His Own Words: Jonathan Badboy-Gibson

Photos by Anna Min

Hair and makeup artist, and health and beauty influencer Jonathan Badboy-
Gibson sits down with Quinn Villagomez to talk about wellness, recovery, and gratitude.

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I always knew from a very young age that hair was going to be my life’s work. My mother was a big influence in that. She would do free haircuts down at the conservatory for the homeless, and I remember her bringing in people into our kitchen and watching her cut people’s hair. When I saw that, it did something to me. I was always in awe.

Watching her do her own hair and makeup really jump-started this desire within me to pursue the career I’m in today. She would always use Aqua Net and the mascara with the pink bottle and the green cap—Maybelline. I would sit and watch her get ready, she’d tease her hair, she was really into the ’60s big bouffant hair—really stiff hair—she loved that. I was so amazed at how she got it to be like that.

If I ever owned a salon it would be called Gloria Jean’s. That was her nickname growing up.

Growing up wasn’t all rainbows and
unicorns and fluffy white clouds for me. I grew up in a broken home, in a family where addiction was prevalent and a family where criminal-minded behavior is what ruled in our house and drove the people around me.

Life started to go down a strange and negative path, but I didn’t know any better. I had uncles around me that basically praised that lifestyle. You weren’t a man in our home if you didn’t go to jail. You weren’t a man if you didn’t have a criminal record.

I always played with dolls when I was a kid. Anything that resembled hair. I even played with a mop head—braided the little hairs. Can you imagine how nasty that was? But I did that to escape what was going on around me. My favorite doll growing up was The Little Mermaid, she had that long red beautiful hair. I would braid it up, and take it down, and braid it back up for hours.

I found drugs at 14 and it was never really taboo or bad. When I turned 19, I found harder drugs. I found ecstasy, cocaine, speed, and the one that stuck and stayed was crack cocaine. I used it for the better part of eight years and I got strung out. I did what it took to supply my habit. It had legal consequences. I was imprisoned for four years of my life, and got out and was on parole for six.

I had problems deeper than the drugs. Because once I put the drugs down, there I was. I had to deal with me.

Today, I live a lifestyle of recovery from drugs and alcohol. It took me a quite few times, eight times to be exact, to get right with myself and my spiritual condition, to make that decision to say this isn’t who I am, this isn’t what I was put on this earth to do.

How can I forgive myself? How can I forgive those that have harmed me? I started working on those things first. I had to do those in great detail, down to the point that I was broken all over again. I realized that I had to keep going and had to re-break my heart to heal again. Because the values and morals that were passed down to me didn’t serve me. I had to create an honest journey for myself.

It all begins with honesty. An honest, moral inventory of self. I have to take an honest, buck-naked look at myself and say, what am I doing here? What can I change? What doesn’t serve me? How can I better this?

I’m seven years clean and living a positive and productive lifestyle to the best of my ability, and life isn’t always peaches and cream still. I still have days where I’m not 100 percent at my best. I still have days where the disease of addiction creeps in and old behavior surfaces, and old ways of thinking return. I know in those times that I need help. I’m not ashamed to ask for help or voice my need for help. It’s important. That’s how I got to where I’m at today—by asking for help.

I’m not ashamed of where I’ve been. Life is a journey, and I’m grateful that I made it out of active addiction and criminal behavior and negative thinking. It’s a struggle to stay positive. I’m human. I have to just let go and be where I’m at. It’s okay to be where I’m at.

To know that I have these talents is to be thankful for those that have helped me get here. It’s for me to push out what was so freely given to me. Everyone is worth that. Everyone deserves that. No matter how bad their day is, no matter what they’re going through, it’s a no-matter-what thing with me. Sit in my chair and you’ll leave feeling 20 times more beautiful than you have in your life.

I was once without. I was once in a broken space. I was once rubbing two pennies together, wishing how I would get to where I need to be. I understand that hair coloring and hair cutting is expensive today. But at the same time, I do understand that everyone wants to feel fabulous, to have the level of coloring service, or the level of cutting, or the level of styling that I can provide, and they see me as super expensive. I am willing to meet you where you’re at—that’s how I approach the business side of it. I honestly know that God’s going to take care of me. I know that I can put my trust and faith in that because I wouldn’t be where I’m at today without that.

In my morning, after about five or 10 minutes of stretching, I go into meditation. I quiet my mind and center myself, and focus on the word gratitude. Gratitude brings forth a walk in my daily life—that I appreciate and am present with the person before me.

Gratitude has started me with a sound mind, an honest heart, an open heart. It has honestly given me a road map to my life that no other vibration could give me.

I make a gratitude list at night of 10 or more things that I’m grateful for. When I say “thank you,” that space—of sound, mind, and body—just happens, it takes over my energy. I feel comfortable. I don’t feel stressed. The woes and worries of my day go away.

It doesn’t feel like work when I’m doing hair. It doesn’t feel like I’m pressured, contrived, or I’m being told to do something. It feels like I’m doing something out of love. I’m taking care of those who sit in my chair. It feels like I’m taking my part in the world.

Being of service. Oh my god, that’s the biggest thing for me in life. That’s how I continue to grow. Being of service enriches my life. It helps me grow further than I ever thought. It’s how I got to the beautiful opportunities I have today.

To do something so moving in someone’s life, to make them feel uplifted and encouraged, to help them face the big bad world with conviction and confidence, holding their head high, and to know I played a small part of that, is such a gift.

It’s a domino effect. They’re feeling good and whoever they encounter after they leave the salon is going to feel good from that energy. It’s a vibration I’m sending out. I’m a daymaker. I love to make people’s day.

When I affirm myself positively, I can conquer the world.

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Jonathan Badboy-Gibson is the lead stylist at Intelligent Nutrients Salon in Minneapolis. Quinn Villagomez is a host on “Fresh Fruit”, the longest-running queer radio program in the nation, on KFAI.