Kelly Cardenas. Courtesy photo

Some may associate Carlsbad hairstylist Kelly Cardenas with celebrities. Cardenas, who is an educator for the world-renowned Paul Mitchell salons, is known for styling the tresses of stars like Miley Cyrus and Steve Aoki.

But, when Cardenas isn’t mingling with the Hollywood elite, he’s serving those not as fortunate.

Cardenas, a native of Lompoc, CA, has been cutting the locks of homeless people around San Diego County since 1998. Starting July 11, he’ll offer complimentary haircuts every second and fourth Tuesday at the Father Moore Community Center.

Cardenas, who has worked in the hair industry for 25 years, said he began offering his services to the homeless at a church’s Thanksgiving event. Thousands of homeless people showed up to take advantage of the free services, Cardenas said.

“I remember thinking ‘I’m going to give these guys the coolest styles,’” Cardenas said. “But when I asked them what they wanted they said they just needed a shave because they probably won’t get another haircut again for a year. The experience really brought me back to the reason why I cut hair — to make people feel good.”

But for Cardenas, it’s not just about giving back to the community. He said he feels as though he can relate to those less fortunate.

“Growing up in Lompoc, there were a lot of things we couldn’t do because we didn’t have money,” Cardenas said. “I have two older brothers and my mom worked 16-to-18-hour days, and we lived in a one-bedroom apartment. We weren’t out on the streets by any means but I clearly remember times when we didn’t have food.”

Cardenas said he remembers searching for any loose change with his brothers so they could purchase 19-cent tacos from Taco Bell.

“We never thought we were poor,” Cardenas said. “We just thought that that was the way of live.”

Years later, Cardenas is determined to give back to the community. Driven by the need to succeed, he said he lives by one motto: your rent on Earth is giving back.

The stylist who has lived in Carlsbad for five years has done just that during his spare time. Aside from volunteering with the homeless, Cardenas has offered complimentary haircuts to students at Pacific Rim who have donated their hair to the nonprofit, Locks of Love.

“I asked my daughter once ‘What does daddy do?’ and she replied, ‘You make people happy,’” Cardenas said. “I’ve seen people from 4 to 90 years old change their confidence level (because they had their hair styled). If we could change one person’s perspective, we could change a lot of things.”

Cardenas, who will be joined by hairstylists Ryan Sullivan and Olivia Johanson, will offer free haircuts at the Father Moore Community Center from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. every second and fourth Tuesday of the month through September.

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