Being homeless is often related to drugs and alcohol, and the way for such people to get back into a healthy society is through rehabilitation. In this episode, joining Tanya Memme is Jason Schneidman, the owner of THEMENSGROOMER, who used to be homeless and an addict himself until he said enough, and someone extended a helping hand. Being on the receiving side of generosity, he explains why he’s made it a life mission to help the homeless and addicts who want a second chance just as he did. He highlights the importance of asking for help, especially since recovering from this disease is not something you can do on your own. Learn what it’s like to live on the streets daily, along with the culture it brings to people’s lives.
Watch the episode here:
Listen to the podcast here:
Rehabilitation And The Life You Can Expect After With Jason Schneidman
In this episode, I have Jason Schneidman. He’s a celebrity hairstylist and the Founder of The Men’s Groomer Foundation. His mission now is to change the lives of the homeless one haircut at a time. I was on your website. I have never met a celebrity hairstylist like yourself with everything that you’re doing and everything that you’ve been through. My question to you is, how did your foundation begin?
I was on a mission early on to have fun, party, and surf. I didn’t see myself doing much of anything. I wasn’t a great student.
This is way back when you’re in your twenties, right?
Even before that. I started when I was fourteen. I was surfing, partying, and having fun. I grew up in Southern California. That’s how my head was triggered. That’s who I am.
You also mentioned that you grew up with great parents. You had a good upbringing.
That’s one thing about being an addict or an alcoholic. I don’t have that in my family. It’s interesting because my head was triggered the way that it was when I came out of the womb. I’m who I am and people either have that brain, it’s a creative brain, and it’s a brain of more or never enough. I find that when I go out on the streets and meet these addicts that they’re a lot like me. I was lucky to find my way with the help of a program and the people that have paved the way before me. I was taught that I can be one of those people that help a lot of people and I can stay sober in doing so. That’s how the foundation started. It was an idea of going out with my clippers, cutting somebody’s hair, talking to them about their problems, and giving them solutions.
From the videos I’ve watched and the research I’ve done on you, their reaction is they want to be seen, heard, and listened to as part of somewhat normal reality. What was one of the most incredible reactions you’ve ever experienced from some of the haircuts you’ve given to the homeless in Los Angeles?
Every time I go out, it’s incredible. People have this hard wall that’s put up and this hard surface. The best part is when they start becoming real, and less homeless and more people. They don’t trust a lot of people because you have to be that way on the street. You can’t be too open. I met this guy, Michael and this video went viral. You couldn’t see that he was a good-looking dude and his beard came off.In order to survive in these homeless camps or out on the streets, you become a different person. Click To Tweet
I saw that. He’s a good-looking guy.
His eye was busted up. I went back and I saw him. I was like, “Why did you get beat up?” He’s like, “I found out how to conduct myself out here now differently.” I said, “What was it?” He’s like, “Not being so open.” What happens is in order to survive in these homeless camps or out on the streets, you become a different person. When I talk to people, I try to bring them back and you can see where they come through to the other side and they start to trust me. That’s when the change happens. I have that window of opportunity to start talking about their past, what brought them out here, and do they want to change.
People can relate to, especially the people that are homeless, because you were in fact homeless at one point in your life.
The drugs and the alcohol brought me to my knees and I had nothing left. That’s the outcome of drugs and alcohol. The default is jail, institution, or death. If somebody is abusing drugs and alcohol, that’s the end result and it’s a fatal illness. It’s been diagnosed as fatal. The number one thing that helps people is other addicts helping another addict. That’s been the success. I’m like a doctor out there.
A therapist. A lot of people that are reading this, they’re going through their own hard time and some people that I’ve interviewed have also been homeless before. Some people that are reading might be on the verge of that, especially with what’s going on now. Everybody’s afraid. How does something like that happen? I know you were fourteen, a surfer and you’re doing this thing, even though you came from good parents. How does that happen? Describe what that was for you during that time. Maybe people that feel their life is going in that direction need to know your story and get some inspiration from it.
It starts off as a party and fun. It’s not so glamorous anymore when you’re 29 years old and you’re sleeping on people’s couches. It’s not like it was when you’re partying at college. For me, I was sitting on a seawall in La Jolla, and there were guys next to me. I was checking the surf and there was a guy with a brown bag who was 60. I had that burning bush moment where I was like, “That’s me. I need to get out of here. I need to ask for help.”
You were on the streets at that point.
I’ve been on the streets multiple times because I would use my money to get high and not to pay rent, and I would go homeless. I would have to survive. I was living in cars and garages. The most important thing is to get high to get well when you’re in it.
Is it like to escape more?
As soon as you drink and use it, you don’t have to think. It’s an escape so it turns your head off for that time. A lot of these guys that are on the streets that are alcoholics or addicts, they have their routine where they wake up, they panhandle, they go get their alcohol. It feels like they’re doing a day’s work and that’s their hustle. It’s a routine and a lot of people don’t want help. I’m looking for the people that are sick and tired of being sick and tired like I was who don’t have resources. I don’t have resources for everybody but the more I show up, meet somebody and talk to them, and develop a relationship, there might be an opportunity where I can be like, “I’d like to take you here.”
I used money from my foundation and from my product sales to donate to a sober living here in Los Angeles that is a similar structure to the one that saved my life. It’s a year program. You stay there. You don’t work until they say you’re ready. It’s about six months, and you don’t move out until they say you’re ready and you move out with two other guys from the house and you continue to do what you were doing in the house. It’s got a good success rate. My ultimate goal is to work with these guys that own the house and to pop up more of these houses as we raise money because it’s a structure that works.
There’s a lot of sober livings and rehabs here in LA that capitalize on people’s money and they don’t have free systems in place. I’ve been through those places, and I went in and out of recovery. It took me four years, and I found this structure that worked. My goal is to grow my business and to provide more resources for people that don’t have resources. A rehab to make it work is about $1,500 per person. It doesn’t have to be $60,000.
Those are numbers that I am not used to hearing at all. I heard $40,000 or $30,000.
It’s a big hustle with the insurance companies. You get parents that love their kids so much that they’ll do anything. It’s $60,000 and it pisses me off. I want to provide some structures that work that don’t bend people over and rob them.
I don’t know a lot about the homeless world and being female, it has always been slightly intimidating. What was the cultural life when you were living as a homeless person? Can you paint what a night would be like?
I pretty much broke it down for you. It’s getting high and getting by. The incomprehensible moral demoralization is brutal. The loneliness feeling is tough so if you stay high, you don’t feel it. That’s how it is. I don’t know what it’s now. I’ve been sober for more than fifteen years. All I can speak of my experience was, I was young and fearless. It’s a lot easier when you’re young and fearless. When you start getting older, it’s like, “I can’t do this anymore.” Luckily, I was able to get the help I needed.
What was that day like when you were on your first day in rehab? How did you get the money? Was it somebody that reached out to you? Was it somebody that helped?As soon as you drink and use, you don't have to think. It's just an escape. Click To Tweet
My parents were around, and they helped me get into the first rehab and I depleted that ask of help from them. They were fed up and that’s normal. A lot of people go in and out of sobriety early on because it takes work. It’s like working out. You have to go to the gym. You have to go to meetings and be around people who are doing the same thing. You’ve got to do the work on yourself. It took me four years, and I depleted all my resources. Chris McMillan, the guy that owned the hair salon that I was working at went through this house that I feared because I knew it was a year program.
Nobody wants to have to do anything for a year. They want to be like, “I’m done. I’m going to drink Margaritas and I’m not going to smoke crack.” It doesn’t work like that. You have to immerse yourself in the middle of the pack. It’s like wildebeest when they’re running. The weak get taken. You’ve got to get in the middle of the pack. I asked Chris McMillan, “Would you pay for my first month, and I’ll pay you back.” It was $1,500. He took me to rehab and dropped me off. I’ve been sober ever since. Thank God that somebody like him was there to help me and that’s what I’m doing for other people.
I do believe when I talk to people about what that time was like, there’s always something, someone or it was that day when someone did lend a helping hand. Even with what you’re doing, we need people to lend a helping hand to donate to a foundation like yours and to help the next person that’s struggling.
Especially right now.
What are some of the processes that you went through internally to feel strong enough to continue with the year program? If you could give some advice on mentally, how would you change the mindset? What were you thinking or going through? What realizations do you have?
It’s pretty simple. We make it out to be so scary and it’s those clichés that you hear of, “One day at a time.” If I can be like, “I’m never going to be able to smoke weed in Hawaii or snowboarding when I love to smoke weed.” I’m already in there. I’m not in here, right here at the moment. I can continue to stay in the moment one day and one moment at a time and now, I’m not going to pick up weed. I hit my pillow every night and I’m sober another day. You start stringing those days together and before it you know it you have something solid that you care about and don’t want to throw away. The other thing is asking for help.
It’s huge because this isn’t something you can do on your own. It’s even proven. Some of the biggest entrepreneurs and bankers who were able to start multimillion-dollar businesses could not stop drinking so it’s not some little crappy nose brat kid who’s living on the streets. Big executives can’t stop drinking. You’ve got to ask for help. People have done it before you so they’re willing to show you like me how to do it. The other thing is to surrender and stop fighting it. That’s part of asking for help. Also, willingness. You’ve got to be willing to take suggestions. You’ve got to be willing to go out and help others because helping others makes you feel good and you don’t have to drink in years.
You’ve mentioned that a lot too. You went to rehab to get help, and what you realize is you have to get out there and help others at a time that you didn’t have anything. That’s when it’s the hardest time to give.
If you’re thinking about somebody else, you’re not thinking about yourself and that’s the disease of alcoholism and addiction. It is a self-centered disease. The problem isn’t the drinking, it’s the thinking. It’s constantly, “Poor me. I’m never going to be good enough. Don’t you know who I am?” It’s me and myself to the point where you’re like, “I need to turn me off.” It’s a selfish self-centered disease so when you start thinking about others, you start feeling good about yourself and you don’t realize it. You’re like, “I’m a good dude. I don’t need it.”
What was that first day for you to venture out? Have you decided that you’re going to go to help people?
I was fearless. I had been a club promoter down in San Diego. I was passing out flyers to people and I would approach people. For me, I’m not too shy.
It’s because of everything you’ve been through.
I’m in your face and I grab a backpack and some clippers and I was like, “Do you want a haircut?” People were like, “What is this guy doing?” That magic started happening.
Where did you set up camp first? Where was your first haircut?
There was a star underneath me. I forget whose star it was but it was on his star in Hollywood.
On the Hollywood Walk of Fame?
Yeah. Everybody started surrounding me. After I did that first haircut, I went home and I was like, “This was amazing. I’ve got to start doing this,” so I kept doing it.Living as a homeless person is just getting high and getting by. Click To Tweet
Fast forward, you ended up partnering with the Old Dominion, a huge band that I love. They’re stars and you were their hairdresser and that’s how you guys all met, right?
Yeah. They hired me for a job and I did their hair for an album cover or something and we hit it off. They’re so humble, Southern, and amazing. They’re family men and they’ve got kids. I looked up to them immediately and how cool they were because working in Hollywood, you don’t get that Nashville feels. They kept having me come out and whenever they had a budget, the label’s paying for it or whatever, I would show up, I’d do their hair.
Matt, the lead singer was sitting in his bunk, and he was looking. Social media has been amazing for me. Somebody told me a long time ago, “You need to get out there.” I’m like, “I’m not that dude. I’m reserved.” They’re like, “You have to.” I was like, “I’ll do it,” and I started taking off with it. Michael Bublé put me in for a job and I was like, “Where did this come from?” I got to the job and I was like, “Where did you guys get me in there?” They’re like, “We follow your Instagram.”
You were discovered for a job like Michael Bublé on Instagram.
Matt Ramsey, who’s the lead singer of Old Dominion, was watching my videos on his bunk. He had this song, “Some people change, some people do, some people don’t,” or whatever. It’s called Some People Do. He hit me up and I was like, “That’s an honor. I’d be super stoked to tell my story on this video.”
It’s amazing. The video is incredible. If you guys want to watch it and want some inspiration, watch the video. It’s a mini-documentary video.
It’s incredible and we were able to help a lot of people that day. Since then, there have been hairstylists in Nashville and that’s been the best thing about this. It was me going out to stay sober and help another addict or alcoholic, but snowballing and getting DMs from Austria, Ireland, Spain, Brazil, Iran, and everywhere. All over the world, people hit me up and they’re wanting to start stuff in their area to help people so it’s killer.
When you go out there now you have your team of hairstylists as well that go out there with you, it’s not only you cutting. It’s them.
I started putting these events together. I would put it up on Instagram and I don’t have a team. I’ll hit up a couple of people and be like, “Would you like to support? Are you going to come?” A couple of people love doing it as I do so they show up. I put it out on social media and people hit me up like estheticians, massage therapists, attorneys. People are showing up from all walks of life. They come and help. It always turns out perfect. It’s pretty cool.
How does an attorney help? That’s interesting so it’s not only hairstylists but also people that want to donate their services?
A lot of people on the street lose their birth certificates and in order to get a job, you have to have that. They don’t know how to go about getting that. They’re delegating. I don’t know how to do mortgage but I’ll hit my clients up and they’ll tell me how to do a mortgage. The homeless people are using attorneys to better their situation. I thought it would be a great idea so we started doing it.
Are you talking to some of the homeless people that you come across trying to figure out what would be right for the foundation and what would be to get some treatment and things like that?
There are cell phones and medical attention. All of that stuff exists in these local resources, but the haircuts don’t so I’ve been the go-to to bring that to them and that helps them get a second chance to move into the workforce or even get into these rehabs.
How easy or difficult is it for them to get into these rehabs on their own?
It’s difficult to get into rehab on their own. There’s a long way, especially now. I’ve been able to get some people into the place that I went through and I started searching for other resources for them. We definitely need to grow this sober living thing to where we can provide housing and recovery, which helps the homeless crisis and helps the people that are struggling with drugs and alcohol.
That’s where you’re moving towards now to do whatever you can to grow that.
I know the formula works and I have people that can execute it. It’s like, “The more houses we can get, the more we help the community itself.”People care and want to help other people. Humanity is alive. Click To Tweet
Where are you going from here with everything? I know that you have your salon. Is it in Santa Monica or is it in Marina del Rey?
I have a salon in Venice. It’s a barbershop/hair salon.
It’s all black with the white wording on it. I love the way it looks. I drive by it all the time because you cut my boyfriend’s. He goes, “There’s Jason’s. It’s a cool place.”
It’s crazy. We got in there in 2019. We were starting to make some good progress and this all happened but we’ll get back in there soon. I designed the whole place. It was so much fun designing it. I have an amazing shampoo and conditioner that you can buy on TheMensGroomer.com or you can buy it in on Amazon. It’s color-safe and sulfate-free. Its high-end shampoo and conditioner for a good price for men and women. I made this from Beverly Hills.
In all the salons that I worked at, I hit everybody up and I was like, “What is your favorite shampoo?” I put it all together and made the ultimate shampoo and conditioner. My leading product now is the Men’s Groomer Paste which every dude uses. It goes on dry hair, and it doesn’t dry stiff so you can move your hair around and get that messy look which I use on all my clients. I’ve got James Corden and Mark Ronson invested so they’re partners now. We’re going to keep doing this little mom and pop thing and grow it. In return, with the profits, we’re going to help people on the streets.
What percentage of your profits from your products go towards your foundation?
As we grow we continue to donate to Awakening Recovery and a few other places here. It goes directly into the sober livings which gives us a bed so I can take people there.
What was it like for you? You went from being homeless to finally going into rehab and helping people. How did the business part start? I know you used to work in Beverly Hills. You worked for other people before you opened up your own salon.
Chris gave me an opportunity and there are tons of celebrities coming through. I’ve been doing men’s hair forever since I was fourteen. I’ve been doing haircuts for my friends so I got good at cutting men’s hair. When I specialized in doing men, people were coming through the salon and we’re like, “Who does the best men’s haircuts?” I started picking up Hugh Jackman, Chris Cornell, and the list goes on and on.
You went from having no clients and Chris gave you a chance. He places you in his salon. How did it happen? He’s like, “Here’s Hugh Jackman.”
Chris had gotten sick and he was supposed to be in Florida. His agent owned the salon with Chris so she called me and Chris said, “Send Jason.” It was one of those things. I showed up and he liked what I did. There was an article that was written in the LA Times or LA Weekly that somebody wrote, “Best Men’s haircut in LA.” I got busy that way. The 10,000 hours that I put in doing men’s hair. I had a passion for it and I worked hard. As soon as Chris gave me the opportunity, I took it and I continued to work hard. What happened was the fact that I wasn’t taking two steps back every night with the bottle. I was able to wake up in the morning and be focused and pursue these goals and dreams. I would delegate and I would say, “How do I make products?” I’ll find a client that makes products. We continue to do that and this all comes from gifts of sobriety.
All of this came from your volunteering to cut hair for the homeless and help people in LA. Also, this one thing after another opportunity from people that you’ve met.
First and foremost, it came from a celebrity because I got followers from doing Bruno Mars’ hair. I started getting followers and numbers started to get bigger. It was what I did with that platform that took me to the next level. I use that and it spreads into the service work because there are so many people in this world that have huge hearts with the DMs that come in and messages that I get. People care. People want to help people. Humanity is alive and well.
I don’t see enough of that, Jason. Why is that?
No, we don’t because we’re on the constant hustle and bustle. We’re looking at Gucci this, fake boobs that, perfect Instagram, and all of that stuff. It’s the beginning. I’m going to continue to work on this and I’m working on some projects that are coming up with a show to show the good in the world and people’s transformation. We’ll keep doing what we’re doing and it’s going to take off. I know in my heart of hearts that I’m doing the right thing.
What would you say to people or new entrepreneurs that are scared out of their minds now? There’s a lot of pain now going on. There’s a lot of hurt and uncertainty. What’s some advice you can give some people that are struggling now?
We will come back from this. There’s no doubt. It’s all about hard work. We need to work hard and we’ll be back.
We do have to work a little harder and maybe for a little less and not get so distracted by the shiny objects.
- Men’s Groomer Foundation
- Chris McMillan
- Instagram – Jason Schneidman
- Awakening Recovery