Shonda Rhimes Gives Butch Barber Kylee Howell the Dove Real Beauty Treatment

The mainstream may be starting to notice how difficult it can be for masculine women to get haircuts, and to that I say huzzah! Progress! And I say that completely earnestly. This Dove Real Beauty Productions ad, for example, is a step in the right direction. It features butch barber Kylee Howell and her gender-inclusive barber shop, Friar Tuck’s, in Salt Lake City.

“Growing up, I remember looking in the mirror and being like, ‘Who am I?'” Kylee says in the opening lines of the commercial. “It wasn’t until I cut my hair short that I really felt like I had come into myself.”

As a masculine lady, here’s how I solved the problem of good haircuts: I found a barber near the university where I teach and I have remained loyal to him for years, even though he thinks my name is Alice, because he can straight-razor my part in and his heart is in the right place. But I live in NYC. It’d be so much harder if you’d been tortured by folks for your female masculinity for forever, or so much harder if you felt like you were going to get assaulted in masculine spaces, or so much harder if you didn’t live in a city with an excellent reputation for inclusion.

Kylee wants to help make life easier for butch women.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y42U9YocVR0

For her effort, Kylee was directed and interviewed by SHONDA RHIMES, which probably made her mom doubly proud!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdnybX_qWxY

Here’s a snippet from their Friar Tuck’s Facebook page:

Working my way through barber school I responded to an ad for a street team member at Even Stevens Sandwiches. My job was to go around SLC and tell everyone I could about ES and their mission to donate a sandwich for every sandwich they sold. I started thinking, why didn’t every business operate this way? They are profitable, good to their employees, and have the potential to make a huge impact on the community. So the idea for a “Robin Hood” type barber shop started forming and I settled on making donations for every haircut or straight razor shave given. I read about Friar Tuck being a skilled swordsman who enjoyed good food and good wine, and who used his influence in the church to help poor people get educated, and that definitely felt similar to what I wanted to accomplish. And I’ve never said no to a good meal or glass of wine so it definitely resonated.

After graduating barber school I had the opportunity to work in a couple of amazing shops here in SLC. I continued to learn from the people around me and start to solidify who I wanted to be as a barber. By chance, my wife came across an ad for a shop space available for rent and asked if I wanted to check it out. As soon as we pulled up to the address inside Sherwood Forest, it became pretty clear this is where I was meant to be. At that point, things moved pretty quickly. Inspections began, supplies and equipment was acquired, and about a month and half later with lots of support from those around me, Friar Tuck’s welcomed its first client and made its first donation to Volunteers of America, Utah Homeless Youth resources. They are doing incredibly important outreach work in our city and recently opened a brand new youth center with many resources for one of the most overlooked population in our community. I am proud to work with them and support their efforts and I am so grateful to my clients for making it possible. Every time you come in to the shop for a haircut or shave, you are making a difference. If you haven’t, come down to the shop to see how traditional barbering is making a change in our community one haircut at a time.

At Friar Tuck’s, Kylee wants to help everyone who walks in the door — and all genders are welcome — become the most authentic version of themselves. It’s rad as heck to see a major beauty company with a huge advertising budget like Dove honoring that.

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A.E. Osworth is part-time Faculty at The New School, where they teach undergraduates the art of digital storytelling. Their novel, We Are Watching Eliza Bright, about a game developer dealing with harassment (and narrated collectively by a fictional subreddit), is forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing (April 2021) and is available for pre-order now. They have an eight-year freelancing career and you can find their work on Autostraddle (where they used to be the Geekery Editor), Guernica, Quartz, Electric Lit, Paper Darts, Mashable, and drDoctor, among others.

A.E. has written 543 articles for us.

6 Comments

  1. Its always wonderful to hear about people going above and beyond, especially on a day like today when Herr Hatred is out there stepping on trans people and their desire to serve their country

  2. This is a beautiful story.

    … I drive three hours to get my hair cut, bc I can’t walk into a small town hairdresser, ask for a masc cut, and expect to get it.

    Appreciate the fuck outta queer hair dressers being awesome.

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