Brad Mondo's Journey From Assistant Stylist to YouTube Stardom

Bonnie Mills | Courtesy of Brad Mondo / Getty Images
Bonnie Mills | Courtesy of Brad Mondo / Getty Images
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Welcome to Big Break, where some of the most influential figures in the beauty industry reflect on the moments that made them — from the good to the bad and everything in between. Here, hairstylist Brad Mondo shares how he got his start in a small salon in Massachusetts before making it big on YouTube and then launching his brand, XMondo Hair.

Growing up in a suburb outside of Boston, Brad Mondo always dreamed of leaving his small town for New York City. He never quite felt like he fit in there. "I always had a bit of a rebellious style," Mondo tells POPSUGAR. "I always stuck out, was the one wearing crazy outfits to school, always colored my hair different colors." This started at about 5 years old. "At this point, [I] don't even really know what my natural hair color looks like because I have only had it maybe once in my life."

During recess in elementary school, Mondo spent his time braiding hair instead of playing. "I would have a line of 20 girls waiting to get their braids done," he says. That trend continued through middle school and high school. "I would do people's hair for all the little dances we had — everybody would call me over to their house before an event."

Bonnie Mills | Courtesy of Brad Mondo / Getty Images

Hairstyling was in his blood. His father owned a salon called the Jesamondo Salon & Spa in town, and his mother worked as a distributor for a hair-care line, which is how the two met. "I really was born at the salon," he says. "I learned everything I know about hair there." He began working there at just 15 years old and would practice on anyone or anything he could get his hands on — like the mannequin heads in the back break room.

Despite all this, Mondo didn't want to go into the family business. "I was a little bit hesitant about being a hairstylist at first," he says. "I wanted to get away and really achieve great things." But after becoming an assistant stylist for his dad, Mondo couldn't resist his love for it any longer. That's when he decided in his senior year of high school to go to cosmetology school instead of college and pursue hairstyling as a career. "I [was] like, 'Let's do this, but let's do it in a totally different way,'" he says. "Which was a great decision."

While Mondo was still figuring out what he wanted to do with his life, he began creating content on YouTube. "I would come home every day after school and just watch YouTube videos constantly," he says. "I thought it was so cool that you could make a living off [of] making content."

He posted a few videos while attending cosmetology school in Massachusetts, but when he moved to New York City and started doing more salon and celebrity work, he put it aside. It wasn't until he quit his salon job and went freelance that he picked it up again.

At first, his posts didn't garner too much attention, but then he decided to film a reaction video, which changed everything. "It was literally overnight," Mondo says. "I woke up and I was like, 'Oh my god. Why are there half a million views on this video?'"

Bonnie Mills | Courtesy of Brad Mondo / Getty Images

"I was a little bit hesitant about being a hairstylist at first. I wanted to get away and really achieve great things."

It was a dream come true. He immediately began focusing more on content creation. "Everybody who subscribed, I wanted to give them exactly what they wanted — focus a ton, dedicate my whole life, [and] literally not leave my house for six months, and that's what I did."

Hitting a million subscribers on the platform was equally mind blowing and terrifying. "I was so worried that it was just going to be a quick thing," he says, recalling how it dawned on him that it all could be taken away if YouTube were to disappear. That's when he asked himself: "How can I make this sustainable and really make it into a job rather than just something I do for fun?"

This led him to the idea of launching his own hair line. "That was a way to feel more stable and have something off of social media — something that I could really invest in and build into something that might be more recognizable than myself," Mondo says. It was (and still is) his dream that XMondo Hair become more well-known than he is and "live on its own."

From the very beginning, Mondo ensured his brand mirrored his personality, just like his online presence. "My content was focused on bringing professional knowledge to the average consumer and adding in humor," he says. "I don't think any brand incubators or investors really understood what I was doing, and so I wasn't approached by anybody to start a brand." To get the idea off the ground, he invested his own money into the company, which he calls a good thing, in hindsight.

"I sourced every person who works on the brand currently," Mondo says. "I built the business from the ground up, and it's been a really awesome journey, as well as a very crazy, complicated journey." The first product he launched was the Glitterati Styling Serum, which he says is "very much who I was at the time."

Mondo has come a long way from his father's salon in Massachusetts and feels as though he's had six different careers in his lifetime. Over the course of his journey, he has three defining moments that stand out from the rest. The first is moving to NYC to follow his dreams. "I really felt like, 'Wow, I'm literally in the city doing exactly what I want to do, exactly what I told people I would do, and not a lot of people believed I was going to do it.'" Also up there is when he hit a million subscribers on YouTube. "[That was] something I had on my vision board for so long," Mondo says. And lastly, launching his brand. "That was really another monumental thing in my life where I felt like, 'Wow, OK, I can do this. I can do anything. Let's keep going.'"

But he's nowhere near finished. Mondo's got plenty more dreams that he's manifesting, including a potential makeover show. "I would love to be known off of social media as well," he says. "I still think there is a sort of stigma [around] influencers, and I'm interested to see how I can break out of that mold and be known on my own."