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Rising Stars: Meet Justine Cook

Today we’d like to introduce you to Justine Cook.

Hi Justine, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
Hi Y’all, my name is Justine Cook, socially known as ‘Baltimore Balayage’. I’m gonna skip over all the juicy details on why I’m here in Baltimore- we can save that for behind the chair 😉 I wanted to be a hairstylist since I was a little girl, and when the day came to choose college or trade school, I chose Robert Paul Academy, School of Cosmetology. After school, I moved to North Carolina, where I worked under Tigi Educator, New York Couture Fashion Week artist, published stylist Amy Trianoski and her husband Anthony at their beautiful studio, Bella Hair Salon. After Bella, I moved to Virginia Beach, where after being a stay at home mom + wife, I finally found a salon I LOVED just as much as Bella, and I met Jane Pryor through a friend, Rachael Turner, and after that day, I became a stylist at Hair We Are, Virginia Beach. Both salons truly contributed to the artist I am to this day and I will forever be grateful + have much love for The Trianoskis’ and Jane Pryor! Things hit the fan with my home life in VB, so I made the ultimate decision + I moved home to the good ole’ bmore in 2018.

I began my career at the amazing Rebel Revival Hair Co. in 2018 and have been rockin’ there ever since. When I moved back to Baltimore, I had $300 to my name + two kids to feed, so I had no time to waste. I basically announced that I was officially back in business and took every single appointment I possibly could, whether it was 8 am or 8 pm… I was taking that client- (Shout out to my Mama + Step Dad for helping care for the kiddos while I built my bizzzz, I couldn’t of done this without you guys).

My first few clients in Baltimore were just that, my family + friends. I kept wondering when and how things would take off. I did giveaways. I constantly was handing out business cards to strangers + meeting new people every time I stepped out of the house. I bounced back and forth on ideas of other work just to make ends meet, but things honestly just started happening for me once I started doing the work BEYOND the chair, and it all happened pretty fast! I noticed my clientele growing, my work being shared online by happy clients + new referrals were coming in. I got to where I am today because I hustled, and I still hustle. No one is going to build your dreams for you; you have to make it happen. Just about three years later I am still with Rebel, which I love! We are carefree, TRULY judgment free, open minded, big hearted, TEAM + I’m so happy to be able to work with other talented artists who have the passion for our art just like I do.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
I’d be lying if I said it was a smooth road. Things flowed because I was working towards my short term goals, so I could achieve some of my bigger goals. I hustled HARD for what I have today + I am FAR from done. The biggest struggle along the way wasn’t me staying motivated, it was honestly on a deeper level. I consider myself extremely spiritual, and when I had moved back to Baltimore, I was honestly broken inside and although people thought I was fine.. I truly wasn’t. I was going through a divorce, a newly single mom, slowly gaining my independence back and I was honestly a lost soul at that time. Keeping my spirit up was the biggest struggle, but I had my WHY, I had two lil men that I love and love me with their entire heart, that needed me; and lastly, I had a career I love.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
Most of my clients come to me for the ‘balayage’ technique which is a hand painted application. I like to say its a very beachy, natural, lived in look- low maintenance thanks to the seamless grow out! Beyond that, I specialize in tape in hair extensions which can serve multiple purposes. There is this misconception that extensions are only for those who want length, but I have a clientele for those who have extremely fine hair, want added volume + density, allowing them to have a fuller feel + look. I take pride in all of my color creationism, and although I specialize in certain areas, Color corrections/total transformations are my absolute favorite!

Along with being a stylist, I play a major part in my client’s lives. This woman comes to me for a service and leave with an entirely different mindset, as do I. We talk for 3+ hours about our lives, our families/pets/loved ones, our achievements, our failures, what makes us happy and what makes us sad. These women have become an inspiration to me daily and I’m told often, I am such a positive influence in their lives- “An independent, bada$$ mom that never gives up, always finds the positives to every negative, and always finds a way”- words from clients that are used often anytime I share something I’m going through. I’m vulnerable, raw, and don’t leave anything unsaid. I’m extremely independent (which is good and bad, lol), empowering, + optimistic and people look up to me for that because not only am I these things, I share it with my people. Sharing my stories creates hope for others. It creates the mindset of, well, this chick has been through it all at a young age, and she’s still here, pushing through everything that TRIES to bring her down… but it never does.

I truly believe my purpose in life is to make a difference in people’s lives. At first, I def thought my purpose was with my passion for hair behind the chair and how beautiful this woman felt when they left, but it turned into so much more. I don’t only touch their souls. They touch mine daily. We share and conquer life together, judgement-free- thats love, thats friendship, trust, and mad respect. The love and respect I have for these clients/friendships are because these women are as beautiful inside as they are on the outside. Some people just show up to work, do their job and go home. What I do and love is WAY beyond ‘more’ than just ‘hair” to me. SO what sets me apart? That right there!

Can you tell us more about what you were like growing up?
I’m told I was one of the popular kids growing up. I was spoiled, with love + with materialistic things. I was and still am very strong-willed, talk-a-tive, I easily make friends. I danced for a little, tried cheer, play4ed soccer just about my entire childhood, and was on a competitive gymnastics team for quite a few years. In high school, I hung with the party kids (jocks), but I had friends of all ‘cliques’. I’ve been told WAY TOO MANY times, I look mean but I’m really this nice bubbly girl. So basically, I have major RBF LOL. I dont know. This question is hard because its like, well describe your child hood + its tricky. My mom + dad were separated. Dad was the fun dad, no real rules- he was more of a ‘friend,’ and unfortunately, he does not speak to my sister + I anymore, so hes not really in my life.. and I’m perfectly okay with that.

My mom was and still is the complete opposite of me. We connected through sports, shopping, and food. She is very wise, caring, nurturing- I truly have one amazing mother. My Step-Dad… LOL. I laugh because if you asked me when I was growing up, I could not stand him + I’m pretty sure the feeling was mutual. He was so ‘strict and mean’ back then. My friends and I laugh when we talk about our childhood because he was always so ‘scary’ because he was just SO REAL, no filter, always got right on me when I was about to act a fool… but now that I’m grown, I call it love. He was never strict or mean. He just wanted me to be a decent human being because the world has very few of those. He is the father I truly needed all of my life; by far one of the biggest blessings to ever come into my life as a child, and now my kids are HIS biggest blessing- and of course me. I gotta keep him on his toes lol. I am very fortunate to have loving parents.. although I was a sour patch kid growing up, they NEVER gave up on me, and I know they never will.

I grew up in a pretty safe neighborhood. When I did see my real dad, we would hunt, four-wheel, spend weekends at his friend’s Deer Farm in PA. My stepdad would take me fishing sometimes and my mom and I watched Gilmore Girls go shopping on the weekends and during the week was work, school, sports. I had a pretty nice childhood and am very fortunate!

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