AQUIS Unfiltered is a series of honest conversations with strong women who share how they’ve evolved and come to embrace transformation in their bodies, their careers, and their lives.
Victoria McCutcheon is a hairstylist specializing in natural hair. Thirty years young, she was born and raised in Philadelphia, home of cheesesteaks and tastykakes.
I remember being in middle school doing my friend’s hair in the locker room instead of playing dodgeball in gym class. After school, girls would come to my house and pay me 15 bucks to braid their hair. You would think I always wanted to be a hairstylist, but I didn’t. I wanted to be a veterinarian. I enrolled in community college to get a biology degree, I even worked at a veterinarian hospital for 3 years before I realized I could not handle it emotionally. I wanted to take home every animal without a home and that was just not going to work.
After leaving school and the hospital I worked retail and continued to do hair for some extra cash. I never considered hair as a career until my mom, my biggest supporter asked me what I was passionate about and I could only think of animals, food, and hair. I enrolled in beauty school not too long afterward. While in beauty school I messaged a celebrity hairstylist, Lacy Redway, and asked her what I needed to do to become a successful hairstylist. I was surprised when she messaged me back with some sound advice. 1. Work in a high-end salon that offers continuing education 2. Find a mentor with a busy book, shadow them for a couple of years and soak in everything you can 3. Team up with local photographers and make-up artists to build your portfolio. And that is exactly what I did.
I started out doing mostly straight hair. Blow-outs, haircuts, the occasional beachy waves, things normal for the center city demographics. I loved what I was doing, but I noticed an under-served population in the area. There were hardly any diverse salons and none that catered to natural hair. As a woman of color, I personally struggled with searching for a stylist that understood the complexity of my curly hair. I knew I needed to be that stylist for other people.
Me and my mom
Hair is a big part of people’s identity. When my mom got sick and lost her hair, I realized how much hair mattered. I wanted to teach people how to value their hair and not hide it because they felt like their natural hair wasn’t good enough. I practiced on curly wigs, my friends, models and really anyone that trusted me enough. I wanted hands-on experience before I sought any formal education, so I didn’t want to conform to any curly methods before getting to know natural hair on its own.
I constantly look for new curly techniques and attend classes whenever I can. I look at award shows and follow celebrity stylists on social media to draw inspiration. I try to take in my surroundings wherever I am because what’s cool in one area may not be cool somewhere else… yet.
Doing curly hair is a different experience each time someone sits in my chair. There’s not one curl type, and it’s so diverse. You really have to consider each curl on the head individually, but that’s what makes natural hair so beautiful. It’s like a 3D haircut, you have to look at it in all aspects. I’ve noticed women of color have so much emotion tied to how we feel about our hair and every natural person has their own story and struggles with their hair.
I have a lot of clients in corporate America, some are doctors, lawyers or fitness instructors. Natural hair hasn’t always been accepted, it doesn’t fall under well-groomed or polished and carries the stigma of looking disheveled. Thankfully, that’s starting to shift. I always focus on encouraging clients in all types of workforce to not only accept but embrace their hair type. I want my clients to embrace what is naturally theirs and be proud of it. I do my best to give them the tools to enhance their curls for the best look and feel. My personal mission as a stylist is to make people feel good. I am fortunate to work with ONLO, a beauty agency that shares my mission. ONLO services weddings, photoshoots, and editorial works. Working with ONLO has afforded me the opportunity to get creative and provide people with natural looks for events and special occasions. My dream is to continue to make people feel good. I would love to, maybe one day see a client of mine confidently walk the red carpet with shiny, bouncy, well-hydrated curls.
Follow Victoria McCutcheon on Instagram @torididthat. To find out more about ONLO visit ONLO Beauty, follow on Instagram @onlo_beauty.
1. Pictured - Victoria McCutcheon.
2. Pictured - Victoria McCutcheon and her mom.
3. Model - Amanda Medina Leon.
4. Model - Deja Houser.
5. Model - Anaïs Cooper-Hackman. Photographer - Adam Perella. Stylist - Marley Bocian. MUA - Natalie Contrera.
6. Model - Amorkor Badger. Photographer - Adam Perella. Stylist - Marley Bocian. MUA - Natalie Contrera.
7. Models - Amorkor Badger, Elizabeth Steiner, Karina Matos, Anaïs Cooper-Hackman. Photographer - Adam Perella. Stylist - Marley Bocian. MUA - Natalie Contrera.
8. Pictured - Victoria McCutcheon.
What an inspiring young woman so proud of her and all her accomplishments. I’m beaming with pride, since she’s my niece! Keep doing your best, and continue to create and inspire us to look our natural best.
Thank you so much for doing this wonderful service to those of us with curly hair! I am not a woman of color however I have curly hair that goes out of control on a regular basis. The work you do is gorgeous!