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Stylist and barber in training Marlon Joe views his clippers as his paintbrush and clients’ hair as his easel.

The rest of the styling world is beginning to see the same thing.

Joe, 35, is nearing completion of 2,000 hours of cosmetology training at Bold Beauty Academy in Billings. In April he was one of three stylists in training from across the country to win an all-expenses-paid trip to San Antonio to Sport Clips’ “The Look — Student Edition." Three photos depicting works of art Joe shaved into clients’ heads qualified him for the prestigious recognition.

“I felt like a celebrity,” he said. “They picked me up from the airport in a limo, and our hotel room was a suite.”

Before a crowd of about 5,000 stylists, the three selectees were recognized for their work, given high-end tools of their trade and undertook a special half-day of cutting-edge training.

Nicole King, Bold Beauty Academy’s senior administrator, called Joe’s national recognition “a big deal.”

“He is so requested here,” she said of the styling school at 928 Broadwater Ave., which currently has 91 students, “that we have to pull him off the floor so that he can learn other things.”

Joe said he’s always had an artistic side, but “I played Army for so long that I had to put my artist skills away.”

He served 12 years in the Army and Reserve, including three combat tours in Afghanistan. As a child his father cut his hair, “and then I learned how to cut my own hair,” he said. He still does.

Throughout his tours of duty he’d tuck clippers away in his pack. “I did it to help poor privates like me,” he said. “I had them with me all the time.”

Calling his time in the military “a fast-lane life,” Joe completed his service four years ago in order to spend more time with his children.

"I loved every minute of military service," he said.

He nearly completed college, then enrolled at Bold Beauty Academy in July 2017.

He expects to complete his training in October and may go into business with a partner after completing an additional 150 hours of training for a barber’s license to go with his anticipated cosmetology license.

“Right now I’ve got a lot of tools in my pocket,” including hair, waxing, facials and nails, he said. “I was nervous at first, but I came here with my artistic side, and it’s paid off.”

An enrolled Navajo, Joe grew up on the Crow Reservation. About three-fourths of his current clients are Native Americans, he said.

“He’s just so talented," King said, "that he needs to be working for himself."

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City Government Reporter

City reporter for The Billings Gazette.