April 13, 2024 The voice of all eras.

Gen-Z Spotlight: Dee Diana, clipping gender stereotypes in the male-dominated industry: the barbershop

March 8, 2021

March 8, 2021

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Women’s fight for gender equality has been a major topic for years and still remains a subject that needs to be brought to light. Back in the day, women were considered as someone belonging to a weaker sex, and as a result, men always had the upper hand. Though the world is progressing at a fast rate, it’s still blatant that most women–in some parts of the world–are treated the same old way, still struggling and fighting for their equal position in society. But with enormous talent, skills, and capabilities, we can all brush aside the stigma that women are no equal to men.

We bring women who are brave to make their own decisions freely, wear what they feel like wearing, independent, and do what most men can do on a pedestal. And to celebrate International Women’s Day, we reached out to Dee Diana, a female barber who infiltrated one of the male-dominated environments: the barbershop.

Dee-Diana-Rouge-&-Beyond-Singapore

Who is Dee Diana besides a female barber?

I’m originally from Malaysia and decided to move to Singapore to be closer to my family, proximity-wise. It was the perfect moment because that’s when I found my place in the Barber Industry. I’ve always been the type of person who is willing to go above and beyond, fearlessly taking risks to achieve greater things. I knew it always has to start somewhere, and I think in my case, it’s from having that determination to achieve something. I’m also the type who always extends a helping hand to people who are in need, which I guess is something that runs in the family.

How and why did you choose to enter the barber industry? 

Honestly, it wasn’t the plan I’ve intended to pursue at first. After finishing school, I packed my bags and took a spontaneous trip to Australia, where I had some reflections of what I really wanted to do in life. As someone who just graduated, there seems to be a lot of things you wish to navigate, but at the same time, you feel uncertain of what really it is you want to pursue in the long run.

All I know is that I have a passion for cooking, and I also enjoy exploring having different haircuts/styles. When I came back to Johor, I thought of being a chef or a hairdresser/stylist. But the latter seems to give me more joy, especially because it is more tied up to fashion and music, which I’m also very fond of. So from there, I saved up all my energy, progressively familiarizing myself in the ins and outs of the barber industry, while gathering all the skills needed to go to a place where I can confidently be at the forefront–especially in the field where women are not much expected to be in. I saved up my money and invested it in acquiring more knowledge through the years. 

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I went to Vidal Sassoon to take an advanced course. That became my passport to land on jobs at high-end salons. It also allowed me to handle prestigious clients. At this moment, different and unique styling in men’s hair has become quite a trend in the county. Although I wasn’t sure if I could secure a spot in the barbershop because of my gender, I took the risk and tried, brought along my almost 10-year worth of experience and passion with me, so I went to an interview and got the job. I owe everything to my mom and stepdad. They are my inspiration and such a great influence on me and all that I do.

Have you felt any gender discrimination throughout your journey of being a female barber? If yes, how do you usually deal with them?

Yes. When I was still trying to navigate things in the barber set-up, I experienced a lot of drawbacks. But through my hard work, patience, and the extra effort I consciously put in honing my skill, I managed to get quite a handful of clients. As a woman, I don’t want to put myself in a different category than men. I always think that we are on the same level of capability in terms of cutting and styling hair. They use two hands to cut and style hair, and so am I, so I can’t see any difference. I take pride in handling my clients with care and precision. That’s all that matters to me.

Dee-Diana-Rouge-&-Beyond-Singapore

Tell us one unforgettable situation you had with one of your clients.

I have quite a lot of unforgettable situations with clients, but the one that stands out was when one of my clients talked to me sexually. It was really uncomfortable having to deal with that kind. But as I go along and expose myself to this kind of environment, I learned the art of filtering and handling conversations better. (Or maybe I can stick my boots in one’s mouth once I get the same scenario in the future. Kidding!)

Tell us one misconception about being a female barber that you often get.

I can name a lot, but for now, I just don’t bother to focus much on those misconceptions. I devote my energy to working as hard as I can to contribute to a campaign to remove those misconceptions. I want to get to the point where we all let everyone do things not because of our gender. Currently, I think women barbers in Singapore are doing a pretty good job in altering those misconceptions, too. I can only applaud all the lady barbers in the world for doing a great job and stepping forward in showing what we, ladies, are capable of doing.

Dee-Diana-Rouge-&-Beyond-Singapore

Have you thought of exploring other industries?

So far, I never have any thoughts of changing the industry. Maybe that’s the way it is when you love what you do. I’m actually grateful that I earn and sustain a living doing what I’m most passionate about. If there is one thing that I want to do, though, is to teach young people and somehow be able to pass them the knowledge I know in cutting and styling hair. To inspire them would be a bonus.

Would you encourage more women to enter the barber industry?

If they find it exciting or interesting, or if they somehow wish to explore cause they see it as another form of artistic expression, I would encourage them to push through because it is actually fun to do–if only one is willing to, much more if one is passionate about it. Although it is a challenging job which I still find as it is until now, it definitely gives me excitement, and I guess that’s the most essential part. It’s the skills you acquire through your discoveries. There’s nothing wrong with entering and exploring an industry where society is not expecting you to be in. As long as you have the drive to learn and perseverance, you go for it!

Dee-Diana-Rouge-&-Beyond-Singapore

What is your message to the young women who might be wishing to enter the industry but are uncertain and hesitant because of what society might think?

If you want it, give it a try. And when you do, give it your best. Show the world that this profession has no gender. Embrace your passion and use it to continuously improve yourself to become the best at it. It’s about time to break the mindset that females are bound to only be at salons; ladies can do a good job, too, even in barbershops.

Most importantly, one must humble herself to learn, especially at the beginning, as no one just instantly masters it without going through the process. Work hard, and everything is possible. And should you need any assistance in relation to hair cutting and styling, just send me a message on Instagram; I’m more than happy to help.

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