The former basketball player found success and stability as a stylist in Orlando, but COVID-19 changed all her plans.
Hairstylist Alexandra Osorio started providing services to her clients in their homes last week. Besides refreshing their hair looks, she is also well aware of how her presence gives emotional support.
The life of the former basketball player from Puerto Rico changed unexpectedly in mid-March, with the first social-distancing orders in Florida due to the coronavirus pandemic. Osorio and her husband, Steven Freese, own Extreme for Extremers VIP Gym, a combination gym and salon concept they started in Orlando in 2011.
“We opened the business a year after we moved to Orlando. It was a new concept because it was a combination beauty salon, gym, and smoothie bar. Two years later we had to move to a bigger location. Everything was going great until now. We had to close everything, even before the lockdown. We took all the precautions, but gyms and salons are very difficult to operate in this situation,” says Ocasio.
The stylist and her husband were left without income. The coronavirus pandemic coincided with business expansion plans they were working on months ago.
“The economic impact was incredible. We depend on ourselves. We don’t work for a company; we’re independent. We’ve made adjustments, so we will go back and fight the good fight,” Osorio says.
She thinks everything will be back to normal in a year’s time. For now, she takes all the proper safety measures when she goes to her clients’ homes. She delivers joy with her grooming and also realizes the importance of the emotional support she provides.
“I always wanted to be a stylist, even though I was a little tomboy. When I went to college, there weren’t cosmetology scholarships, so I studied psychology. I still took cosmetology lessons because my mom said psychology wasn’t a real profession. I always like to see people look beautiful. What a better way to raise people’s self-esteem than by making them pretty. When women get mad they want a change of look, so I’m there as both stylist and psychologist,” says Osorio.
Osorio and Freese are parents of a 4-year-old girl, Milena Monic. The former basketball player has two daughters from a previous marriage, Geena, 26, and Paulette, 23. Paulette’s well-being was a big part of the family’s decision to leave Puerto Rico.
“Paulette has autism, and Puerto Rico doesn’t offer the services she needs. Autistic children in Puerto Rico do not receive services after graduating from seventh grade. So we had to leave in search of better opportunities for her and my other daughter. My husband had clients in Orlando, so we decided to move there,” Osorio explains.
Osorio had never thought of leaving Puerto Rico. Before becoming a hairstylist, she was a professional basketball player. Her career trajectory included 25 years of playing in the women’s professional league and 12 years as part of Puerto Rico’s national basketball team. She was also the first woman to play in the men’s professional league.
“The day I arrived in Florida, August 2, 2011, was the day I retired as a basketball player. I love my island and represented Puerto Rico all of my life. I thought I could never live in the U.S. mainland. But now I’m used to living here, and don’t think I could go back to living there, unfortunately,” Osorio says.