Cunningham didn't start doing her own hair until she was a teenager, her tool of choice being "the biggest pink foam rollers" that she could find. "I would wash my hair at night, put in the rollers, and I would just let it dry overnight," she said. "If I woke up and they weren't dry, I would take the blow dryer and dry them up, and it would just make it smoother." That was as far as she went in terms of experimenting with her own hair; she never dyed it — she was always the hairdresser.
Her reputation as the neighborhood hairstylist spread when she started giving haircuts after school. "I would ask, 'Who needs a haircut?' And I would say, 'OK, you can all come over to my house after school,'" Cunningham said.
Eventually, she progressed to doing hair color as well when a friend of hers, who moved to Washington from Norway, wanted to lighten her naturally dirty blond hair. "We went to Fred Meyer [editor's note: a supermarket] and we bought color," Cunningham said.
Cunningham always knew the after-school hobby would become her career — it was those around her who took some convincing. "There's nobody like me in my family — everybody went to college and has normal jobs. But because I was so passionate about it, they were fine with it."