After cutting off all of his shoulder-length hair his sophomore year to give to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths, which makes wigs for people with medically-related hair loss, Julian Bongiorno SEAS ‘13 started growing his hair out again, but he wanted to up the ante for his next go around. The mechanical engineering major from Scottsdale, Arizona came up with the genuinely outrageous idea to let other people pick his next haircut by making it a contest where people could vote online. Two years later, the result is JulianGetsAHaircut.com, a site that Bongiorno designed himself, in which you can vote for haircuts with names like “Two Face” and “Cul de Sac” – each haircut more unbelievably disgusting than the next. Why shave his luscious locks into only pigtails (yes, that’s an option)? To raise money for cancer research. After April 6th, you can look out for him around campus sporting his terrifying new do for a month. Bwog caught up with Bongiorno to figure out how he came up with this awesome, albeit insane, idea and to catch a glimpse of his famed hair before it was too late.
Bwog: What’s the inspiration behind Julian Gets a Haircut?
Julian Bongiorno: I initially started growing out my hair when a friend of mine in high school learned that her mom was diagnosed with cancer. After I cut if off the first time, I regrew my hair for two years and when someone said offhandedly, “You should shave it into a cul-de-sac for like a day or something.” I was like, “No, but wait maybe I could do that,” and that was kind of the seed that grew into Julian Gets a Haircut – pick one of five haircuts for me to do for a month and raise a bunch of money for cancer research.
Bwog: What gave you the idea for this borderline masochistic method of fundraising?
JB: I’ve never been one to turn down an experience and I thought, to reach my goal of $20,000, it would have to be something outrageous to get the attention of the public, so go big or go home. And in the context of what I’m doing, I think there’s a lot of bigger things I could be worried about than just being embarrassed for a month. I mean, given that people are actually suffering from cancer, I can look like an idiot for a month to raise money for them.
Bwog: How did you decide which haircuts to use as the choices for your new do?
JB: Because all the hair is being donated, the haircuts themselves had to be all-or-nothing – so razor-able. For example, I couldn’t do a mullet because a lot of it can’t be donated. I thought about it for a solid six months, just coming up with haircuts, and these were chosen because they’re all unique and horrible in their own way. I aslo wanted to make it a difficult decision on the user side. And from conversations with people, it’s pretty even [between the haircuts].
Bwog: What’s been the biggest challenge in creating JulianGetsAHaircut.com?
JB: Reaching out to people in a way that will facilate action on their part. It’s one thing to like something on Facebook and it’s another to donate. It’s been about bridging the gap between friends and family to strangers who like the idea. I wanted to create a cool product for the masses rather than just getting donations from my family and close friends.
Bwog: How has the response been so far?
JB: The response has been positive. There’s still a lot of room for improvement, especially now that T-shirts are happening and donations are open. I’m seeing a lot of the return that I was hoping for. There’s a couple other things planned as well that will broaden the outreach and get people to donate.
Bwog: A lot of us are curious about your hair and what it’s all about. What hair products do you use?
JB: “Pantine Pro-V Curly: Dry to Moisture” – both conditioner and shampoo. I feel that anything else dries my hair out and doesn’t leave it as curly as I like it. And a nice air dry does wonders for the curls.
Bwog: How pissed is your mom?
JB: She’s very supportive of it and even if I had to do it through commencement she would be very supportive of the whole idea. She has actually given money to “bangs” in case there’s another fan out there. She understands the motivation and the greater good involved.
Bwog: Are you sad to see the luscious brown locks go?
JB: When I look in the mirror for the first time and possibly see one of my eyebrows missing, it’s going to be a bit of a shocking moment. I’ll probably repeat the process again of growing it out for another two years. I have awesome long hair, like part of this whole thing is that I have really cool hair. But yeah, I’m going to miss the long hair. I’m not going to miss it getting in my mouth when I sleep or tickling my nose or getting in my food when I eat, but overall, yes, I will miss it.
Bwog: You mention (perhaps jokingly) on the site that employers are welcome to contact you with job opportunities. How confident are you that you’re going to get a job out of this?
JB: Because I designed the entire site myself – I wrote all the code for it – I’ve picked up skills that make me employable I’d like to think and hopefully my outreach is far enough such that these companies will know about me when I go to the interview and see what I’ve done with this site. And from that I hope to get a job. Emphasis on the “hope.”
Bwog: Okay, here’s your chance for some shameless self-promotion. Plug the site and give us any important dates and information.
JB: April 6th is the haircut so donate before then. There are five haircuts to chose from: “pig tails,” cul-de-sac,” “two face,” which includes facial hair and eyebrow, “bangs” and “warrior.” I’ll be wearing the haircut for a full month. My fundraising goal is $20,000 and the minimum donation is $5, which buys you five votes. $10 buys you 15 votes and so on so there’s an option for more giving, but I wanted to make it affordable for poor college students. So buy one less beer this weekend and donate five dollars! All the money is being donated to Memorial Sloane-Kettering Cancer Center’s Strategic Initiatives. I chose it instead of a specialized research center because it’s a more broad fund that gives money to new and important research at any given time as opposed to a certain type of cancer. All hair is going to Pantine’s Beautiful Lengths to make wigs for people who have medically-related hair loss. Venmo is doing all of my transactions so you need to make an account on Venmo in order to donate. If you don’t want to do it that way, you can go to my giving page on Memorial Sloane-Kettering. Follow me! Like me! Buy a T-shirt! And please donate!