FALL RIVER – Michele Antunes isn’t boosting her price for a haircut or beard grooming. But she could probably get away with it.
Word is out and spreading rapidly that the 29-year-old single mom from the city has become a barber to the stars – at least stars from the world of professional wrestling.
Last Friday, Antunes packed the gear she uses in her regular job at Shear Genius on Plymouth Avenue and brought it to TD Garden in Boston for the WWE SmackDown show. No, she isn’t a new in-ring character, the female reincarnation of Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake.
Antunes was on hand to put her considerable and highly regarded barbering skills to use, behind the scenes. WWE stars take their appearances seriously, and Antunes made sure their hair and beards looked oh-so-fine.
“I was kind of nervous the days before (the show),” Antunes said Thursday between customers at Shear Genius. “I hadn’t experienced this before and it all happened so quickly.”
But once her WWE stars got into the chair, the butterflies went bye-bye. And, Antunes said, the stars were so nice, and generally talkative, that the work became a joy.
“A lot of them talked to me. Some of them asked me how I became a barber because I’m a female. They were so nice, my nervousness just disappeared,” she said.
A barber for for two-and-a-half years, Antunes has earned a reputation as a superb beard groomer. She said a New Bedford barber sent a 20-year customer to her specifically for beard grooming.
She discovered and became devoted to beard products from Maestro’s Classic, and started communicating with the company’s owner, Anthony Spadafora, via Instangram. Maestro’s has contracts to take care of the hair and beards for WWE, NASCAR and the Philadelphia 76ers of the NBA.
The exploding popularity of largely grown beards helped pave the way to last week’s major career opportunity. Spadafora had Antunes on his radar screen and obviously felt she was ready for the big time. He didn’t give her a whole lot of notice, asking her last week if she would do the Friday show.
Antunes was part of a team of barbers Maestro's assembled at the Garden.
Among the stars she groomed were Boston College graduate Kofi Kingston; the rugged and bearded Irishman Sheamus; and announcer Michael Cole. Sheamus has a specific look so Antunes fine-tuned that. Cole, she said, gave her freedom to be relatively creative.
Sheamus gave Antunes a bottle of his beard straightener, and though Antunes doesn’t generally use beard straightener, no way was she going to refuse the gift.
Her WWE work day ran from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Antunes said she doesn’t dream of being a lifetime barbershop barber. She loved Friday’s experience and imagines doing more such high-profile work. She said after she finished her job and watched the rest of the show from floor level, she was encouraged to be ready again for a show in August.
And on Thursday morning, she said, she received a call from a hair products company which wants to meet with her at a trade show this weekend in New York City. She was already planning to attend.
“One thing opens a lot of doors,” she said.
But the biggest thrill for Antunes has been the reaction from her son, Jace, 8. He’s ultra excited to know Mom made WWE stars look extra good.
“Making my son proud is my biggest goal,” she said. “He was ecstatic.”
Email Greg Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him @GregSullivanHN.