Jason, you were recently on an episode of Haute Dog, tell us about how you got onto the show
I honestly didn’t think I would make it onto the show. I know there’s a lot of groomers that are better than me. I’ve only been grooming around 8 years. And yeah, when I did the interview, I was excited to hear back from them and tell them that I’m going through the final process. I did another interview, and they were like “we love you, you’re in! “I don’t think I had the cheesiest smile on my face in quite a while. But I was absolutely thrilled. I couldn’t stop thinking about what I was going to do. I was happy, I was nervous. I think I started crying once. But the hardest part I think of it was not being able to tell anyone about it because there was so much to say. When I got on the plane, nerves were kicking. I don’t think I slept more than 3 hours the night before. Come that morning to when we started filming, it was a process. I probably had about 5 cups of coffee, 3 Red Bulls just to make it through the shoot. Wearing a tight sweater in the middle of the summer. It was an amazing experience overall. It was very nerve-racking. The time that they spent with cameras in our faces.
What was it like being on camera?
It was different from my regular grooming, especially when there’s 2-3 cameras on you at a time. It was definitely different because you know the whole world will be watching. If there’s a slight issue or anything, everyone will notice. And you don’t want to have people thinking you’re a bad dog groomer. That’s every dog groomer’s fear. Knowing that you’re going to be on TV adds extra pressure to the competition because the whole world will see your work. When I actually got to view the episode, I loved it! I thought I was better than I was going to be. I am my worst critic. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I never would have passed up.
Where did the inspiration for your grooms come from?
Overall, the groom itself came from my Father. He was a military person. He died in 2005 from cancer. The episode was about Heroes, and I couldn’t think of a bigger hero than my dad. So, what better way to pay tribute to something I love than to pay tribute to him? The design was also something that I definitely learned from other groomers that taught me. One of my first cuts I ever did was a lamb cut, that was also taking it back to my original beginning of when I became a dog groomer.
What was it like to meet Jess Rona?
She was fabulous! She’s definitely has a big personality. Beautiful woman, she’s always smiling, always happy. To meet someone of her stature, was definitely an honor. To have her judge my work. But who doesn’t want to be critiqued by someone you admire so highly in the dog industry?
Was there anything funny or interesting that happened on set?
I think my dog pooping on the table because of nerves would have to be the funniest thing. They didn’t show that part though. Also, it was funny because the clothes that I originally came with I didn't wear. Because of COVID, we were allowed to choose our own clothes but when I got there, they had this sweater that I tried to fit in, and it was TIGHT! And hot. I was like in dog grooming, we don’t usually wear those type of clothes. #1 they get full of hair and #2 I’m a big man, so I’m always sweating. I maybe wasn't necessarily “uncomfortable” but I was definitely out of my comfort zone.
What was it like to compete with Jess and Jasmine?
Well Jess Is just a big ball of fun. I think she’s even sassier than I am. But I’m from Boston, and she’s from New York, and that’s how it goes. We always competing. Jasmine was the more upbeat happier, crystal loving gal. Very happy, but don’t talk crap about her crystals. She will get mad at you. Overall, I know they had a lot more experience than I did so that was a little intimidating, but I figured I could compete with the best of them.
What was it like to watch yourself on the episode when it aired?
It was weird. I had never seen myself on TV before. I definitely was very happy, I was thrilled. At the same time, I was also very nervous at what people would think. Overall, I got a lot more support, people following me on Facebook and Instagram. A lot of my clients giving me shoutouts on their pages, like “that’s my groomer!” Overall, I’ve never seen so many people happy for me. And that was the most love I’ve felt in a while. Even though I’m still the biggest critic of myself after all, cos you always think “what could I have done better.” But I was glad to be a part of a bigger community of groomers, a community of black groomers, celebrity groomers. It’s just overall it’s been great being recognized for an accomplishment that I’ve been working so long and so hard at. I have to thank Ryan’s for giving me a big push in this direction (HBO Max reached out to the Ryan’s on Instagram and asked if we knew anyone that should apply. We of course connected them with Jason!).
Do you have any advice for groomers aspiring to grow?
I would say for Groomers starting out or groomers who want to grow, put yourself out there. There’s social media. There are different ways to make your face know. Let the groomer community know that you love your job, that love their dogs. There’s an entire community that is there for you and will support you.
Is there anything else you’d like to say about the black grooming community?
It was thrilling to know that there are so many other black groomers out there. Because here in Phoenix, there’s very little male black groomers. I think I’m the only Male black groomer in Phoenix, Arizona. So, it’s great to see more of us not only out there but also on TV and getting that recognition.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your experience on Haute Dog?
If they ever give me a chance to compete again, I’m definitely going to be back! Call me “The Rock of Grooming!”
Follow Jason on Instagram @groomerwithmuscles for more!
Photos from HBO Max.