Hangzhou hairdresser is a deft cut above the rest
Within the unassuming confines of what appears to be an ordinary salon, a note affixed to a mirror can easily capture one's attention.
"Hello! I cannot hear. May I kindly request you to indicate your desired hairstyle by either using this pen or presenting a picture? Thank you," reads the note. Upon entering the room, most customers instinctively gravitate toward a vacant seat, forgoing verbal exchanges with the proprietor.
Wang Xiaozhen, the owner of the salon in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, possesses exceptional talent despite being born with a hearing impairment. Her remarkable skills have been indisputably validated by the prestigious gold medal she won during a hairdressing competition held in France earlier this year.
The 43-year-old Wang achieved this momentous feat at the 10th International Abilympics, a globally renowned competition celebrating the remarkable abilities of individuals with disabilities.
Talking about her motivation behind taking part in the event, Wang said, "I would like to set an example for my daughter."
Wang was born into an ordinary rural family in Hangzhou's Chun'an county and experienced a joyous childhood. After graduating from a local special needs school, she determinedly set out to secure employment and become self-reliant.
At the age of 17, Wang embarked on her professional journey as an apprentice in a hairdressing salon. Reflecting on her early years, she conveyed her determination through a typed message on her phone to Xinhua News Agency, stating, "Due to my hearing impairment, I had to exert greater efforts than others to succeed."
Wang describes herself as "hardworking and optimistic". During those formative years, she not only honed her craft, but fate also bestowed upon her a serendipitous encounter. In 2003, she crossed paths with Dong Hualiang, a fellow apprentice with hearing impairment. Little did they know that this meeting would mark the beginning of a profound connection, ultimately leading to their union as husband and wife.
After getting married, the couple opened a salon in Tangxi township, which is Dong's hometown, and named it Huazhen, combining their names.
Despite earning a modest annual income ranging from 30,000 to 40,000 yuan ($4,300 to $5,700), the couple has found true fulfillment in their chosen profession.
They dedicate their spare time to providing complimentary haircuts for seniors, individuals with disabilities and hardworking cleaners. The couple also extends their goodwill to the blind goalball players of the national team when the athletes are in Tangxi for training.
"I have always been lucky over the past 26 years since I became a hairdresser," said Wang. "I was helped by many people, and I would like to pass on the love to others in need."
In 2020, the salon was relocated, settling into its current location in Hangzhou. Despite the change in place, the hairdresser couple has made sure to keep their prices affordable.
As the media clamors for interviews, Wang said she experiences a conflicting emotion alongside the joy and recognition that came with her gold medal victory in France.
Speaking about her future plans, Wang said she envisions visiting special needs schools, where she plans to impart her life experiences to students who, like herself, navigate the world with hearing impairment.