We sat down with Mr. Smith Education Director and founder of Fearless Beauty, Heather Packer, to find out more about her career, inspiration, and her love of giving back to the community. We were blown away and inspired by her experiences and are privileged to share with you.
How did your hairstyling career begin?
My hair styling career began when at 26 I asked myself the question, “What would you do no matter what anyone else thought?”. I had wanted to do hair since the age of 15 but growing up outside a very small town in the countryside, my parents expected me to go to college and be either a lawyer or a doctor. So I kept the dream of being a hairdresser a secret, went to college, got a business degree and worked at a law firm to see if that’s what I wanted. It wasn’t!
I decided to enroll in beauty school and as soon as I got my hands on the mannequin head in my first class, I knew it was what I was supposed to do. After graduating, I worked at a small salon in Miami Beach and found that there were often situations where I didn’t know how to execute what the client had requested. This prompted me to move to New York to enroll in an apprenticeship program. I landed at Bumble & Bumble in 2004 and launched my career in NYC.
What are your current career highlights?
I’m really grateful and proud to have the position that I do with Mr. Smith. With this role I feel more supported and appreciated than I ever have. This week after leading two classes for Mr. Smith on Zoom I had some quiet time alone to think about where I am… leading a group of hairdressers for Mr. Smith and also for Fearless Beauty. I used to be one of the shyest, most insecure and quiet person around. I definitely didn’t want to be on camera, in the spotlight or guiding anyone. Now I am! It’s not what I expected at all.
My top 3 highlights
Creating, launching and completing our program at Rikers Island jail in 2018.
Creating, launching and sharing our program in India for 3 years. Also knowing that some of our graduates now have jobs earning money in the beauty industry.
I’m always grateful to work backstage at Fashion Week. It’s super inspiring and I always learn something new.
Who do you look up to in the industry?
I look up to hairdressers in the industry who lead with kindness and integrity.
Freda Rossidis inspires me all of the time! She is kind, inclusive and humble. She’s a super talented hairdresser and she always keeps learning and growing.
Odile Gilbert – I love her work and she is one of the only women who has pushed through the “glass ceiling” boys club of session styling.
Is there anyone you dream of working alongside?
Yes! I would love to work with Sam McKnight.
What is Fearless Beauty?
Fearless Beauty is a non-profit organization that I founded in 2014 with a small group of women as our board of directors. In 2018, I took my expertise in the beauty industry to launch a cosmetology vocational program. Committed to the idea that beauty can liberate and heal, we target those that are most at risk of law enforcement and institutionalized inequality across race, gender and class. We give these women the opportunity to attend cosmetology school with scholarship support and build confidence and connection to pursue careers in the beauty industry.
Can you tell us a little more about the program?
The vision behind the program is to inspire other hairdressers to volunteer and teach the students hair styling, cutting and colour skills so that they could become empowered and economically self-sufficient.
For the first three years of our organisation we ran a vocational program for young women in Rishikesh, India – an area where traditionally, girls are married at a young age and are not free to work outside of the home.
Since then we have happily passed the program to a group of Indian women who have taken over, whilst we focus on our second program at the Rose M. Singer Center at New York City’s Rikers Island Jail, working with women who have been impacted by the criminal / legal system.
All of our teachers are top stylists who have extensive experience both behind the chair, as educators and very often backstage.
Tell us how you transitioned your career to running Fearless Beauty?
I didn’t have a choice and it was a lot of figuring it out as I went along! For several years before and during the time that I started Fearless Beauty, I spent a lot of time in India studying with a spiritual teacher.
When I say that I didn’t have a choice… the mission of Fearless Beauty has come through me with such clarity from the beginning that I knew that I had to do whatever it took to make it happen. Since it appeared, it’s been my purpose, my inspiration.
It’s also always been very important for me to ‘keep my hands in hair’. For me, in order to be a good educator and lead a team of educators, it’s important that I continue to learn and grow by cutting, styling and assisting other hair stylists backstage.
How can individuals support Fearless Beauty?
- Go to our website and donate to support our programs.
- If you’re a hairdresser and you would like to teach, please reach out to me at [email protected]
- We are always open to donations of tools and supplies – products, mannequin heads, etc.
- Even if you are not a hairdresser or beauty professional and you have a skill to teach or share, we are open to connecting.
Style. Substance. Simplicity.