June, as one of the featured barbers in the film, how would you describe yourself?
I'd describe myself as a hard workin' man. A hustler. I've been cutting hair for about twenty years, and I just felt like the world needed to see what barbering was really all about. And I kinda started taping in the barber shop myself at first. And then I hooked up with a friend of mine, Reggie Williams who was in the shop one day and he saw the energy while I was taping, and we talked and kinda just kept it moving.
Reggie, you're a client, yes?
Yeah. It's funny because I used to go to Malik, June's brother, who's also prominently featured in the film. Malik was my barber for about four years. I was in the shop one day, and the shop was always very animated. Like June said, there was a camcorder there, and there was a guy, Sugar Dice, who's also featured in the film, who was really expounding on the Middle East and foreign affairs and things like that, and it was just fascinating. And I asked June what was going on and he said, Reg, you know, I think this would be a great idea for a documentary. And I agreed. So I said, I really wanna be involved because I feel passionately about expressing the different types of black men that are out there, and giving a window into their world. At that point, I took the concept to another good friend of mine who I thought would be great to work with, (HBO's) Amani Martin.
How would you describe the environment of the barbershop?
I'd describe it like the Coliseum. It's an arena. And it's a safe haven for people just to be. You know? Everybody wants to be somebody, and the barbershop is pretty much a forum where you can be that person you wanna be, even if it's not who you really are, or if you wanna just be somebody that you're pretending to be. You can be it in the barber shop. It's freedom. For me, it's sport.
You describe yourselves as barber psychologists. Can you elaborate?
Well I feel that I'm in touch with people. You know, I've been cutting hair for twenty years, and it's not just about taking hair off a person's head, it's about the connection between two people. That's why people talk to their barbers, because you're totally inside their spirit. You're touching them. You know, sometimes I actually forget when I'm cutting hair that my hands are usually always on a person's shoulder. What that does for me is it relaxes me into a person's energy. So we become one to a certain degree. And when you got that oneness it's... it's kinda like sex almost. I know that sounds kinda crazy, but it's a connection. Within sex there's a connection between people. Within barbering there's a connection between two people. So you get that open feeling. It's intimacy.
Tell me about "the hustle". What does that expression mean?
You got barbers who just kinda sit in the barber shop all day and wait for people to come to them. Then you got a guy that realizes that it's an art, but it's also a profession, and you have to hustle. So, if I'm slow on a particular day, I just get outside and bring somebody in. I'm gonna build up this energy. It's the hustle. It's kinda like scoring a basket in basketball. You score a basket, you score another one and all of a sudden the basket just gets bigger. Same thing with barbering. It's a sport. That's the hustle.
What do you hope the audience will take away from the film?
I hope what the audience takes away is that we all have a lot more in common than we believe. I think the general population has been bombarded with certain images of black men as athletes, as entertainers. But we are all that and more. We're all share many universal qualities, and I think that this bridges the gap of humanity.