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Styling his future

story by Noelle Gilbert

Like many teenagers fresh out of high school, Brandon Byung-Ho lacked direction and a practical plan for his future.

Then one night as his mother, Heather Taylor, walked home from the market, she was hit and killed by a reckless driver. In an instant, Brandon’s world was turned upside down.

He moved into his mother’s childhood bedroom, and his grandmother, Charlene Johnson, became his only family support.

Brandon had always wanted to cut hair, and he and his mother had discussed his enrolling in hair design school. With her gone, he became determined to make his dream a reality.

Melissa Campbell, owner of the Eastern School of Hair Design in Richmond, assured Charlene that her school would be a good place for him. She was impressed by how well he had cut his grandmother's hair.

Now he is the only full-time male student in a sea of lively, talkative women. Each student must complete 300 hours of training before working on a client. To become licensed, each must learn hair design, manicure, pedicure and other cosmetology skills.

An introvert, Brandon stays quiet and focused throughout the day, working on complex hair designs. He loves music, especially metal, hard rock and punk, and his ultimate goal is to be a hair stylist for rock stars.

“I’m going to make something of myself," he says. "I'm just being me, trying to focus on being good."

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Brandon styles his mannequin's hair into a duo-color mohawk, while two female students apply makeup on each other.

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Brandon styles hair on his mannequin. His love of hard rock, metal and punk music informs his style on every level.

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The female students are lively and talkative, while Brandon is quiet and very focused on his work. The atmosphere at the school is familial, and the students treat each other like siblings.

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Brandon washes his mannequin's hair after highlighting it with two colors.

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Brandon looks on as school owner Melissa Campbell and her daughter, Maliyah, 19 months, observe another student. He had discussed pursuing hair design with his mother before she was killed by a reckless driver.

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Brandon styles his hair before the school day begins.

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Brandon applies highlights in two colors to his mannequin. He needs to complete 300 hours of training before he can work on clients' hair.

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Brandon consults with Melissa Campbell, owner/instructor of the Eastern School of Hair Design, about the finer points of constructing a long-hair mohawk.

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Brandon sits in his bedroom with his dog, Toby Keith, nearby. He has lived with his grandmother, Charlene Johnson, since April 2014 when his mother, Heather Taylor, was killed in an accident.