemar Banks.
"He looked in the mirror and the first thing he said was ‘Do you know anyone that’s hiring? I want to get a job.’ It was then that I knew I was doing the right thing," he said.
Amidst the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple, Bustos said he found happiness in the conversations he had with the homeless, and not in the top dollar he's able to charge in the salon.
"When I stepped back from looking for success and I started giving back, I live by the words ‘I’m either expensive or I’m free; never cheap.’ That’s where I’m able to find happiness for myself," he said.
Bustos is now in Manila to give free haircuts to underprivileged children and persons with disabilities, believing it can restore dignity and change people's lives.