Next Level Stylists

Our stories matter

A website to house testimonies about experiences with disgraced hairdresser Ale Bonilla

For nearly two decades, Ale Bonilla has been a predator in the DFW community. Since before 2009, Ale has used his position of power within the beauty community to groom and take advantage of vulnerable people, primarily young and new stylists. Be it models, clients, students or employees, if Ale was attracted to them it was okay to hit on them. Just like many other predators, Ale had a pattern. Often his targets would be young and skinny, and if they were with him long enough he would often cut their hair short and dye it blonde. His method of action often included going out for drinks regardless of their age. Anonymous no. 3 was 19 at the most when they met him, and he was all too happy to buy their drinks because they were underage. Bay also details in their testimony how much Ale wanted to buy them drinks all throughout their time at Esoterica. This website has been created to serve as a safe space to share our experiences and abuses by Ale Bonilla. We want to share these testimonies not for malice and not for defamation. We want to protect others, to make sure no one else suffers what we have suffered from Ale. Ale has successfully silenced all previous individuals trying to speak out through threats and legal means. Bay Higginbotham was served a retraction demand letter in December of 2021 from Ale via his lawyer. In April of 2022, Ale Bonilla sued Bay for creating this website. In this suit, Ale claims this website was made with the knowledge that everything was false, and was published with the intention of ruining Ale’s career and life. This is not what we are doing, nor was that ever the intention. Everything posted here has been – and will continue to be – made with the intention of sharing our experiences so that others don’t have to live them. This website was not constructed to ruin anyone’s life, career or being. This website was made to warn and protect others, and to house the truth. We will not be silenced.

Our intention is to protect others. Beauty schools in the DFW area have largely kept Esoterica staffed. Ogle Fort Worth partnered with him for years, having him do photography for their students in competitions and even be the main performer in their annual hair show. This gave Ale two things: access to vulnerable people and a platform of power over them. Courtney Spiva describes her experience modeling for Ale as a student at Ogle. He asked her to take her top off in front of him and others, and was persistent when she refused. Paul Mitchell and Duvall’s schools have also given Ale and Esoterica a platform by having him come teach classes, recruit students for staff and inviting him to career events. These beauty schools have claimed an inability to do anything more than privately distance themselves from Ale Bonilla and Esoterica, due to a number of corporate reasons. This is unacceptable. 90% of the testimonies on this website come from individuals who were introduced to Ale via their beauty schools recommending Esoterica as a salon for them to work for. The vast majority of the people sharing their stories on this website would never have suffered abuse had they not been pushed into their abusers arms. Simply not recommending Esoterica to students anymore is not enough. As members of the local DFW beauty community, we have a responsibility to look out for each other. A large portion of instructors knew of Ale via the industry, and they were very well aware of his reputation. Ale’s predatory actions have never been committed in a vacuum. His reputation reeked of abuse and predatory behavior, and has consistently throughout his career. Instead of disclosing this information to students though, instructors often said nothing. If they did, it was often diluted. Students with no prior knowledge had no way of suspecting anything nefarious. They trusted their instructors, so they trusted their recommendations. For this reason, all DFW beauty schools with previous partnerships with Ale and Esoterica not only need to publicly distance themselves from Ale Bonilla and Esoterica, but additionally apologize to the countless individuals they failed to protect. 

We hope that by making this space, more will feel empowered to come forward with their stories. The list of testimonies published here is a drop in an ocean of individuals affected by this unchecked predator. The amount of private conversations and tears that have been shared is overwhelming. If you have been affected by this too, know you have a safe, private space to find some comfort. We bring this darkness into the light in order to expose the hurt and heal. Thank you for being a part of it.

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Testimony summaries

* all anonymous attested will be referred to with gender neutral pronouns to protect their anonymity *

Baylee “Bay” Higginbotham (they/them) – A former employee of Esoterica, working from September 2016 to February of 2019. By October of 2016 Ale had groomed them into being his side piece, secret from work, coworkers and his girlfriend. They spent the entire year in pain, physically and mentally. Even after Bay was able to cut off sex Ale continued to pursue them whenever possible, using work as the main way to interact with them. After quitting in February of 2019, Ale kept persisting. It took Bay telling Ale out right how he hurt them to make him stop trying to sleep with them again. And upon hearing it he just denied it. This story is very detailed and has some graphic descriptions of sexual harassment and assault. 

Anonymous no. 1 – An Ogle graduate who volunteered at Esoterica in 2019 while still in school. Immediately after starting Ale started asking to hang out often, and began taking them out for lunch as “payment”. One time while volunteering they had left their phone unattended, and Ale went through their phone without their consent or knowledge. Only later did Anonymous learn Ale had sent himself all the revealing photos he could find. After inviting them over to pick up a mannequin stand to borrow, Ale forced himself on them. He did this one other time as well before Anonymous stopped replying. Although nothing was their fault, they’ve carried guilt that most sexual assault survivors carry.

Anonymous no. 2 – A former client of Ale who was referred to him by a good friend. They were a little uneasy at how much he messaged them leading up to their appointment, but he was highly recommended and well known in the industry. During the appointment he didn’t listen to their wants and cut their hair way too short. In addition to the poor service, he spent the entire time talking about how beautiful they were, and how much fun they would have hanging out. After driving home in tears, they blocked him, but then their friend messaged later asking how it went. They hadn’t said anything to this friend though, leading Anonymous to guess Ale messaged their mutual friend after seeing he had been blocked. 

Coutrney Spiva (she/her) – An Ogle graduate, she only ever interacted with Ale on campus. He was brought in to do the photography for the students participating in Trendvision. Courtney was a model, and refused to change in front of him when he asked. It later became clear that he had asked many of the models to change in front of him, with the majority of them being students. It is unclear if Ogle knew or approved of a sexual predator pressuring their students to be topless in front of him on campus.

Anonymous no. 3 – A former regular at Esoterica, they were 19 when they found themselves needing a place to stay when their housing fell through. Ale offered his place for a night or two, and they agreed thinking he was trustworthy and respected in the community. Upon arriving Ale took them to a bar and bought them drinks until they were drunk. They then went back to his place where Ale took advantage of them. They’ve always regretted how this played out, and has never spoken of it until now

Anonymous no. 4 – A recent graduate of Ogle, this hairstylist was Ale’s model when he and staff visited their school. While a lot of students seemed excited, it didn’t feel quite right for them as they spent more time with Ale that day. This student graduated in July of 2021, having met Ale in April of 2021. Not only was Esoterica invited in as a guest, but the school’s director had such high praise for them and Ale.

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Thank you for listening to us

Many victims of sexual assault don’t know that what they experienced was sexual assault during and directly after it happens. Recognizing what actually happened can be an excruciating process, let alone coming forward about it. Coming forward about a sexual assault requires not only facing the harsh memories of the assault, but also standing by the experience and defending it against those who don’t believe you. Sexual violence cuts into the very identity of the victim, robbing them of their confidence and sense of value. Defending anything in this weakened state is difficult, especially the abuse that hurt them in the first place. Therefore it is the responsibility of the wider community to not only listen and believe victims, but to fight for them as well. Thank you for taking the time to hear our stories, believe us and fight for us.