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Former members of polygamous groups find new sense of self through hairstyling

Feb 01, 2018 03:38PM ● Published by Keyra Kristoffersen

Kelly Cardenas began a series of salons with service and education as the basis for their company culture. (Roon Brown Photography)

Gallery: Holding Out Help [2 Images] Click any image to expand.

For those escaping polygamy, sometimes the biggest hurdle is defining your new sense of self—who you are apart from the group that you’ve lived in perhaps your whole life. Amanda Moncur, owner of the Kelly Cardenas Salon in South Jordan, is determined to help those breaking away find that new person that they want to be.

“I see them shedding something and becoming something more of themselves and being able to feel confident in their new version of themselves,” said Moncur. 

Moncur took over and runs the salon as part of a network of salons all over the United States managed by Kelly Cardenas out of Carlsbad, California. Part of their company culture is humility, service and helping each other be their best self. So, when Moncur’s father told her about the project through Holding Out Help, both Moncur and Cardenas were eager to get started and see how they could help.

“We wanted to offer up our services—cutting hair and stuff—and what we’ve found is that most of these people have never had any emphasis put on their looks at all,” Cardenas said. “That part has been squelched within their life.” She said they found an opening up to new experiences, new identity and confidence they could never have imagined for the children, teens and young adults that walked through their doors.

For some, said Cardenas, it was not just about cutting their hair shorter but making a break from that life. Moncur loves working with the teenagers because, she said, there’s already so much going on their lives identity-wise that getting to help during such a crucial time, developmentally, gives a sense of fulfillment.

“We show them that there’s more to life than what they’re going through right as this moment,” said Moncur. “They can look back one day and see where they came from.”

The salon has four stylists who volunteer their time to help the boys and girls coming in needing haircuts and styling help. This February, the salon will have been in the area three years. Moncur, now 22 years old, took over the space at age 19 and is now in the 10th percentile of the professional beauty industry. Cardenas started the business 25 years ago and is proud of the level of commitment and depth of caring showed by Moncur and her team.

“This charity work is a microcosm of what we do on a grand scale throughout all our locations throughout the country,” said Cardenas. “It’s not a typical salon experience; all these people are there to make sure you get the best experience possible, and that’s what these kids are getting.”

It’s important to Cardenas and Moncur that none of the people coming through ever feel like they’re a charity case; they’re a valued guest and customer. There’s no judgment. They emphasize the dignity owed to each individual. Many are coming from Colorado City, Arizona, or are members of the Lost Boys, pushed from their homes to keep the available women with certain men. Some are living in neighborhoods just a few miles from the salon where their neighbors have no idea that this lifestyle exists so close.

“We want to gain awareness about this—this is not happening in the dark but in a neighborhood where no one really knows that it’s going on,” said Cardenas. “There’s a lot of people that think that these are fairy tales and not really happening.”

Cardenas is also concerned about the misconception that it’s only happening to girls. Boys are also affected, and Moncur and her team have helped more than 20 since they joined the cause. When a former polygamist member leaves and cuts his or her hair, that person is no longer accepted back into the community. So, Moncur and her team of stylists help them fit in and feel comfortable in their new community.

Holding Out Help also holds fundraisers and events such as its annual gala to help raise awareness and share the stories of these young people. Members of the salon have pitched in to help style their hair and makeup.

For more information about Holding Out Help, visit: http://holdingouthelp.org/. To find out more about the Kelly Cardenas Salon and the work it does, visit: https://www.kellycardenassalon.com/.  

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