When walking through some of the world’s busiest cities, it’s easy to miss out on your surroundings. But when you come across that city’s iconic landmarks in the form of unique hairstyles, you’re probably going to stop and pay attention.
Gaining that attention is the goal of Mykey O’Halloran, a hair artist from Brisbane, Australia, who specializes in crazy cuts and colors and creating unique structures with hair. In the past three years, he’s caught the gaze of city-goers throughout Australia, New Zealand, and most recently New York, in what he calls the “Rainbow Road Trip.”
The 26-year-old stylist is a registered volunteer for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and has raised over $36,000 so far as part of an ongoing fundraising effort. By tracking down volunteers who are willing to let him alter their hair, in addition to contributing to his cause, O’Halloran is also building a legacy in honor of his late cousin, Meaghan.
“Meaghan worked for Make-A-Wish Foundation, and she raised over $2 million for them in Australia. She unexpectedly passed away in 2008, so that’s why Make-A-Wish is my chosen charity,” O’Halloran tells Yahoo Beauty. “I love what they do for children through emotional times of life-threatening conditions, and it just brings joy to them and their families, and lightens the situation, giving them help to grant the power of a wish to stay strong through their treatment.”
O’Halloran speaks passionately about the foundation, which has supported him throughout all of his travels. However, further inspiration behind his project comes from dear friends of his. His first project with Make-A-Wish was done in support of his friends Katrina and Brooke, who are now both survivors of different cancers.
“I started a fundraiser where with every $2,500 I raised, I would shave a quarter of my head,” he says, “so I was walking around looking like a lawn mower had gone through the middle of my head, but it drew attention for the donations. Ultimately, I let my friend, Katrina, shave all of it because she had lymphoma cancer. When she went through chemo, we lost our hair together.”
The sentiment of letting go of his locks in support of his friend means a lot coming from O’Halloran, who typically has a full head of rainbow hair. However, it was soon after his stint with shaving that he discovered that his crazy colors would make for a better call to his cause.
With donations came suggestions for what O’Halloran should do with his hair next, which led him to take on the looks of The Simpsons‘s Krusty the Clown, as well as a number of iconic Australian fruits. When a picture of one of his looks posted to Facebook garnered $5,000 to his donation page, he realized a road trip was worth a shot. O’Halloran quit his two jobs and got in his Kombi van, which he lived in as he traveled.
Decorated with paint from Australia’s Bunning’s Warehouse, the van was done up like a rainbow with unicorn horns and, of course, the Make-A-Wish logo. The dyes used for the hairstyles, however, come from Manic Panic, which first became a part of O’Halloran’s journey when he dyed the hair of a woman about to go through chemo.
“Brooke is a friend of mine from Brisbane, who is also a survivor of leukemia, and when her cousin, Hope, posted to Facebook asking who can do a certain color before she goes through chemo, Brooke tagged me in it,” he explains. “The original color was done by the artistic director of Manic Panic, Alix Clymer, who started the Unicorn Tribe. So I contacted Manic Panic, told them about the situation, and they donated all of the product to dye her hair bright red and rainbow underneath.”
O’Halloran continues to describe the experience of driving up to Bundaberg for the job, where he met Hope and her three daughters. He recalls wrapping the tables in her home so they wouldn’t get ruined, while the young girls painted hair pieces for their own replication of their mother’s look.
“I just wanted to bring joy to their situation, as Make-A-Wish does for children with life-threatening illness. I thought, ‘I’ve got the time, let’s hit the road,'” he says.
Hope’s journey continued as she opened Cafe House in Bundaberg to live out her life’s dream before she passed away on Australia Day (Jan. 26) of this year. O’Halloran commemorated her with a hairstyle, of course, using the same bright red paint to re-create New York’s HOPE sign.
The focus that O’Halloran places on others throughout his ventures stems from the selflessness behind his project. From the very first road trip, he’s always kept in mind that the journey isn’t about him, but instead about making other lives better.
“Manic Panic was sending me color, just to support what I was doing, but I didn’t feel like the color was mine. It wasn’t for me, it was to generate donations,” he says. “I felt that sparked me and inspired me to think of dyeing people’s hair rainbow on the road originally. I thought there’s so many small towns where rainbow hair color wouldn’t be huge, and the impact of people seeing it would lead to donations for Make-A-Wish.”
Now, three years from his initial vision, O’Halloran is just beginning to grasp how far this quest has taken him, and where he’d like to go next.
“In 10 years, I’d like to have done 10 of these road trips. I would love to get a collective of artists and create a Rainbow Road Trip movement across the world, having other creatives onboard and having them contribute their skills to Make-A-Wish in that way,” he says, before pausing and reflecting. “Yeah, a lot has happened, but this is the beginning.”
At 11 years old, O’Halloran wrote a short book titled Sally Likes Scissors that allowed him to express his love for what he knew as hairdressing at the time. He’s able to repeat the story verbatim without even looking down, demonstrating that both the words and the meaning behind them come from the heart, although he admits he might not have known what it all meant back then.
Now, he reads it as a “safe way to express who I wanted to be from a young age,” which he says was a hairdresser who could cut and create rainbows. And now that he’s on to doing the latter, O’Halloran anticipates a sequel story called Ruby Likes Rainbows.
Rainbows are something consistent for O’Halloran now, as one usually appears in his hair, as well as on his van and his arm in the form of a tattoo that sits next to another more important piece of ink.
“I have Meaghan’s anniversary tattooed and we have the same initials, M.O.,” he explains. “I stuck to a promise to her, and that was to become a manual driver. So I bought the van that I did Rainbow Road Trip in without a manual license, and just worked it out. In hindsight, I’m so grateful that I stuck to her promise.
“You have to remember the good, and see the light in every situation, even though you might not see it at the time.” Just like being a single person walking through a busy city, O’Halloran reminds us all to “take the good out of everything.” A reminder that may come in the form of a curious hairstyle on a busy city block.
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