Trenton Lee isn’t happy just changing the hair industry, he’s hoping to change the world. The 16-year-old wig maker and owner of Luxe by Trenton began cementing a name for himself in beauty after customizing wigs for Tichina Arnold, Cardi B and Blac Chyna. Now, the teen entrepreneur is using his influence and reach to help other children through a local non-profit.
He’s partnered with Ronald McDonald House Charities to raise money to create custom wigs for children suffering from hair loss due to illness, and to construct a children’s salon at the charity’s location in his hometown of Kansas City.
“I had a conversation with my mother and told her that I wanted to be able to do something for my community,” Lee tells ESSENCE. “While making custom wig units for high profile celebrities is fun and exciting, my real passion lies in helping those who have cancer and lost their hair and working with them to restore their sense of dignity, pride, and self-esteem.”
“People ask me all the time about what it’s like to work with celebrities and what keeps me up at night. My answer is always the same,” he continues. “I have a gift, and I feel as though I have a responsibility to share it with the world.”
Lee says that his mother was the driving force in getting this initiative launched. With no contacts or connections, they began by researching hospitals in the community and then started outreach. They received a lot of rejections he says, before Ronald McDonald House was receptive to his pitch. After he explained what he wanted to do, they began circulating his story throughout the organization and eventually agreed to partner with the teen.
Lee then launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise $50,000 for the initiative, which will help pay for the construction, equipment and furnishings for the salon, as well as supplies to customize the human hair wigs – which Lee says look more realistic than synthetics, especially at the hairline.
A staunch anti-bullying advocate, he’s hoping that the wigs will help kids who are being picked on as a result of their hair loss. And the salon will serve as a “spa day” site for local kids.
It’s a noble undertaking during a time when most business owners, especially creatives in the beauty service space, have lost a tremendous amount of revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But Lee is inspired by his mother, who’s raising him and his two sisters on her own “and doing the best she can with what she’s been given.” Her drive gives him the motivation to push forward. And though he has seen a difference in his business due to the pandemic, it’s not stopping his joy and his desire to help those in need.
“This all started because I was being bullied for being different,” Lee explains. “I want to expand my business so that I can provide resources to help others who may be experiencing bullying because they look, act, and think differently. So the [pandemic] set back is not stopping any of the projects — I am still designing wigs for clients and [still] finding ways to continue to be inspired!”