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Photography Eric White

YouTube’s fave hairdresser critic Brad Mondo is here to save our scalps

TextDominic Cadogan

The YouTuber and hairstylist talks his DIY dye range XMONDO Color, lockdown locks, and the years spent reacting to hair disasters and iconic ANTM makeovers

Along with the likes of Netflix, TikTok, and Instagram comedian Jordan Firstman, Brad Mondo has been keeping us all entertained throughout the hellscape that is 2020. 

If you haven’t seen his videos (we’re going to assume you’re somewhere without access to WiFi) the hairstylist hilariously reacts to people’s DIY hair mishaps, which has arguably been lockdown’s biggest trend, and offers advice on how best to fix. 

But being an entertainer and teacher is not the only string to Mondo’s bow, he’s also the founder of his own hair brand XMONDO, which launched back in March 2019. “XMONDO is based on this concept of sexy haircare,” he explains over Zoom from his office in New York. “I feel like most haircare brands are pretty clean and simple, but I wanted to infuse my own personality into my brand head-to-toe and it’s taken me a year and a half to accomplish that.” 

“In the beginning, I had a hard time being totally myself, but the more we started saying ‘fuck’ on our posts and doing all this weird sci-fi stuff, that’s really when it started to take off like crazy – Brad Mondo 

Focusing on ‘Bold Looks’ and giving ‘Zero F*cks’ (his words), the brand’s offering is a focus on premium care and repair with sleek and sexy packaging and product names like glitterati. “In the beginning, I had a hard time being totally myself,” Mondo shares. “I didn’t think people would respond well to it, but the more we started saying ‘fuck’ on our posts and doing all this weird sci-fi stuff – I’m obsessed with sci-fi and technology – that’s really when it started to take off like crazy.” 

Fans of XMONDO have unsurprisingly been asking for colour products since it launched, and their prayers have finally been answered with the launch of XMONDO Color. Launching with a trio of bold colours – super blue, super pink, and super purple – the new products give you intense colour payoff while maintaining the care aspect that you’d expect from XMONDO. “I’m very well known for colour and I react to a lot of colours, so it was a natural progression of my brand to finally go into colour,” Mondo says. “It’s been a long time coming and I was so nervous to post about it, but we’re here and people are so excited about it.” 

Here, we talk to Mondo about being stopped on the street to fix people’s hair mishaps and how hair is going to change after COVID-19. 

Why is it that you do hair? 

Brad Mondo: It’s because I love art. I have always loved painting and I did it from a very young age. So, hair colour was like a natural way for me to kind of monetise that, making money off painting. I found a lot of enjoyment in transforming people, I always watched America’s Next Top Model and any kind of show like that. For me, the transformation part was the most exciting thing, the fact that you could take somebody, and bring out their confidence through hair and make-up was just so cool. My dad is a hairstylist and owned a salon for most of my life so I think I naturally just fell into that being around him all the time. Otherwise, maybe I would have been just an artist or something. 

People love your reaction videos, what do you hope viewers take away from them? 

Brad Mondo: When I’m doing my reaction videos, I try to think if I had to see this person and tell them about their hair in real life and I would never be mean to them. I would say: ‘Well, let’s talk through it. Let’s get to the source of the problem, and let’s fix it’. So I try to take the same approach online because the last thing I want is for some girl that I react to to be crying while she’s watching my video. 

I never want to make people feel bad, and I do react to a lot of young kids which I feel I can leave a lasting impression on them. I’m  a mean person naturally either. I would never go down that road of just bashing somebody to bash them. It’s a mixture between me naturally not being mean, and me not wanting to ever make somebody feel like their life is over because their hair looks bad. It’s all fun, it’s just to make people laugh. 

Do people stop you on the street and ask for advice? 

Brad Mondo: They definitely do. I do a lot of on-the-street consultation. In the middle of stores, people are like: ‘Hey, can you help me?’ and I’m like ‘I don’t know!’. I try to help as best I can, but sometimes we’re standing there for 20 minutes and I’m like, ‘Look, I can’t do your colour right here, right now’. But I love meeting people, it’s one of the best things. 

“In the middle of stores, people are like: ‘Hey, can you help me?’ and I’m like ‘I don’t know!’. I try to help as best I can, but sometimes we’re standing there for 20 minutes” – Brad Mondo

What has surprised you most since starting your reaction videos? 

Brad Mondo: I’m surprised to see how interested people are in haircare and the basics of haircare. A lot of things I say and do on my channel are the very basics of haircare knowledge and I think it’s cool that I didn’t realise people can actually learn from what I say and do. The more I’ve ventured into the basics, the more people became interested and that’s the nicest part about it all. I’m a teacher and I didn’t even know I was going to be that, so I guess I’m an entertainer and a teacher. 

What do you enjoy more? Creating YouTube videos or working on your brand? 

Brad Mondo: I do enjoy working at XMONDO more than I enjoy working on YouTube. XMONDO is newer to me and it’s a little more exciting in that way, I’m always looking for the next thing that I can try out and XMONDO is the place where I can do that right now. 

I’m learning so much as I go, so that’s the difference. Especially after I’ve done over three years of YouTube videos, twice a week or more, it gets to a stage where it definitely is a lot. I still consider it work and I do really enjoy it, but if I could just sit in the office every day and work on products, that’d be my dream. But then again, I also love the fans, and I love making people happy through my videos. So I don’t know, if I didn’t do YouTube, would I be happy? I’m not sure because I like that community aspect that it brings to my life also.

How has XMONDO evolved since it launched? 

Brad Mondo: My first product was a little over a year and a half ago, and it’s called glitterati. It’s still one of our best-selling products, but since we created it, we have learned so much about formulations and how to work with manufacturers and how to ship overseas. All those small little things that you’d never think about as a consumer. At the time, I didn’t really think about how to ethically source mica particles for a product or how to make it vegan and cruelty or paraben-free. It was all these little things that we’ve learned a lot about. We’ve really honed in on our skills and made everything quite perfect now. Now that we have colour, I feel like we have much more experience under our belts and we’re going to make it better than ever. 

What can people expect from XMONDO Color? 

Brad Mondo: XMONDO Color is all about healthier post-colour hair. You’re going to use our products and your hair is going to be healed from the inside out with different key ingredients that we’ve added into the colour. We’re going for bright, fun colours to start because that’s really on-brand for me and I gravitate towards rainbow, colourful hair, even though I have boring hair right now, unfortunately. It’s not going to be for long though, I’ll be doing something to my own colour soon. I wanted to keep it very neat, sexy, dark, and cool and have that young feel, but I also wanted it to be an amazing product that will heal your hair and give you amazing colour payoff. 

How do you think beauty is going to change post-COVID? 

Brad Mondo: There’s gonna be a lot more DIY going on in every market. A lot of people have experimented with their hair colour and different make-up during the lockdown period and are continuing to do that even now. On the haircare side of things, I’ve seen so many different semi-permanent colour companies blow up this year, and I have friends that own colour companies whose companies have grown five times during COVID. Everybody’s trying to do their own hair, and it’s only going to go up in the haircare industry after this is over. People are gonna keep experimenting and having fun.

Finally, what does ‘beauty’ mean to you? 

Brad Mondo: For me, it’s about being your true authentic self and expressing that however you want to through your looks. My definition of beauty is when you can show who you are on the inside, on the outside, through your make-up, hair, and wardrobe. That’s something I’ve learned as I get older is that I can just have fun and not care if people think it’s tacky, or weird, or whatever, as long as I’m happy with it. That’s my beauty. 

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