Percy Azabache

Published on Monday, 11 September 2017

“The haircut is only the bait, because the conversation is more rewarding”

How does it feel?

It feels really nice. One time, my mum came from the USA (she has been working there for nine years) and we came to the downtown for something, and she suddenly said a little scared: "Someone is approaching, someone is approaching!" I turned around, saw him and told her, "Oh, he's my friend from the street". (Laughs)…

How did your friend look like?

Well, he was not wearing his best suit, and his shoes were worn-out, but he had a really nice haircut! (laughs more)...

You must have listened to some terrible stories.

Yes, the kind that, when you listen to them, you think, "My problem is nothing in comparison". We all have problems and it is ok to complain, but we must know that some people are really having a bad time.

For example?

This lady I met and talked with. I asked her how she ended up on the streets, and she told me that her two children and her husband had died in a car accident. Her only two children. She could not go back to her house. She does not want to remember, she prefers to live on the streets. Can you imagine? I was with two friends. When I finished cutting her hair, we went home in silence, we were speechless.

This started five years ago, in Ventanilla…

My neighbourhood!

Last year you founded Espejo Social. Why?

Because through Espejo Social we can reach places that may need more help. This way we can have access to hospitals, shelters, homes for abandoned people...

“She told me that her two children and her husband had died in a car accident. She could not go back to her house. She does not want to remember, she prefers to live on the streets. Can you imagine?”

So you have realised that sad stories are not only on the streets but inside four walls as well.

Some friend recently asked me, "What’s the most difficult thing you’ve been through with Espejo Social? The street?" "No, the street has not been the most difficult”, I answered. We went to this shelter in Villa Maria del Triunfo, it was the most shocking experience.


We did not know where we were going, only that it was a shelter for children. When we arrived, there were not only abandoned children, but also sick children. Children that cannot change, take a shower or eat by themselves. Most of them are bedridden. You have no idea how hard that was... We were a group of hairdressers, including some from abroad, and none of us was prepared for that. When I saw that they were all shocked, I took them out of the place for a moment. I had to think about what to do next.

What did you do?

I looked at them and said, "Right now, you’re not a priority. Your pain and what you feel now is not the star of the show. We came here to help, so no crying. Everyone to work!" I motivated them and came back inside; their attitude was different.

And how did the children respond?

It was amazing! A child with Down syndrome grabbed one of the girls and hugged her, kissed her. He was so happy! Those who work there told us the children’s story, how they had ended up there: some children are not visited at all, others have been practically adopted by them…

A world so different from the beauty salon where you spend most of your time.

A beauty salon in Miraflores, where I do the hair of people who can afford a good haircut...

And you also listen to their stories.

And they may also have some drama, but in a different way.

Do you talk to them about Espejo Social?

At first, I do not. Not even my family knew! My older brother did because he saw me. He told me, "You should record it. In the States, some dude does the same and records it". And two friends started recording me.

What is beauty?

What is beauty? The first thing we have to understand is that ⸺in one way or another⸺ we are all are beautiful, even with our imperfections, because they make us unique, different. The day we understand that being different is also beautiful, we are going to stop the nonsense, we are going to stop looking to the left and believing that the rest are pretty and we are not.

In May, you and Qarla Quispe organised a fashion show called "What is beauty?" which had for answer: "Attitude".

Beauty is showing and empowering yourself, nothing else.

Believe we are beautiful.

Of course! Some may think I am not handsome and it is ok, but to others and to me, I am.

That is why your models were a girl with Down syndrome, a girl in a wheelchair, an albino woman, and overweight woman, an old lady...

Our proposal is to show atypical models. The hard part was to find them because, of course, I might have a friend with that characteristics, but does she want to model? Does she want to be photographed and looked at by a lot of people? Most told us no, that they were not interested... until one day ⸺believe it or not⸺ they began to show up just like that. Several of them I met the same day. We talked and they realised that they were not alone, but they represented a community. They became empowered, they became friends. It was so great.

“Some people are really having a bad time and we complain about silly things!”

You know how to listen, not only to the homeless or forgotten, but to everyone.

We all need someone to talk to.

And who listens to you?

Myself (laughs)…

That is the idea, is it not? That we all have to be our own best friends.

You have to push yourself. We have to move, we cannot sit and watch life go by. Some people are really having a bad time and we complain about silly things!

At your school in Mi Perú, your teacher used to say: "The fact that you were born poor..."

"...does not mean that you are going to die poor". Yes, because we have a lot of years to change things. You do not have to become the next Bill Gates, but you can change your situation, study more than your parents. It is up to you really, not the Government. Are you going to wait your life away for things to happen? Come on. Those who wait for others to give them something stay the same. We must fight it!“