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QSaltLake’s ‘Make it Better’ spotlight person: Barbershop singlet trims need of homeless youth

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Kylee Howell, an honored guest of Equality Utah’s live “Q Talks” reveals her coming out, and her strive to cut the homeless youth problem in Utah

Born in Carbon County, Howell revealed on “QTalks” that she was different than other people, but didn’t have a word for it. “I thought to myself I think I have that (being gay),” she quipped in her speech. Raised a Catholic in central Utah, Howell admitted that when she moved to West Valley City at the age of 12, “I remember being in my 8th grade computer class … I threw myself into being really boy crazy.”

“Post high school was a whole different world, I was like I have to find whole new people and figure out what I was into so I could seek out those same people, and I found out I wasn’t completely comfortable with myself as I thought I was  … I didn’t like how I was presenting,” she admitted. She had a job at the time, but was concerned that “they will let me work here, but will they let me matter here.”

Revealing her inner most thoughts led to a recommendation from Howell’s then-hairstylist to try a barber. “I tried the barbershop and I immediately felt at home; it wasn’t too masculine, it wasn’t too feminine, it was just get a haircut and not [have to] think about boy-girl things — it was irrelevant, and I was stoked,” she said. “There’s this joke about going to a barbershop or a salon that is really the cheapest therapy aside from … therapy!”

While in barber school, she was influenced by a part-time job she held at Even Sevens, a sandwich shop that gives back to Utah’s homeless community.

“When I became part of Volunteers of America, I knew I had to give back,” Howell admitted. “When I  opened Friar Tucks, [I hoped I’d] still make an impact in the community.”

The origin of Friar Tuck’s Barbershop

“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 Even Stevens 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 barbershop 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 Salt Lake. I continued to learn from the people around me and start to solidify who I wanted to be as a barber.”

“Inspections began, supplies and equipment were acquired, and later with a lot 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 new youth center with many resources for the most overlooked population in our community.” said Howell. “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 into 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.”

Howell has participated in a number of events to help raise funds, many alongside Even Stevens, including Givestock and the Beard & Mustache Contests in Spring that raises money for the Utah Food Bank. She also sponsored “Underwearness” in January to collect underwear, socks and bras for Utah’s homeless. They collected over 500 pairs of underwear, 500 socks and 14 bras.

Dove commercial

Howell’s story caught the attention of a new national Dove campaign about true beauty. The resulting video has been viewed over 2 million times and features Howell’s story, some clients and the best line about beauty you may even hear.

“For a really long time, I equated beauty with femininity,” she says in the video. “And now I think there’s a million definitions of beautiful.”

Friar Tucks is hosting a “Cash + Coats Fundraiser Saturday, Nov. 17, at its new location at 11 W. 1700 South. “The lovely folks from Raclette Machine will be joining us, slinging $6 plates of melted cheesy goodness and donating $1 from each plate sold to the Friar Tuck’s renovation fund for its new location, Also gracing us with his presence (and dreamy voice) is Justin Utley! Pinch me, I must be dreaming.” 

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