We had the good fortune of connecting with Saera Hur and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Saera, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
ShoutoutLA No one is perfect, but we can do our best to put some good out into the world while we’re here.
As an immigrant to this Country at a very young age and constantly being displaced, I knew community is something that I always craved and was important to me.
Now, to avoid a memoir saga- I will lead off with the word “collectivism”.
Collectivism is something that’s ingrained in the fiber of my being due to my culture yet growing up in America, I learned “no one has your back but yourself”.
These conflicting ideas decided to collaborate together at some point in my life and it applied greatly to my work.
Previous to doing hair, I worked with children and teens in education, character building, and development. Through this work I was able to experience what it feels to be a constant in someone’s life, guiding them or just being their to listen.
I believe we as people are to experience many feelings and talents in our life, and whatever talents we have is just a medium or vehicle that’s connected to what we truly strive for in our individual lives in a deeper sense.
Hairdressing for me is a privilege. To have the ability to have a thread in the community, to be a constant in someone’s life, and to allow someone to feel accepted judgement free.
We’re all very complex beings, and for me I can’t “just do hair and sell products”. After having the experiences I’ve had, and the lack of representation for POC and the other especially in the beauty industry – I wanted to have real relationships with my clients, the community, other artists… Because hair truly is just another medium to exchange imprints in our lives.
The old school way of the beauty industry is “my way or the highway” “fake it til you make it” “upsell”… As a self proclaimed independent collectivist I found these words pretty toxic.
After moving to another state for 7 years as a woman of color, I got a glimpse of what it’s like out of the “LA bubble”, I experienced and witnessed a lot of discrimination towards myself and select communities of color.
This is where I made a promise to myself to embrace all textures and to never use irresponsible verbiage when it came to someone’s texture of their hair, as it holds more than just protein matter- it holds memories and culture.
The space I hold for myself and my clients in my craft is sacred in that-they’re more than a number and I’m more than just a hair stylist.
My mantra in life is honesty, and the marketing of beauty industry standards and products was just not sitting well with me in my own health and conscience for my clients. So many companies indulge in greenwashing and claiming they’re clean and great for the environment when clearly, they’re not.
As a trusted confidant to so many folks in my chair, I needed to make a change in lower toxic color and nontoxic products.
How are we in the work of beauty, yet putting poison on people? Because what that leaves behind, is definitely not beautiful. Granted, thus far there is no such thing as nontoxic color – but we can lower all of our exposures to highly toxic chemicals for both our clients and ourselves as hairdressers. I encourage all stylists to incorporate at least a “meatless Monday” approach with their products, even that will do wonders. Every re-exposure = higher sensitivity and risk.
It was only recent that major media even announced that due to exposure to these highly toxic chemicals women- especially black women are at a 31% increased risk of developing breast cancer.
Here is where collectivism comes in for me again. I, as a trusted confidant want to do what I can to protect my community – and if the most I’ll have to suffer for it is going through re-education, product line change, higher overhead, and being considered “niche” – that’s far of a less price than having to end my career due to sensitivities or knowing my client’s health is at risk.
Besides all the blabber about products, I love my community- and when I say I love my community that includes my city, LA.
This is a difficult city to thrive in, you either sink or swim. A lot of folks are opportunists or are just not given an opportunity… a vast contrast.
My community is inclusive of folks who are underrepresented. I only strive to be more successful so I can give more to my community.
I provide and will continue to provide a sliding scale for “undocumented” immigrants and transitioning folks at discretion.
I had the privilege to coordinate, direct, and pull together events for our community in Skid Row with a wellness and beauty event partnered up with my colleagues who donated necessities. I plan to collaborate with more organizations to continue my efforts.
My chair is a safe space and domestic violence is a serious issue, and I am here to help in the best way I can in connecting you to the proper professionals to help.
I also look forward in supporting my creative friends and clients in showcasing their work, I want to open up my space with ideas and events – definitely holding extra space for my POC and lgbt creatives because they deserve it!
I’ll never feel like I’ve done enough, but here’s to making a dent in our industries- independently collective.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I opened a collective salon July 6th 2021 in less than 2 weeks! I think I’ll experience imposter syndrome for 2 years until it hits me that I opened a salon.
I wanted to creative a collective salon where everyone has the opportunity to grow in their career and cut out all the other static and middle-people.
I don’t think I truly felt free to explore my purpose in this field until I worked for myself and I’d like to offer that for others.
Getting to where I am was in hindsight, always in the making without my knowledge, it all fell into place but it definitely wasn’t easy.
I started out professionally behind the chair in Colorado after moving there for 7 years when I was 21 under not so great circumstances. No family, no money, no dog. Skipping the segment on disorganized, expensive, beauty school that only teaches us to pass state board – I put myself through two really toxic apprenticeships.
My health was compromised physically and mentally during this time due to lack of proper breaks, water, food, and respect.
There was a lot of covert and overt discrimination in my experience, I had to do a lot of people pleasing.
I just knew that I had a vision and plan on doing more with my career with heart and dignity in a way I would be proud of.
I built clientele very quickly due to just being authentic in my shared time with my clients and honing my craft in and out of the salon with countless tabs of hair technique seminars, models, and classes.
I relocated to LA after being gone for 7 years and zero clientele.
Once again, I went into “do or die” mode and did my best to avoid negative thoughts of “will I financially survive” “will people like me?!” I very briefly, from not knowing certain reputations of salons here in LA – worked in pretty illegal and toxic setups… To what VERY quickly catapulted me into renting out a hollow booth cubicle to work in with only 6 months worth of building clientele. I just wasn’t about to compromise everything I worked to be as a person and in my career at this point in my life.
I went booth rental, and somehow didn’t really have a slow day since.
Then the pandemic happened, and the changes and management of the space was just another liability for my business and clients to which I had to find a solution for.
I originally was going to a solo studio, and very abruptly that plan came to a halt when I circled back to a storefront I previously viewed on the same street I had worked in and was intimidated by-but realized this place was meant for me.
I opened in a little less than two weeks as I had not only my clients but other stylists counting on me for a new safe haven.
I pulled it together with the help of a select few, unbeknownst to them- they actually hold a chosen family spot in my heart now.
Through this experience I’ve learned that I need to ask for help (this is foreign to me). Connect with people you admire on a deeper level, no response is a response, reciprocity is a sign of respect and honor.
I want folks to know that my salon is more than a salon, I am more than just a hair stylist, and they are more than just a client.
My goal is succeed and keep succeeding so I can give more to people who need it.
I’m thrilled and excited to strengthen our community and to make space for what makes us a collective.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
When I’m not working, I’m actually a homebody and introvert – but my love for food gets me out of the house.. Mostly because my delivery app history is almost criminal, and the amount of times I’ve deleted and reinstalled the app is problematic.
Anyways, if you’re asking me about my favorite vegan tacos it’s El Cocinero, if you know you know… The pastor.
Otherwise, my ultimate favorite food ever is literally the handmade Kimbap inside the corner of California Market in Ktown.
Those ladies whip out the best authentic kimbap that reminds me of the motherland for $6 for 3 rows, can’t beat it.
This is where I’ll be revealing too much about myself that I might regret.
I really like Frank & Son’s in Rowland Heights (fun fact the first city I moved to when I came to America) because They have so many cute figurines and collectibles.
I like going to Core TCG Pasadena for my Dragon Ball Z cards.
I love camping and would to do more of it when the dust settles a bit.
Otherwise, I’d recommend folks to experience SoCal on bike at least once for 30 miles. But this is coming from someone who got hit by a car on my bike in November, ha!
I don’t want to give up hidden gems nature-wise because then they won’t be hidden, and that’s the fun of discovering them and keeping the land protected.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Andy, they are an amazingly talented human from animation, graphic design, illustration, and now their new MURAL work.
They are constantly working to help their people in their community, going on talks and seminars to help companies and folks to understand non-binary and gender expansiveness.
They are trans and non-binary and a beautiful human being.
They really helped me open my salon as well with jumping in and doing all paint related work even though they thought they would just be doing a mural 😆…
They are the whole package in their work, and as a human.
Their Instagram is @grandthem
Email is firstname.lastname@example.org