Even with Hillary Clinton running for the presidential post in the White House, many aren’t convinced that women can stomp with the big dogs. Females trying to enter male-dominated fields are still facing discrimination fueled by outdated, sexist views about gender determining one’s level of skill. That didn’t stop Phylicia Goins though. This 22-year-old Zeta soror took control of her clippers and launched her own barber business, She’s the Barber, LLC.
Being outnumbered by the boys doesn’t bother the Alexandria, VA native. Once she enrolled at The Barber College in Woodbridge, VA, she had to get used to being the lone female.
“I went to barber school with 40 other men and I’d be the only girl in there,” she told me over the phone. “There were other women that would come in a few hours a week, but I was the only one there consistently for 11 months. I’ve held my ground.”
Even though she’s sick with the shears, she still gets the side-eye from customers because she’s a woman.
“[Customers] would joke around with it sometimes like ‘Oh, you cut hair?’ out of disbelief. Some would say ‘I’m not sure’ and go to another barber. They try not to disrespect me in my face, but I know how they feel.”
Her friend Colby Dawson says the customers weren’t only ones dishing out discouragement when she started cutting hair.
“Her family had certain expectations of her,” Dawson said. “[That] kind of helped with the discouragement in a way.”
Goins fought off those feelings of dismay and used the doubt to build her confidence. “It helped me as an individual to grow a stronger self-esteem,” she said. “
Even though you may not be accepted by others, as long as long as you’re comfortable with yourself that’s all that matters.”
High school friend Christina Bonner says she wasn’t surprised by Goins’ diligence.
“Her ambition is out of this world,” she said. “She is always looking to be the best.”
Barbering isn’t just a trade for her. When she entered barber school, she was overcoming a struggle with depression and substance abuse. Instead of seeking help from a therapist, Goins used her creativity to find comfort.
“[Being a barber] was something I really gravitated towards once I [became] depressed and it got me out of it. Barbering was like a safe haven for me to do something positive and not think about things in the outside world.”
Still dealing with unresolved feelings from her childhood, Goins began to battle depression once she arrived at Norfolk State University in 2011. She indulged heavily in drugs and alcohol to suppress the pain.
It didn’t help that she wasn’t following her dreams either. Since high school, Goins wanted to be a barber but went to Norfolk State to please her parents instead.
Dawson says Goins also overwhelmed herself with student activities, which added salt to her wounds.
“Phylicia was a big people pleaser,” she said. “She likes to be involved in a lot of things. She had a lot of things on her plate in college and that just weighed heavy on her because she felt like she needed to do those things.”
Unhappy and unfulfilled, Goins found solace with drugs and alcohol.
“I used to get drunk to the point where I would black out,” she said regarding her binges. “I had a schedule. I would leave class, go to the corner store, get my beer and my weed and I would lock myself in my room from 2:00 p.m in the afternoon ‘till the next day.”
Bonner said she supported Goins as much as she could, but could not be her crutch forever.
“I think people get themselves into situations that only them and God can get out of,” Bonner said. “I would help her understand that she could not get through this by herself.”
At one point, her addiction landed her in the hospital, and while her family was scared for her life, Goins wasn’t phased by her downfall.
“When I was hospitalized, I was really rebellious. I didn’t want to be helped. I had to help myself.”
She reached a breaking point during the summer of 2014 when she was found in her car in a ditch at 6:00 a.m. Thankfully, a man from the Navy found her before the cops did. After he took her to the hospital, her father and cousin came to be by her side. They were fed up with her ways, and so was she. In July of 2014, she entered rehab for the fourth time, but that time was a charm.
Today she’s a licensed professional barber and is focusing on her She’s The Barber, LLC brand. With her barber kit in tow, she would bring her one-woman shop to your step.
“It was about my own personal growth,” she said about being on her own boss. “This is what made me healthy. It was more about self-acceptance and it turned into a business.”
Now, she is working out of M1 Innovations, stationed in Washington D.C. She’s the first and only female barber in the shop.
“Now that [She’s the Barber] is an LLC, I want to franchise it in the future. I want to put studios in major cities and oversee those. At that point, I would have my hair products in those studios. I am in the process of putting together my business plan for that.”
In a matter of four years, this millennial has overcome addiction and depression and has become a self-made brand. Her journey has been poignant and she continues to persevere thanks to her sobriety and newfound faith.
“I didn’t believe in [God] when I was in those troubles. This is what keeps my head straight because I know I have something to look forward to every day. It would be ridiculous to take those steps backward.”