Benders Collective

Our Mission

 

BENDERS’ mission is to create an environment for people to explore and express their individual styles and gender expressions by providing top-quality services in hair, makeup, education, and training while actively supporting art, expression, and queer communities alongside their allies in Long Beach and beyond.

 
 

Team

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Jessica Santiago

Owner/ Master Stylist

Jessie is no stranger to queerness. She was raised in Virginia, a spiritual, eccentric person of color with lesbian parents. Queerness was normal, safe, and loving as a child. But stepping into the "real world" as a young adult changed everything. She desperately wanted to fit in with her peers, experimenting with identity after identity without success. Without having found that place, she decided to create a world of her own: ~BENDERS'~

Jessie has been working in the beauty and wellness industry for over 16 years as a teacher and stylist alongside some of the industry's finest (Paul Mitchell, "THE SCHOOL," and The Aveda Institute, Los Angeles). She established a strong foundation and practice, specializing in cuts, color, and natural hair textures. Studying special effects makeup in 2008 opened Jessie’s eyes to the infinite possibilities of presentation. Her final project in this male-dominated industry involved performing a physical gender change using only household items and cosmetics. Jessie gained recognition as a strong player in the industry while falling in love with transformation and transition. She began incorporating her knowledge of hair, makeup, gender presentation, and queerness into everyday life and work. She noticed drastic differences in how people were treated based on their gender presentations.

Jessie has long been disappointed by salon cultures that encourage gender and body shaming. Her mission is to eliminate "superficiality" from the hair industry, one person at a time. She likens her work to shining up a rusty penny, bringing out and accentuating one’s natural beauty. Jessie LOVES teaching people how to recreate looks at home. She is determined to work in an environment that promotes beauty, authenticity, and REALNESS .

Find out more about Jessie here


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Cal Bigari

Owner/Apprentice

Cal's background in youth community engagement, and innovation education sets him apart as an amazing facilitator of community projects. His desire to understand people radiates throughout his whole being. As a sociology academic; systems, people and cultures deeply interest him. Currently, Cal is courageously shifting gears as he begins his journey as a hairstylist. He will be available for appointments on Tuesdays, beginning in February, 2019.

A more personal note:
For Cal, transitioning was like a second puberty.  He had no idea how to groom a beard or navigate a barber shop. Fortunately, he found an amazing family of trans brothers that taught him the art of being a self-made man, complete with DIY haircuts and living room testosterone injections. Years later, he moves on to meet Jessie, his love and his very own personal stylist. She has successfully taught him how to "fine tune" his look, helping him feel even more confident in his gender presentation. 

Cal's believes that Each one of us is on a journey of discovery and self expression, regardless of gender. None of us was born man or woman. Instead, we must each endure the process of becoming, growing and maturing into one’s identity."  

He believes we must take an active role in our own destinies; embracing the good, the bad, and the awkward of growing up. He is grateful to provide a space for all to play with their gender expressions and hopes all humans leave Benders' feeling FABULOUS.

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MJ Hemminger

Stylist

MJ started in the beauty industry as a makeup artist in NYC 15 years ago. Having a lifelong passion for hair and beauty, she got a cosmetology license 7 years ago and has been diving into the industry ever since. Often discouraged by the beauty standards of society, MJ brings to Benders' her value in elevating unique expressions and expansion. She believes that our imperfections are most often what sets us apart and is truly beautiful. As our in-house cutting expert, MJ specializes in lived in shags, and precision cuts with eccentric edges.