Drue Barrilleaux picked up his cousin’s 8-year-old son, Kory Guidry, and the boy pulled Barrilleaux’s hair. Kory had a hard time getting a handful.

Barrilleaux, an instrumentation technology graduate from LIT, had been through quite a transformation. After cutting off 10 inches of hair, some people didn’t recognize the Lamar Institute of Technology student. The timing was perfect. The Nederland resident had some interviews scheduled at LIT’s Project Interview, a program that brings together students and employers into a mock interview setting.

“Monday, I looked like Jesus,” he said. “Wednesday, I looked totally different. I got everyone’s attention. That or they didn’t recognize me.”

Although Barrilleaux planned to cut his hair, he was still somewhat apprehensive when the moment arrived. First, he asked the stylist to make sure his hair was long enough. After they confirmed it was 10 inches long, he said, “Go ahead and do it. It’s time.”

Barrilleaux wanted to look his best, so he cut it before Project Interview. His primary motivation though, was to grow his hair to donate it to Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis.

It had been more than two years ago, the week before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, when he had his hair cut last. It was when three family members were diagnosed with cancer that he decided to grow his hair and donate it to Locks of Love. He went to the Locks of Love web page and learned how to donate his hair.

After more than two years of hair growth, he decided, it was time. “You can’t move up the corporate ladder if you look like Jim Morrison, so I did it.” Barrilleaux went to the Jaguar Salon in Nederland, which cut his hair without charge after they learned he was donating the 10-inch pony tail to Locks of Love.

He grew out his hair for three special relatives who had impacted his life: his mother, aunt and cousin’s son, Kory Guidry.

Barrilleaux’s mother and aunt were both diagnosed with cancer.

Vicki Barrilleaux was diagnosed early, and she is a cancer survivor.
His aunt, Faye Phelps, was diagnosed late. She died. Kory Guidry was diagnosed with leukemia. Guidry got a good bill of health during his last checkup more than a year ago, Barrilleaux said.

“Between 2000 and 2004, cancer was a big thing my family was dealing with,” he said. When the family was dealing with cancer, Barrilleaux said, he felt there was no way he could help his relatives who were suffering. “I couldn’t do anything. I always wanted to trade places with them. Watching the impact on the people around them was equally as devastating.”

After observing his mother and Guidry, he said, he learned one key to surviving cancer is a positive attitude. “That is what got Kory and my mother through it.” His aunt, he said, was diagnosed too late so little could be done to help her.

Barrilleaux’s mother, Vicki, works for Sam Houston State University in Huntsville. He lived in Huntsville with his mother and graduated from Huntsville High School before returning to Nederland nine years ago. His aunt, Faye Phelps of Nederland, was an assistant principal at Highland Elementary in Nederland. She was retired for about five years when she was diagnosed with cancer.

His father, Rick Barrilleaux, is a former vice president for economic development with the Beaumont Chamber of Commerce. He continues to work in the area of economic development, and is now residing in Madisonville.

“I still catch myself running my fingers through my hair to get it out of my face, and there is nothing there,” Drue said.

When he told his mother about donating his hair to Locks of Love, she was proud. “My mother loved the idea. It’s a way you can donate and be supportive (of someone with cancer).”

Although Barrilleaux had many excellent reasons to cut his hair, and a wonderful cause to donate his hair to, he said, that didn’t make cutting it any easier. “My hair was part of me. It was like cutting off my nose,” the LIT student said.

Ironically, Guidry asked Barrilleaux to cut his hair several times because the boy didn’t like the long hair. Once he understood why Barrilleaux was letting it grow, Guidry liked the idea.

Barrilleaux wondered who might get his hair. “I was thinking who I would help and what their story was.” But it wasn’t gratitude that he sought, he just wanted to help someone feel better about himself.

“When you look good, you feel better. If I can do something to help that happen, then that’s great; even if I don’t know the person.”

Barrilleaux has worked full time as a cameraman for a local television station since 2000. He continued working full time when he started classes at LIT in spring 2006.

In retrospect, he said, the timing was right for cutting his hair. One potential employer who met him during Project Interview is interested in meeting with him to conduct a personal interview.

Project Interview was another good reason to get the hair cut, he said. “I always want to put my best foot forward during an interview.”

He left Project Interview confident. He didn’t get anxious, Barrilleaux said, and the experience was informative. “Once I graduate, the sky is the limit,” he said. “The hardest decision to make when graduating will be what job to take.”

Getting his education while working full time hasn’t been easy, he said. During most semesters he was working 40 to 45 hours a week while taking 14 credit hours at LIT. One semester he even took 16 course hours. “It was fun and exciting. I learned a lot.”

Barrilleaux, who graduated in May, says he is looking for the right job. Now, he is enjoying the summer, but keeping his hair trimmed. It is cool and it looks more professional, he said.