#PMTSONE: Dice Moreno, Class of 2021
In the #PMTSONE series, we celebrate our diverse and inclusive culture by highlighting Future Professionals, alumni, and team members who use their voices to make a difference in their communities. In honor of Pride Month, our June 2021 #PMTSONE features Paul Mitchell The School San Diego alum Dice Moreno, who leads the charge in advocating for safety and inclusivity in salons everywhere.
Growing up in a small town and being bullied in high school, Dice Moreno dropped out, earned a GED, enrolled in community college, and ultimately graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s in education. For the past decade, Dice has worked with students on college campuses—conducting trainings on diversity, social-emotional intelligence, and how to be a good support network—before moving to San Diego and becoming a case manager at the YMCA.
“Part of my job [at the Y] is to train doctors, therapists, and educators about LBGTQ competency,” Dice says. “Lots of people are on board with LGB and not everybody knows about the T, and they definitely have a lot of anxiety and fear about doing the wrong thing, saying the wrong thing…. Part of my job is getting to talk to folks about what it means to be a good ally, how to be inclusive.”
Dice’s position is funded by a grant that ends in a few years, which means it will soon be time for a career shift. “I was already kind of on the page of looking for a trade because I just kept finding myself stuck in positions where there weren’t opportunities for me to move up,” Dice says. “My wife is a hairdresser and has been doing hair for 20 years. I watched her life unfold in front of me and thought, I have this amazing opportunity here, so that’s what inspired me to start at Paul Mitchell.”
As a Future Professional in the midst of Covid, Dice’s intro to cosmetology took place on Zoom. “I just want to give a shout out to the admin folks at the school. They managed to flip everything around to online education so gracefully. Having been a person who’s done that admin work, I understand what a true miracle it is that they got the whole thing so well. It’s impossible to teach hair over the Internet and somehow they managed to do it.”
It wasn’t long before Dice realized that school was another opportunity to spread the message of safety and inclusion. “I asked permission … and got to speak to every single day and nighttime faculty and staff member about how to be inclusive in the salon for LGBTQ folks, particularly the T and nonbinary, because people just don’t know. They were amazing! They had so much heart, so much care, so many good questions. Somebody cried at every session, and not because I was mean, but because it brings up all this stuff or they realize there’s somebody in their family who really needed more support, and now they know what to do.”
WORDS OF WISDOM: Do’s and Don’ts for Creating a Safe Space
As the leader of a support group for LGBTQ kids, Dice says just about every week someone talks about going into a place of business where the person did not know how or was clearly anxious about serving them. “I’ve even heard this in hair salons. They asked for a feminine haircut and they present kind of masculine and the hairdresser freezes: they don’t know what to do.”
Dice offers several do’s and don’ts to help your guests feel comfortable:
- Don’t make assumptions about the person sitting in our chair. Our job is to make them feel comfortable and safe.
- Don’t assume that whoever’s in front of you is a “she” because they’re in a dress, or a “he” because they’re wearing a tie. Suppose a group walked in and you assumed they were all women but there was a nonbinary person in the group. If you say, “Hey, ladies,” that nonbinary person is negated from the group. The best thing to do is avoid generalizations and switch away from gendered language.
- Don’t make assumptions about what kind of services they want or need, or what kind of haircut they want.
- Don’t make assumptions or ask questions about someone’s transition until you have built a relationship and you have their trust. Just figure out what kind of hair you’re cutting.
- Do the same things you would do with any consultation: use pictures and descriptive words to nail down what they’re going for. Not making assumptions leaves room for them to ask for what they want and for you to to serve them well.
Q&A WITH DICE MORENO
What was one of your most memorable experiences while you were in school?
Some of my most memorable moments were our guest educators. John Mosley just blew me away. I couldn’t believe his heart, his sweetness. He was so genuine and everything he talked about was about being of service, being part of a community, building something sustainable. I fell in love with him and it made me fall in love with Paul Mitchell even more: that I picked the right school and the right culture. Everybody gives me this look when I say I’m switching from social work to hair, but it’s actually pretty much the same thing. There’s a lot of social work in hair. There’s a lot of tears in a chair.
What’s next for you?
Two areas that need a lot of love are trans people and those with alopecia. Both groups need a place that’s comfortable, safe, and private and a person who knows what to say and what not to say. I see myself taking this information, and these counseling and service skills, and moving them into a salon where I can really hone in on my community.
What message would you like to share about Pride Month?
Pride is not just about slapping a rainbow on things. It’s about making tangible systemic change, and that includes in our own homes. Even if it’s just challenging your uncle at Thanksgiving when he says something homophobic, that goes a long way for your one nonbinary relative at the table. Change starts at home.
What’s a current beauty trend that you love and one that you don’t love?
I love the mullet! I’m so glad it’s back. I don’t love the bigotry that’s back pretty loud.
How has more LGBTQ+ representation in media affected you?
I never thought I would see what I have seen in my lifetime. I can’t believe that we have so much representation on so much TV and media, covers of magazines. I had access to probably two novels in middle school that had anything to do with LGBTQ+ people. To go from that to watching my kids have access to unlimited information, unlimited language, building new language to describe their experience has been transformative. It’s a miracle. We still have a long way to go … but you can’t deny that change is happening.
Dice Moreno (IG): @osobeardoeshair