Alex Croft

What brought you to Chicago?

I was living with my husband in Oklahoma City, where I had lived my whole life. We owned a house, had 5 animals, were surrounded by a solid group of friends and family and I had a successful career doing hair.

We had a wonderful life there but I was becoming stagnant. Around the same time, my husband had been getting more and more into stand-up and improv. Although there is a budding comedy scene in OKC, it is limited. We both started to realize that it was time to make a change. We were growing out of our life there and we wanted to be somewhere that could inspire us and provide us with more life opportunities.

We both have family in LA and near NYC, but we didn't want a safe option with established family members. It was time to make our own pilgrimage and start a whole new chapter in our lives. We are also crazy people who freaking LOVE snow and winter so Chicago seemed like a no brainer. Chicago is a huge hub for comedy and entertainment and it has some of the nations top salons as well as a myriad of different jobs, classes, and opportunity for stylists!

Change is horrifying for me but this just felt so right. Also, knowing I would have my amazing, fearless partner by my side gave me the confidence I would need to make a giant leap in an awesome but unknown direction.

Where are you from?

Oklahoma City. Although people imagine prairie homes planted in open fields of wheat, it is actually a fairly modern city complete with electricity and motor vehicles!

What do you find challenging about living here?

The cost is by far the most challenging aspect of living here! I'm perfectly happy with almost everything else about Chicago, but it is so damn expensive! Our 15yr mortgage on a corner lot, vintage bungalow in OKC was less than our current year to year lease on our tiny 1 bedroom apartment. Yikes!

For every other negative I can think of about living here, I just always find a positive or silver lining that makes it all worth it.

What are some of the reasons you love it?

I love all of the opportunity here. There is never only one option for anything; colleges, careers, types of transportation, seasons, kinds of people, restaurants, architecture! That's amazing!

I grew up where most people had one path they could take. Everything was limited back home. And as a result it seemed like most were less motivated to strive for anything more.

I love living with what seems like no limitations. I love seeing the people I know having endless opportunity in all aspect of life. Its a comfort to know that if one thing isn't working out, you can try another. And another and another!

Why do you stay?

This is home. I feel more of a connection to this city that I've only lived in for 3 years than I did the entire 26 years I lived back home. I miss my friends and family dearly but that's pretty much all I miss about OKC. I feel so engrained in Chicago. I know I can accomplish any of my goals here, I can grow here, build my clientele, further my career, and continue to build my personal relationships.

My career alone is on another level here. From amazing educational opportunities, to one of the world's largest beauty industry conventions, to vey cool music festivals that I get to not only attend but work some hair magic at! It's more than little Alex in hair school could have ever dreamed!

It's also been amazing to watch my husband grow so much in what used to seem like an impossible dream. His career ambitions are only possible in a big city like Chicago. He has a ton of shows to get booked on, talented people to work with, and numerous side hustles to help keep the bills paid and the dream alive.

How has community affected your time here?

I am not good at making friends. I always joke that you have to force me to be your friend or it just won't happen. Needless to say, I just assumed I wouldn't make any real friends here. I was here to support my husband and build my career but friends just might not happen.

Thankfully, I was wrong! I am probably a better friend to the people I've met here. I make an effort, I want to hang out. I kind of enjoy being social now! It's interesting, most of my relationships back home just happened. They were people I went to school or work with or people my husband was already fiends with. There was just no effort really necessary with those relationships.

The people I know here I had to work for.  I chose these people to be surrounded by. I consciously make an effort now and I surprisingly enjoy that! I like to have friends now. Chicago has really helped me learn how to have intentional relationships.

Can you speak into the creativity found in the Chicago community (specifically in the circle of people you spend time with)?

I spend a large amount of my time at work. I do hair so my industry is creative already. It's inspiring to see so many people who don't think of doing hair as just a job. It's a career to most of my peers. That's incredibly inspiring. We aren't just working for a paycheck. We are excited to do what we do. We know we create art. We are always looking for the next thing to help educate or inspire us. And we push each other to do better.

How does it inspire you?

There's no way to be around such drive and passion and not have it rub off on you. I'm competitive so it also always keeps me on my toes. I'm surrounded by such uniquely talented people and it ensures I'm always trying to keep up. I have no chance to just settle or be content.

When do you feel most empowered and comfortable in your own skin?

Never! Haha. Well, rarely do I feel incredibly comfortable. But I suppose I feel empowered  just being here. The fact that I was capable of making this move and basically starting my career over again is pretty incredible. I still can't believe I did it. But because I did, I now have that little voice telling me I can do anything. How empowering is that? To actually think you are capable of anything you want! Kinda mind blowing when I really think about it.

Has living in the city affected your style and the way you approach your day-to-day look? If so, how?

I've pretty much always been a jeans and black t-shirt kinda girl, so it's consistently been a bit of a challenge to be myself but also look like a professional. Looking back, I think I got too comfortable at my old job and looked a bit too casual and/or "young". So when I got to Chicago, I had to think a lot more about what my first impression would be on people. I still wear jeans and t-shirts and a lot of black but I've stepped it up a bit.

It's also nice that we have so many more resources for shopping here. From the cool little local boutiques, to the big affordable chains. I have no excuse not to at least try to look my best. Wearing a bit more confidence everyday probably doesn't hurt either!

If you're up for it, would you share a specific story about an encounter you've had in Chicago that has moved you/stayed with you?

Ugh. It's hard to really "move" me. I'm a realist and probably a cynic. The first king that comes to mind is this experience. My Chicago Stories is so unique and interesting and I'm so grateful to be apart of it. What you guys are doing and how you're bringing art and story telling into your careers is astounding. It's moving to know you two are doing something as impressive as it is heartfelt.

It's also moving to read all these stories and see these beautiful pictures and get so much insight into different people and their diverse situations.

Anything else you'd like to share about your time in Chicago?

I recently went back to Oklahoma while I was in the middle of slowly answering these questions. As a result, I thought a little deeper about my feelings about that place and my feelings about Chicago. It made me appreciate some things about home a little more but ultimately reassured me that I am in the right place at the right time. I thoroughly  love Chicago and I'm so grateful that I had someone to help push me to pursue more and never settle.

So I suppose for me, Chicago really represents my husband and I and what we are capable of. Which is anything. Endless possibilities and fearless(mostly) adventures!