Cut above

The first person to participate in A Cut Above was Keke Babers, right, an artist and poet from Los Angeles who has experienced housing insecurity.(Manifest Group/Submitted)

Young adults experiencing housing insecurity have the chance to rediscover their confidence, thanks to a new initiative.

Through a purpose-driven campaign called A Cut Above, salons across the nation are offering free hair services to homeless or housing-insecure young adults. The initiative was spearheaded by the StandUp for Kids (SUFK) youth homeless nonprofit and new hair care brand Hair Proud in an effort to address the homeless epidemic.

A Cut Above was originally supposed to span only the month of March but, due to its success, was extended through the end of April.

“We had great feedback from StandUp for Kids. We had great feedback from the salons. … So, we said, why don’t we just carry on and continue with this partnership?” said Nora Zukauskaite, global marketing director for I Am Proud, Hair Proud’s masterbrand. “Because if it’s doing good, we obviously want to be the brand and organization who’re affiliated with doing good in our community.”

There are currently 4.2 million youths in America experiencing homelessness, according to a statement, and 69% of that population is dealing with mental health problems and a lack of access to basic hygiene.

In Tucson alone, there are 749 homeless young people.

To help combat these numbers across the United States, 12 salons in seven states are participating in A Cut Above. Three of these locations are in Tucson: Lofty Locs & Tresses, BluSteel Salon, and Studio Virtue Beauty & Wellness Salon.

Each location has individual hours of operation for when it offers services through the initiative.

For one to receive their free hair service, they can simply walk into a partner salon during its operation hours. A stylist will then provide them with a haircut and hair treatment.

Hair services are completed with Hair Proud products, which target the Gen Z audience. The collection consists of a range of vegan, cruelty-free products created with skin care-lead ingredients, emphasizing the health of the hair.

“It means a lot when somebody cares enough to help you feel just a little bit better in the day. Most of our kids don’t even know when they’re going to get a drink of water, much less take a shower,” SUFK Executive Director Kim Sission said. “So it means a lot that the salons have stepped up and said, ‘Yes, we’ll help your kids,’ and that Hair Proud is offering their product.”

Although the premise of A Cut Above is simple, the impact is significant.

Sission, who has been participating in street outreach for 16 years, shared that “it’s a great thing” to witness young people excited to receive hair care and see their transformation. For many of them, meeting a new person is nerve-wracking.

“When a young person goes in and gets cleaned up and is treated with just a little bit of kindness and a little bit of care, it changes their whole day, their whole outlook on life,” she said. “Many of these kids haven’t been treated very well by people, especially by adults. So when someone takes the time to actually make them feel good about who they are and let them know that they matter, it makes a huge difference.”

Keke Babers, an independent artist and poet from Los Angeles who has experienced housing insecurity, was the first participant for A Cut Above.

She shared in a statement that thanks to the initiative, she was given another chance to pursue her passions and experienced a boost of self-esteem that led her back on stage.

“I feel so confident, I’ve started writing so much and even performing again. A program like A Cut Above makes that self-care accessible to people in my situation. … My new ’do makes me feel like I belong in any room I walk into,” she said.

This is what A Cut Above is all about, Zukauskaite explained: giving housing-insecure young people the opportunity to get back into a routine work environment and the confidence to exist in those spaces.

“It’s really important that we talk about this and we shine the light, and we would not be able to do that if we did not have such organizations like StandUp for Kids, who are in the middle of a community and who can help us reach and spread the message — because it’s just impossible otherwise to convey,” Zukauskaite said.

StandUp for Kids is a national nonprofit that serves housing-insecure, at-risk young people under the age of 24. The organization is known for its relationship building and reaches youth through its mentorship programs, street outreach and housing support.

Similarly, Hair Proud’s mission is to empower its all-inclusive community — which is what spurred the hair care brand to initiate the partnership with SUFK.

“I think this is just a really symbiotic relationship uniting for a bigger cause, changing the world and, where we can, contributing to the (betterment of) planet Earth,” Zukauskaite said.

A Cut Above

Lofty Locs & Tresses:

1800 E. Fort Lowell Road,


BluSteel Salon:

5407 E. Pima Street, 520-440-0916

Studio Virtue Beauty &

Wellness Salon:

6580 E. Tanque Verde Road,


To learn more about the

A Cut Above campaign, its participating salons and the Hair Proud brand, visit More information about StandUp for Kids can be found at