Fil-Am hairstylist Mark Bustos and the power of a haircut

Ryan Macasero

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Fil-Am hairstylist Mark Bustos and the power of a haircut
'No matter where you come from, I think we all know what it feels like to get a haircut'
BE AWESOME. Mark Bustos takes his message of positivity and paying it forward back to where it started. Photo by Jansen Romero/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Armed with his clippers, scissors and a cape, Fil-Am hairstylist Mark Bustos is on a mission. He walks the streets of New York every Sunday, spreading his message of dignity and hope, by cutting the hair of homeless people.

Bustos said his haircuts are more than just about making someone look good. It’s about making someone feel good and dignified. “Every single haircut I give, whether I’m in the salon or the streets is a powerful thing,” Bustos emphasized. “No matter where you come from, no matter what walk of life you come from, I think we all know what it feels like to get a haircut – and the feeling that it gives us inside, and that sense of confidence that we get.”


Bustos returned to the Philippines again on February 26 this year, initially to spend time with family, but he is also here to give back to his motherland. “I love coming back here,” Bustos said. 

While in Manila, Bustos will be conducting a demo and training with stylists at Bench Fix Salon as well as highlighting a charity event where he will give free haircuts to underprivileged children and persons with disabilities (PWDs). 

Bustos, who works at the elite salon Three Square Studios in New York City, has been featured in dozens of international publications including the New York Times, Huffington Post, CNN and ABC News. He continues to give free haircuts to people who need it the most every Sunday.

In an interview with Today, he said that cutting people’s hair was something he felt was a way to ease the problems happening around the world.

NO NEGATIVITY. Bustos says the idea started during a trip to the Philippines. Photo by Jansen Romero/Rappler

“There is so much negativity in this world today,” Bustos said. “And I just simply wanted to bring some positive energy and hope into this world.”

He has cut hair for the homeless in New York City, Los Angeles, Jamaica and in his parents’ home province of Pampanga. 

The inspiration for his haircuts actually came from a trip to the motherland. “In 2012, my girlfriend and I traveled to the Philippines to visit where our family is from in Pampanga,” Bustos recalled. “Her father passed away a couple of years ago and I always knew I wanted to give back [to the community] somehow,” he added. 

So then it hit him. “The best thing I do in my life is cutting hair, so we rented a chair in the barbershop where he used to cut his hair and I was able to work next to the barbers that day and cut hair for less fortunate children,” Bustos said. The rest was history. 

His haircuts have touched thousands of lives by now. And while Bustos emphasizes that no person’s story is more important than another, he recalled one particular story on Mother’s Day last year that stood out.

He told Rappler: “I walked around New York City looking for a homeless mother to help out. I walked around NYC for 3 hours, and we found her in Union Square. She had a sign with her needs, she wanted to call her kids. We bought her flowers, we bought her whatever she wanted to eat. I think it was the greatest Mother’s Day gift we’ve been able to give”


How is Bustos handling his newfound fame? “I’ve never intended for any of this international news to happen,” he said. I’m not used to so many people calling me. It’s not weird when people know my story, but it’s weird when people look at me as someone who’s above anyone else, because no one is above another human being, we’re all human.”

His message, spread through #BeAwesomeToSomebody, doesn’t only apply to hair stylists. “It’s plain and simple,” Bustos concluded. “Even if you can’t do anything, just smile at them. Even a quick interaction changes the way that person feels about themselves. Even if you don’t say a single word to them, just smile. You’ll make them feel human and like they are somebody.” – 

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Nobuhiko Matsunaka


Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers social welfare for Rappler. He started at Rappler as social media producer in 2013, and later took on various roles for the company: editor for the #BalikBayan section, correspondent in Cebu, and general assignments reporter in the Visayas region. He graduated from California State University, East Bay, with a degree in international studies and a minor in political science. Outside of work, Ryan performs spoken word poetry and loves attending local music gigs. Follow him on Twitter @ryanmacasero or drop him leads for stories at