When was the last time you found yourself sipping a cup of tea, discussing your life’s burdens, personal issues and dreams while receiving a spiritual cleansing, shoulder/neck massage and shampoo & haircut? If you said never, then you haven’t met Mona Leung, The Conscious Hairdresser. She is flipping the script on the conventional haircut and style. After being in the haircutting/colour business for 30 years and running 2 salons, Mona’s skin and lungs could no longer tolerate the chemicals and toxic fumes. She’d developed eczema, mild bronchitis… and she was pregnant. Her baby was born and her nurturing, her love and her focus had changed. Upon returning to work, her perspective on people had changed. Her clients became human and not just another chair. She had empathy for them and they responded by opening up to her. She was struck with an epiphany, to make the salon experience go deeper.
Her awakening would have a profound impact on Mona and she began to accept spiritual guidance from within. Her deceased cousin’s voice told her to make a documentary… and she listened. Beyond Vanity is the result of a 10,000-mile journey that includes stops in Arizona, California, Nepal, and Hong Kong. A journey that culminated in the discovery of holistic and conscious hairdressers that she met along the way. The film contains the ingredients to Mona’s new approach to your next personal hair styling experience. Beyond Vanity is exposing, it’s brave, it’s spiritually cleansing and it breaks the mould for conventional hair care. Without any previous film experience, Mona listened to her inner voice. She embarked on her incredibly inspirational journey with her talented cinematographer Blake Ponto and it resulted in an accumulation of over 200 hours of footage. Somehow, they very carefully polished the best parts to fit into an extraordinary feature documentary.
BEYOND VANITY celebrates 3 festival laurels, 3 film distributors, and Mona’s 30th year in the hair industry. You can watch the Trailer: https://vimeo.com/547731473
I was very fortunate to be invited to a private screening of Beyond Vanity, where I later met and spoke with Mona Leung. She was quite busy with the meet and greets, so we agreed to speak the following week. She is brilliant, her laugh is infectious and her energy has no ceiling. Roll the tape!
HNMAG “You’ve been hairdressing for 30 years. What was the catalyst for change?”
MONA “The catalyst was being allergic to hair colour and the chemicals. I became really sick at one point and had eczema all over my face. You wouldn’t even recognize me, I looked older, especially around my eyes. If I bent my hands too tightly, my skin would crack. I was also not able to sleep, I had adrenal fatigue and developed mild bronchitis due to all the ammonia I was breathing in. I used to work for a hair colour company, so I applied a lot of colours. My knees were in pain, my back was in pain because I used to wear high heels 8-16 hrs/day for many years. I do not wear high heels anymore (laughing). During the making of Beyond Vanity, I threw away 8 garbage bags of high heels. (Laughing) I had a shoe fetish. I have so much more room now but I might still have a few pairs of boots to throw out. I really don’t care – my clients come to see me for me. I now wear rubber boots because they are the most comfortable ever and it’s my new look. I’ve been wearing them for the past 4-5 years (laughing). Hunters, they’re amazing.”
HNMAG “Would you have still gone on this journey if you hadn’t documented it on film?”
MONA “I probably wouldn’t have deliberately gone to as many places. Because we were documenting it and people knew they were going to be on camera, everybody said yes. When I went by myself to ask if we could shoot, they treated me much differently. They didn’t care who I was but because I’m making a movie – it doesn’t matter who I am. Some people have a thing about being on camera and it was a great excuse to get people onboard. I’d been chasing Tim Robinson for 30 years, to finally meet him. I don’t believe I would’ve gone to all these places; I would’ve organically gone to places. Wherever I go, I always try to look for hair salons and talk to people.”
HNMAG “How did you determine where to start the journey and where you would go next?”
MONA “This entire quest was divinely guided, not just by my cousin but I feel like my ancestors are here. I believe in angels and a higher power. At that time, I was doing a lot of breath meditation. Every time I’d go in, I’d set my intentions – what’s my next move/what am I here to do? One day, I heard – go find Deva Premal. She is one of the most famous mantras singing artists in the world. She has the most amazing voice and she and her partner, Miten sing amazing mantras together and put on retreats. I didn’t know how to get a hold of her but you can find anyone on Facebook. When I don’t listen, it’s ok… but when I do, I can’t believe the possibilities that open up – miracles! I wrote her a letter and she replied back 1 ½ weeks later, stating that she would agree to my interview because she also believes in holistic practices and she goes to an energetic hair stylist. I was over the moon; I couldn’t believe that my favourite artist said yes to an interview. She had also sent me a newsletter indicating she’d be in Vancouver in 3-weeks, so she agreed to meet me and at the end of the day, I happened to host her at the Shangri-La. This is the idea of listening to my guidance – this entire film was guided in the same way.”
HNMAG “Before you embarked on your 10,000 mile journey, had you listened to that spiritual guidance before?”
MONA “I have listened to it before. I’ve been on this spiritual journey for the last 11 years now. I discovered reiki 18 years ago, for the first time. It was when I was pregnant with my first child. That was my awakening to the more that was out there; in a sense, to humanity. I began to see my clients as humans and I became much more aware. I was caring for my baby, that I have unconditional love for – I’d do anything for him. I’d gone back to work 3-4 months later and after getting used to caring for my baby, I had the same empathy for my clients… and that’s when they started to share more with me. It was then that I realized I could make the salon experience go deeper.”
HNMAG “You really have taken the hair style to a whole other level. As The Conscious Hairdresser, what could I expect if I arrived for an appointment?”
MONA “I start off with the south. The south is about trust and love, so I start off with a tea ceremony. I’ll have a consultation with my client to find out what they’re willing to let go of. That ceremony is called rise, where you release and let go of anything that doesn’t serve you. I is for invite – anything that they want to bring in. They become very clear of who they are and why they’re here, who they want to be when they walk out. S is for synthesizing all that has happened in silence, either during a shampoo, a massage or a drying/styling. Finally, E is for my prayer for my client to walk out excited, enlivened and even a little enlightened (laughing).”
Mona explained that she used to have 2 salons but because the experience goes so much deeper, she needed a more private space for her clients. She has renovated a 3- bedroom apartment to accommodate her clients. She provided me with a sneak peek while on our video chat and it looks so comfortable, so private and everything you don’t expect from a conventional hair salon. Mona’s space/The Conscious Hairdresser is the palace of personal care and the spiritual concert you experience from the inside out. Mona is transforming your hair but your body, your spirit and inner conscious is being unpacked, reorganized and reinstalled to provide more harmony in your life.
MONA “I encourage people to date themselves, especially women. We tend to put ourselves last all the time, as moms. I’ve created a box called A Date With Myself. I also encourage self marriage (laughing), where you love yourself so much, you’d want to marry yourself one day. When a client comes in, I congratulate them for being here because they made this appointment for themselves and nobody else. From self care, there is an opportunity for self-discovery. Then comes self-realization and that Aha moment. This is a place for you to release everything. It’s not just a haircut, it’s a ceremony and a milestone. For many, it’s a right of passage but many of them really don’t know what to expect when they come here. However, they know that something consciously or unconsciously is going to happen. That is why I branded the Conscious Hairdresser – so people know that this is more than a haircut?”
HNMAG “I think it’s incredible what you’re doing and it would be amazing if others in hair, could implement more holistic experiences with their clients.”
MONA “In order to create that ripple effect, you need 3 things. Number one, is my clients creating a demand for conscious hairdressers. The other thing is seeking out other conscious hairdressers and I’ve been on a quest for the last 10 years to find them, so we could create a forum and join forces. We can create demand in the beauty industry, so they can supply cleaner products. The big picture is for humanity to be happier, to be healthier and to bring meaning into our lives. I’m on a mission to join forces with hairdressers and everyday my goal is to connect with 1 conscious hairdresser.”
HNMAG “When did you start incorporating your new approach?”
MONA “It organically came together when I was pregnant and started doing reiki on my baby. Although I didn’t know anything about energy healing, I took the concepts from the book that I’d learned and I worked on my baby everyday. There was no verbal communication but I could hear the gastric juices in his body moving and that’s when I knew something was happening. Every time I put my hands on him, I was sending him love and calm. When I started doing that with my clients, through a massage, working on their neck/shoulders, it happened organically. When I took quantum touch (hands on/off healing) 11 years ago, I also took quantum 2, which is the same as a care bear stare. You can look at someone and send them love and healing. They’ll be able to balance the energy in their body. They become the healer and I help them to facilitate the energy more effectively. When I’m working with my clients, my heart is level with their head because I’m short (laughing). They’re really getting more, which I believe is another reason why people are feeling so good when they leave here.”
HNMAG “How many clients would you see per day?”
MONA “Back then I would see 10-20 clients per day. Now, I see 1 – 3 clients per day at the most. I’m with them one on one and it might take longer but the whole idea is to evoke my client’s true beauty, for them to remember who they are and to remind them of their gifts. In this day and age, who has the time to understand someone, to see them, to touch them and to love them. We all have human needs. Some of my clients have been with me for 28-30 years. It’s not just a haircut and an exchange of money, it’s a long-term relationship. My clients are my friends – they’re my soul family.”
HNMAG “What do you do for yourself when you’re not working?”
MONA “(Laughing) A while ago, I actually wrote a list of things that serve me and don’t serve me. This was about 8 years ago… and I realized that I don’t have fun. When I was writing the list, I wanted to check that one off, so now I’m doing Eat, Pray, Love (laughing). For me, it’s prayer and meditation but dance is my best meditation. I love to dance – it’s connecting to my inner soul, to the higher self and to the higher powers. When I close my eyes and dance, my friend is on the other side. He was an amazing dancer and an incredible photographer. He teaches me how to dance and I’m just doing what he’s doing. I also go to Spanish Banks – I’m super shy but I know I need to put myself in front of people. Last summer I wanted to challenge myself and every Sunday night they have a drum circle. On Tuesday nights, they do one at Third Beach and hundreds of people show up. I’m not into the party scene so on Sundays it’s beach, mountain, Pacific Spirit Park. We’re on the grass, all the drummers are in a circle – you can’t even pay for this. I close my eyes, I walk into the circle and I start dancing like nobody’s watching.”
Mona continues, “I also enjoy singing and I’m learning piano. I feel like sound and vibration is super important to be healthy. When you’re hitting those beats, it’s an energizer and we’re energy. We’re upping our energy and transforming it into something so beautiful. When I’m listening to music, I’m getting into the zone and I don’t think about anything else. There’re so many things that I love doing. The main thing is having a date with myself, even if I don’t feel like it. I’ll put it in my calendar – every Wednesday is my date night.”
Mona showed me the very charming and personalized A Date With Myself box. I’d really enjoy describing it to you but I don’t want to spoil the surprise if you’re going to be seeing her for a life altering hair and body experience. It is a symbolic box that completes the very personal experience with an opportunity to reflect, every time you open it. The holistic and therapeutic experience can continue long after you say goodbye. It will help promote the state of bliss and inner peace long enough for your next visit. Life is tough enough and Mona has developed a sanctuary to allow you to shed the negative and to let in the good again. All women deserve something like this. Mona is revolutionizing the hair experience while encouraging other hairdressers to incorporate holistic therapies into their clients’ experience.
Mona further explains one of the scenes in the film, where she draws on her face. “That was a three-day ceremony with my Shamanic teacher that I wasn’t planning to film. One of the things I needed to do was look at myself for 3 hours a day for 3 consecutive days. No talking, no writing, no bathroom breaks, just looking at yourself. I almost fell asleep a couple times but I got to know myself really well. I just started creating this 2 years ago and will be creating 2 courses on it. The first part is The Conscious Hairdresser course, which will certify conscious hairdressers. The second course is one that’s for everybody, so they can learn the power of their own hair.”
HNMAG “What type of timeline would you be looking at for those courses?”
MONA “The goal is to have them ready by the summer. I’ve written them both up but will have to give it another read through. The videos are quite time-consuming with all the tweaking and focusing on just relevant information. One of the modules is to date yourself and another is to know what certain hairstyles mean to you. I currently have my hair in a bun and it gives me energy. It’s like – get out of my way, let me focus on something! To retain information, it’s in a bun but if it were in a ponytail, it can flow through and out. Every hairstyle means something; when it’s down it means something, when it’s curly it means something and when it’s straight… This is another one of the modules in the course to help people start connecting with their hair and to use the power of their hair.”
Mona has since successfully integrated her new knowledge and customs into her current work. In addition to always searching for the best and healthiest products, she also provides her clients powerful Hair Ceremonies, which fuses ancient healing technologies with modern cutting techniques. Beyond Vanity is sure to shake up the hair styling world and create a ripple effect that revolutionizes the industry. Mona listened to her inner self, her spirit and her higher power in order to find her peace and she realizes the benefits are a welcome change.