Helping the community one haircut at a time
Award-winning and multitalented hair designer Guy Burks is committed to helping the community one haircut at a time, a gesture that came about after his own eye-opening experience with drug addiction and imprisonment.
Burks began his career as a hair stylist in Kansas City in 1986 and moved to Hot Springs in 1993. Since his move to the Spa City, he has become known for the magic he works on women’s hair, though he said he also does men’s haircuts.
“I do men’s hair but I do more women. I don’t have any problem with doing a man’s haircut, and that could certainly be something that could be done, but I’m just known for women’s hair cutting. There was a period in my career that I only did women’s hair, for 15 years, so people just think I don’t do men’s hair, but I do,” he said.
Burks has received international awards for his hair styling and cutting. He currently works at Allure Salon, 4328-L Central Ave. in Temperance Hill Square, a space that he himself owned for 16 years.
“I owned this salon, which makes it extra special. I owned it for 16 years and it was called Guy and Company. Because of my addiction I had to sell it, and I did two years ago,” he said.
His drug addiction landed him in jail for a period of nine months in 2016. He has now been home and sober since December 2016.
“I recently had a wonderful opportunity to work at a salon, Ah Shek, and it was a huge steppingstone for me and I’m extremely grateful, but this is mine. I don’t own (Guy and Company) anymore but this is mine and I feel like I have invested interest here and I just treat it completely different. There’s a whole lot of me in this building and it feels really good to come to work,” Burks said.
During his recovery, Burks began doing hair in local rehabs and discovered that his own recovery was strengthened through hearing other people’s stories of addiction and redemption.
“It helped a lot to hear their stories, and I could hopefully help them to hear mine, because my life was parallel in some ways. But I found that so many people weren’t appreciative and I wanted to get to the people that were really trying, especially women, because I mainly do women’s hair,” he said.
Burks created the New Hair, New Start program as a way to give back to the community, work off his own court fines, and help women in the court system as an award for their progress. Since the program’s inception in October, he has given out about $5,000 in haircut vouchers.
“I’ve met so many people along the way, as in Judge Switzer, as in people at the sheriff’s department, as in rehab coordinators, the court system, probation officers, so I’ve given out these certificates for them to give to women that are really going the extra mile and trying to get clean and sober,” said Burks.
His most recent haircut was given to Wendi Barfield, a recent graduate from The Hope Movement, a program dedicated to helping women move forward from a life of addiction. Burks said that Barfield now runs one of the Quapaw House safe houses for women just getting out of prison.
“So, I’ve given her two certificates and she’ll give them out as people show that they’re really doing a good job. I give them out to people like that, and to the court. It’s up to administration at the different places. It just feels good,” he added.
When asked what a haircut or new hairstyle does for a woman, Burks said, “Everybody loves a good haircut. Nothing makes a woman feel good if their hair doesn’t look good. They walk out of here with a huge smile, great gratitude and appreciation, and I walk away hearing their story which only makes my life — because we have parallel lives — it only makes my recovery stronger and gives me a chance to really help, and see the smiles on their faces. And they continually come in and I hear about their lives and how they’ve
changed and their spirituality and it only reinforces my recovery.”
Burks went through his own treatment programs while in jail, one of them being the alcohol and drug rehabilitation program. He also prides himself on obtaining his GED.
“When I became a hairdresser in 1986 I didn’t need a GED. I quit high school my senior year because of bullying back in 1981 and I just never needed it; I went into hair. I don’t know if I’ll ever use it but it feels really good to have it, and I got to tell you, waiting that many years, because I’m 54 now, all of the math and studying — it was hard. It was really hard. But I’m very proud of that,” he said.
Burks added that while in jail he also took a Getting Ahead While Getting Out class, a re-entry program designed for people who are returning to their communities from correctional facilities and jails. The class teaches participants how to create a path to a more stable, secure future for themselves and their families.
Since his re-entry into society after his incarceration, Burks has simply been enjoying a sober life, working on his recovery, and doing what he loves: hair.
“Everybody else can see when you have a drug problem, even when you think they don’t. So many people have come up to me this year and truthfully told me — good people have said, ‘We really thought the next time we would see you, you would be in the obituaries.’ And I hear it daily, ‘You look so good.’ And that, again, only reinforces my recovery,” Burks said.