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Meet April Russell of Firefly Hair Lounge in West Valley

Today we’d like to introduce you to April Russell.

Thanks for sharing your story with us April. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I went to cosmetology school in 2004 in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Things are a lot different there as far as beauty school goes because instead of schools exclusively designed for Hair & Makeup etc, everything is based out of a community college. After being in the industry, I feel like this was a positive thing for me because I was forced to take business classes as well as the regular classes associated with a cosmetology license.

Immediately after graduating, I moved to Arizona to get to know my father better. I had just met him for the first time the year before. I was 19 years old.

I started off waitressing while I waited for reciprocity to slowly occur. I have worked in many different locations & for many different companies throughout my career because I felt that it was not worth staying somewhere that made me hate or question my passion. Although this doesn’t always look the best on job applications, it afforded me much additional complimentary training as well as experience that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

In 2012, I took a short 6 month hiatus from the salon because I felt the pressure of finding something stable for my family. Additionally I had just resigned from my first ever management position and it left a terrible taste in my mouth for the industry. I thought that being a manager would have been one step away from my end goal of being an owner of a large salon, but being responsible for others I found, is not my calling.

I have fallen over and over and over again to get where I am today. I started working for a healthcare company with great benefits but I felt my passion calling me. I felt like I was losing myself. So I found myself back in a salon, renting a chair from a friend I had previously worked with one day a week.

From there, my passion and power came back with a vengeance. Here’s something unexpected that happened when I returned to the industry full time- I wanted a space of my own so I found myself working for a small, upscale salon right across from Arrowhead Mall. I interviewed well, the owner seemed to like me. As a few days went by, business was slow and I was trying to think of ways to help with marketing since they were a newer salon at the time. I began assisting for one of stylists in my down time, and then I had this small, seemingly insignificant conversation with the receptionist about how my seamstress was making me an apron with Captain America insignia. Before I knew it, I was being called over by the owner, being told to wear all black (which I had asked if there was a dress code initially and there was not) and that and I quote “THERE WILL BE NO CAPTAIN AMERICA IN THIS SALON”. I mean, ok. Understandable? Reading 50 Shades of Gray is totally fine on the floor but geek insignia is just unprofessional and offensive. Also, it’s a shield, with red white and blue which honestly is about the least offensive thing I can think of to date.

She ended up letting me go because I didn’t fit in. I didn’t fit her vision of the salon. Mind you, the receptionist has tattoos on her neck and face, and I was just a geek. To this day I am still unsure of what her vision was. Not me.

So there I was jobless 2 weeks before Christmas and questioning everything. Thankfully, my same friend from before was willing to let me work when she wasn’t in her studio.

Soon after, business became prosperous for me, and we ended up opening a larger studio. My thirst for prosperity and success led me to be recognized by the director of Phoenix Comicon and I was soon put on as a stylist for their celebrity guests. It was one thing after another. I got my first sponsorship offer from Brazilian Bond Builder. What a fun ride it was! I was even able to direct & produce couple of runway shows for RawArtists. My models were professional, talented and beautiful cosplayers from our Arizona geek community and I couldn’t have been more proud of them.

Unfortunately, my time with PCC had to come to an end and it was time to rebrand. Immediately after closing that door, I was voted Best of the Valley by Arizona Foothills 2017 & 2018. I started educating for a brand called VERB. It’s a very clean, simple brand that you can find in boutique salons or Sephora.

After my contract ended with them, I was offered a National Educator position with Brazilian Professionals, or Brazilian Blowout as most will know them. I got to travel all over the country telling other stylists about products and services that I passionately loved. My Brazilian Professionals family has changed my life so dramatically. It has opened doors I never thought would be possible to open.

During my rebrand, which took about a year, my partner opened up her own salon and we parted ways. This left to my own devices and I took full advantage of decor and aesthetic. It finally gave me the freedom to give my clients the type of experience I always longed to give them. Since I am a southern girl at heart, I decided on a warm, rustic vibe that would make all people feel at home the moment they enter. Firefly Hair Lounge was inspired by the memory I have of running through the green fields full of fireflies at night. That feeling was love, freedom and whimsy. All of which I bring to life at my studio.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It definitely has not been a smooth road to the insurmountable top. Some of the biggest challenges I faced were actually put there by others. This industry is cut throat, and I am sensitive with my heart beating on my sleeve. I am too trusting, too quick.

Since the beginning, I have had trouble finding my place with others. I am a free spirit, wild at heart, while others that I continue to encounter do things by the book. I consider myself an artist rather than a hairdresser or stylist. Every time I touch a head of hair, it is an outlet of endless energy to me. I see infinite possibilities and to most, they don’t make sense. Nothing about me makes sense. My style, my personality, my aesthetic. People hate the unknown and they hate what they don’t understand.

Another struggle I hesitate to even mention because I still have trouble believing it myself, is the jealousy of others. Before finding myself where I am now, at this moment, I was surrounded by people trying to bring me down. People that hated me for my accomplishments. People picking me apart simply because I’m a woman, or because they want the recognition without the hustle.

Before just recently, I hated myself because I wanted so badly to fit in. I wanted so badly to get rid of the hatred that I would have been willing to give up who I was. Today, I celebrate how different I am and I am proud of not fitting the mold.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Firefly Hair Lounge – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Firefly Hair Lounge was inspired by the pure love, freedom & whimsy you have as a child running through green fields of fireflies at night. Chasing the magic.

I am a colorist. I am an artist. I specialize in free handed works of art with hair as my canvas. I am well known throughout the valley for my hair painting skills & fantasy color. I call all of my clients my mermaids as they are all magical to me regardless of whether they’re blonde or rainbow haired.

I am most proud of putting education and integrity before all else when helping my client choose a new look. I believe this also sets me apart from others because I would rather do a service that is worth less money than compromise the integrity of my client’s hair.

I have the pleasure of being assisted by my oldest daughter, Mika. She is an integral part of Firefly. She helps me set the mood, which can be fun since she is full of personality! She assists me by shampooing, cleaning, organizing & managing our social media pages. Let me tell you how great it is having a young person manage social media- AMAZING. (She and I are pictured below with our best “Blue Steel” Zoolander faces!)

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I love the Valley because it’s a melting pot of diversity. Everyone is here. There are so many events that continue to celebrate diverse cultures that exist today. It’s so beautiful! The city is on a grid which makes it pretty impossible to get too lost which is great!

I don’t have much that I dislike about our city honestly. It can get REALLLLLY hot in the summer! That makes it really difficult for my vivid clients to wash their hair in cold water during the summer months!

I am currently in the process of becoming a Kevin Murphy concept salon. Kevin Murphy works to reduce their carbon footprint in every way right down to packaging. It is so important that the lines I carry reflect the morals and beliefs I stand for. In the future, I plan to purchase a small house, gut it, & turn it into a salon. I got this idea when I was educating in Portland. I think part of my soul lives there, by the way. I still plan on being alone, the salon will just offer me a larger space to work in. (There’s so much more room for activities!)

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Salon image credits to Liana Harrison
Blacklight Hair image & city drop credits to Jenny Escarda

Getting in touch: VoyagePhoenix is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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