“Sometimes, I just like to go out in the rain.”~ Darrl Robert, Jr.
That’s exactly what the weather would hold when sitting down with Celebrity Barber and New Orleans native Darrl Robert, Jr.
Robert, a skilled barber since 2012, reminds you of a tall mountain filled with an authoritative decree of street wisdom, a sullen attitude that could come across as coy upon first meeting him, but talkative enough and never overdone.
With clients that have included NFL notables Russell Wilson, Vonn Bell, Ben Watson, Ken Crawley, R&B singer Jideena, and that’s just to name a few. Surprisingly, his road to the title of “Celebrity Barber” came from a small opportunity from Grammy nominated artist Keyshia Cole.
One might ask, “Why have a sit-down interview with a barber?” There’s an answer to that which is called, “his story.” Robert’s “story” is told through simple words but worthy enough that you want to listen.
Despite the obvious of completing barbering school, owning his own shop, aptly name Team Hair Benders, Robert has a message for today’s youth who may be faced with circumstantial odds against them leading to the possibility of being behind bars.
To create a correlation between the two, he believes one of his gifts is that of providing the peace a man has when having a haircut, which gives confidence and fortitude to take on the day. That same fortitude carried him throughout his two-and-half year jail stint to which not only did he use his gifts for other inmates, but helped to supply him the vision for the current success he resides in.
Robert also gave insight about his own generated metaphor, during his time served, regarding how the rain is seen as his rainbow as opposed to dark clouds and watery grounds rain emanates. He said, “Sometimes, I just like to go outside in the rain. People look at me crazy, but they don’t know that the rain was the view I saw lighting up the city.”
On March 7, his day started off with him coming off the flu and even though he said it disallowed him fast moving time for his clients, his commitment to them and the public service didn’t miss a beat.
Here’s what the Team Hair Benders owner said about his journey:
On how many years have you being cutting hair and the motivation to do so:
Professionally, 5 years. Non-professionally, twelve. It started with me seeing my grandmother do hair and my uncle cut hair. I used to watch them do it when I was small which got the ball rolling. I was just good at it even though I didn’t care to do it. It’s definitely a gift on both sides of my family.
On how providing the service to clients makes him feel:
I’m free! It grants me freedom. I think that’s the biggest thing. I determine what I make and I’m not dictated to or confined by a clock, you know, that type of stuff. I just feel free.
Robert’s dream of owning his own shop came from savings amounting in $10k, two shutdowns from the city for not having the proper documentation despite six months free from the landlord. However, a three-month deadline for the grand opening later turned into 18-months for the young entrepreneur. Though the journey to owning had its setbacks, he didn’t shy away from the sacrifices saying, “This one was a rough one to the point where I couldn’t buy anything for a very long time but it paid off.”
On owning a shop as opposed to being in the company of other barbers behind the owner:
For me, there are two things: a sense of influence and knowing my value as a barber. I’ve seen respect given better being a shop owner within the industry and that gives me structure.
On joining an elite list of other barbers with Celebrity clientele:
That actually happened by word of mouth. My first client was Keyshia Cole. She was in town for a concert and had her son with her. Her manager had called a colleague of mine from Atlanta. I was actually about to go to sleep [laughs] but took the call anyway and he said, ‘It’s Keyshia Cole,’ and I was like ‘Who?’ So I went downtown, took care of her son and road manager, and they allowed me to take pictures. I posted it on my social media and the domino effect came into play.
From there, Nick Toon, who was the fourth round draft pick for the Saints back in 2012, added his own domino effect via social media. Toon, whose good friends with Russell Wilson carved another addition to Robert's escalating resume.
When asked if he’d rather cut caliber that of a celebrity’s hair, or the committed customers saw weekly, Robert confidently stated, “I’d do both. You’ve got to show loyalty to those who stay with and continue offering them service you’d do for anybody else.”
The shop owner opened up, briefly, about his experience as a young teenager interested in making fast cash under the platform of marijuana during the Bush Administration, corrupt officers creating false scapegoats in exchange for his freedom, but showing accountability and admittance of his own guilt all for the sake of protecting his family and the establishment for a better life:
I got caught up in an investigation that was the guy that I was dealing with but they couldn’t get to him because he wasn’t on the streets, but I was. It was at this point that I woke up because the detective didn’t find the drugs on me because it was at another location. They [the Feds] told me that if I didn’t tell them where to find what they needed, they were going to take my brothers which weren’t true at all, so they really just set me up. I ended up in jail and it felt like hell. Those two-and-half years felt like ten. I can’t even explain it. When I came out, it just gave me a different appreciation for life. For example, rainy days, to me, are the prettiest days because, during my time in jail, I would see the rain beating up against the window from my dorm room. My appreciation for something I couldn’t do made me love it that much more. I simply appreciate life so much better now.
On what he would tell young men of color to learn from his past choices:
It’s really only one thing you can say, ‘Don’t do it!’ After what I went through, it’s not worth it.
Though Robert won’t be on the political train anytime soon from his experience, he did note that he loves his career because his job extends more than being a barber – he’s a therapist, a confidant and a friend to many.
Interested in Robert’s services? Book an appointment at TeamHairBenders.com located at 7605 Westbank Expressway, Suite D in Marrero. A special thanks to PR guru Katy Sandusky of Kaylain and photographer Eduardo Benitez for bringing color and life to “The Man Behind the Clippers.”