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Buster Berkeley – Zen Master and the Art of Hair

His inspirations, iconic collaborations, and evolving creative passions.

His inspirations, iconic collaborations, and evolving creative passions

NameBuster Timothy BerkeleyBirthMay 25thBirthplaceBirchgrove, St. Andrew, GrenadaEthnic OriginGrenadianOccupationsCelebrity Hairstylist, Creative Director-Amorphous SalonWebsiteamorphoussalon.comShare

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Buster Berkeley got his first experience of hairstyling  as a boy at home in Grenada. “I began by cutting other kids’ hair, usually on the street, using  scissors and a razor blade. I really wanted to see what I could make of it,” says Berkerly. Today he is renowned in the industry for his expertise and extensive knowledge of hair and hair care. He has worked with the best artists, from Dwayne Johnson to LL Cool J and Beyoncé. “I take pride in being a hair care specialist,” Berkeley tells us, “but the public would tell you I’m a great hair shaper.”

Shelly Lashley, Makeup Artist, Collaborator

Early Life and Career

Berkeley, who is the fourth of five children, has an older sister and three brothers. He describes his childhood in Grenada as amazing. “It was a very close knit community,” he adds, “with very good parenting and lots to eat.” Once he was in school, it became obvious to him that he had creative energy flowing through his veins.

Initially his passion was for acting, and he grew up playing both men’s and women’s parts. “I remember my first female character and the audience not realizing I’m a male,” he recounts.  “I had to speak like a girl, act like a girl, dress like a girl. It came easy to me” he adds. “At the time, I wasn’t able to turn my dream of acting into a reality, but I’ve always had an affinity and affection for role-playing and the arts it encompasses,” says Berkeley.

At 19 he moved to Canada due to the political issues in Grenada. “The ruling party was not taking the interests of the younger people into consideration, not caring that we wanted more. But leaving was not an easy decision to make, ” he remembers.  “It was my mother,” he reveals, “who pushed me to emigrate here.” At the time he was a musician in a band, and he tells us that, “to this day, there’s a part of me that regrets leaving Grenada.”

After arriving in Canada, he worked a few different jobs unrelated to the fashion industry, none of which he enjoyed. “I wasn’t flourishing,” he recalls. “I started taking music lessons at Mason School of Music, at Eglinton Avenue West and Oakwood where,” he explains,“I met a barber, Franklin Ford, who had just opened his own barbershop. I ended up working for him.”

This is where Berkeley further developed his haircutting skills. “I enjoyed learning from people who had more experience and I became one of the best barbers in the shop, setting trends and then breaking them.” he says. Berkeley always wanted to stay ahead of the curve, wanting to be the best. “That’s who I am,” he explains.“It’s what I was taught, it’s my way of life.”

Berkeley left Toronto for New York in the 80s and there he truly went on to master cutting and styling Black hair. He stayed three years and returned to Toronto, opening Amorphous Salon on Eglinton Avenue West, which became a community landmark.

 

 

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Lashley and Berkeley would go on to become a dream team, with Berkeley doing the hair and Lashley doing the makeup of many high-profile clients.

In the early 2000s, they had the opportunity to do the hair and makeup of Destiny’s Child for a Much Music video shoot.

Buster Berkley with LL Cool J (Photo courtesy of Buster Berkley

Breaking Barriers

It was at Amorphous where Berkeley met Shelley Lashley, who he encouraged to become a makeup artist.  A long-time collaborator and friend, Lashley began her relationship with Berkeley as a client, “I’m very picky, but he cut my hair good,” recalls Lashley.  She remembers rushing to a payphone to call her girlfriend, to tell her about her new cut and that she had to get her hair cut there too. Word spread.

Lashely became the Amorphous receptionist and from there she became inspired to pursue a career in make-up artistry, “I remember Buster touching up clients’ eyebrows with a razor and an outliner, mostly used by barbers,“ she tells us, “and I wanted to try it, which is how I got involved serving the clientele.”

Lashley and Berkeley would go on to become a dream team, with Berkeley doing the hair and Lashley doing the makeup of many high-profile clients. In the early 2000s, they had the opportunity to do the hair and makeup of Destiny’s Child for a Much Music video shoot. “Beyoncé is very nice,” recalls Berkeley. 

They worked on many other projects together, including a Wyclef Jean music video which Berkeley reflects on as one of the predawn, oldest accomplishments of his career. “I had to put a wig on his head. He had long dreadlocks and I had to make them disappear,” explains Berkeley. “Plus I had to cut the wig into a flattop style. It was very challenging,” he adds.

Back when Berkeley was trying to break into acting, the industry was undergoing a lot of change, but it hadn’t yet welcomed people from multi-cultural backgrounds. Berkeley acknowledges he encountered racial barriers,“of the norm and times,” he shares. “But it didn’t stop me from becoming successful. I don’t think anything in this world could stop me from achieving my goals because of my race,” he says. “You’re going to meet barriers but you have to break them down; barriers are meant to be broken down,” he concludes.

Influence and Legacy

On top of running Amorphous Salon, Berkeley has many other creative hobbies. “I’m a Gemini, and we never stop thinking,” he says. Right now he channels that creative energy into playing music, especially jazz.

As for Amorphous, he says he’s looking into passing it on to new ownership and focusing on managing young musicians. But, his influence and legacy in the hairdressing industry won’t be quickly forgotten.

“I don’t want to leave this world without educating young hairdressers,” says Berkeley. And Lashley says Berkeley is a great teacher. “He’s a person who shares his space and knowledge with you,” she concludes.

Berkeley’s legacy is more than just hairdressing. It’s also about mentorship and his true understanding and care for hair and what it means to us and our self-esteem.

Although Berkeley may be shifting his creativity from hairdressing to other pursuits, his artistry will continue to be enjoyed by many. As Berkeley says, whatever he chooses to be or do, he will be the best. His first musical project ‘Ed and Bev Shake It’ can be seen on You Tube.

Berkeley’s legacy is more than just hairdressing. It’s also about mentorship and his true understanding and care for hair and what it means to us and our self-esteem.

About the authors:

Over the years Prof. Gooden has built a multi-media career as an editor, writer, presenter, public relations consultant and special event manager, spokesperson, host, and educator. She...

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Over the years Prof. Gooden has built a multi-media career as an editor, writer, presenter, public relations consultant and special event manager, spokesperson, host, and educator. She...

Read More

About the author:

Over the years Prof. Gooden has built a multi-media career as an editor, writer, presenter, public relations consultant and special event manager, spokesperson, host, and educator. She...

Read More

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5 Comments

  • Engelle Weithers
    Posted 19 August 2023 at 1:19 pm

    A talented and creative hairstylist who exhibits passion for maintaining healthy hair and latest styling trends. Buster uses the best hair products on the market. I’ve always very satisfied and happy with his services and have received numerous compliments on the healthy texture of my hair and the style.

  • Gem
    Posted 19 August 2023 at 5:22 pm

    Amazing stylist. Amazing colorist. But most of all a nice person.

  • Brenda T
    Posted 19 August 2023 at 5:42 pm

    Congratulations Uncle Buster! Your hard work and dedication payed off, let’s see what you’ll do next.

  • Brenda Horsford
    Posted 19 August 2023 at 6:51 pm

    I first encountered Buster on vacation in Grenada in 1990. He gave us his business card for his salon in Toronto, and he has been cutting my hair ever since. He calls it ‘shaping’ and I will tell you, when Buster shapes your hair, it grows exactly so. It keeps the exact shape. As well his products are the best his hair treatments last for weeks, even with regular shampoos. Over the years I’ve been to many other stylists only to return to Buster. He really is the best.

  • Gilbert mitchell. Breemitch47@gmail.com
    Posted 19 August 2023 at 7:22 pm

    Buster and I grew up in the same village in Grenada, and I am sure that I was one of the first experiment with the scissors and razor blades. He was so confident of his ability, that no matter what age group, he would have the men lined up on the bridge to have their hair cut.HE WAS NOT YET FIFTEEN. We all knew that he would be a great and successful barber and hair dresser. His hard work and determination has propelled him to what he has become. There is no praise too high to describe him.

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