By Al Carlos Hernandez
World class hair designer Nick Chavez dreamed of one day having an exciting and glamorous life. But he had to step way out his cultural comfort zone in order to become one of the premiere hair stylists and product innovators in Beverly Hills. Chavez was raised in rural Arizona, a product of a large, loving, and very supportive Mexican-American family. Nick is the second oldest of seven children. His third cousin was the legendary farm worker leader Cesar Chavez.
Focused and hard working, Nick earned money for his family by working as a ranch hand. Fortuitously, and as fate would have it, he discovered the hair skills that changed his life forever while grooming the family’s horses. With confidence, determination and a viscerally unique sense of style, Nick began making money by grooming other people’s horses. He then took his natural talents to the next level by creating hip and trendy hairstyles for his siblings and members of his extended family.
After perfecting his talents on his very receptive relatives, Nick decided to go California to seek his fame and fortune. Personable, handsome and ambitious, he immediately began working in a prominent Beverly Hills salon. He advanced from apprentice to full-fledged hairdresser, developing a strong clientele and an even stronger reputation as a hair designer.
While establishing himself in Beverly Hills, he decided to stretch his wings and explore other forms of artist expression. Nick became an actor and model. By extending his visibility to Europe he was afforded the opportunity to work with such designers as Dior, Richard Tyler, Jean Paul Gautier, Gianfranco Ferre, Yves St. Laurent, Versace, and Valentino. Off the runway, in print Nick was featured on the pages of American & Paris Vogue, GQ, and L’uomo Vogue. Nick could be found on billboards and had a 100 foot billboard in the center of Times Square featuring fashion from Jeff Hamilton. As an actor, his skills and good looks helped him land commercials for Coca-Cola, Mazda, Valvoline, Taco Bell, L’Oreal, and Sebastian Hair Care Products. You would see him on television shows such as “The Young and the Restless,” “Moonlighting,” and “Hollywood Detectives.”
Having conquered the expressive platform of modeling and performance art, he knew that acting and modeling could not match the passion and fulfillment he experienced working with hair. Nick decided to return to Beverly Hills—this time as the proprietor of his own salon.
In his first year, his salon garnered such clientele as supermodel Margaux Hemmingway, Lisa Hartmann, Different Strokes actress Dana Plato, The Bangles lead singer Susanna Hoff, Facts of Life stars Kim Fields and Mindy Cohn, and Belinda Carlisle of the Go Go’s.
Nick was not satisfied with the quality of available hair care products for his varied clientele. Staying true to his industrious character, he took matters into his own hands and developed his own line: Nick Chavez Beverly Hills.
Nick is philanthropic, investing in such charities as The Race to End MS, Make-A-Wish Foundation, United Farm Workers, American Cancer foundation for Cancer Research, Maria Shriver’s The Women’s Conference, Dolores Huerta Foundation, YMCA, Cedar-Sinai Medical Center, American Red Cross, Team Fox for Parkinson’s Research, MALDEF, the Los Angeles County Canine Association, Salvation Army, Neighborhood Coalition for Shelter, and the California Organization of Police Sheriffs.
I had an opportunity to connect with Nick, who had just returned from Japan:
Al Carlos Hernandez: How and when did you decide to become a hair designer? What did your family say about this non-traditional vocation? What kind of training have you had?
It happened when I was 11 years old. I was cutting the manes and tails of show horses when I realized that if I could cut horsehair as well as I did, maybe I wouldn’t be too bad at cutting people’s hair. My mom and dad were very, very supportive of my career choice. My greatest clients ended up being my brother and sisters – they were the guinea pigs. As far as training, I’d have to say real life experience and an apprentice stint at the top Beverly Hills salon Umberto.
AC: Who inspired you to pursue your vocation? What were some of the opposed views to your choice of vocation?
My inspiration came from my mom and dad who always told me, “You can always be or do what you want in this life and be the best at what you love.” I think when you have passion for the arts you don’t have any opposition.
AC: What was your first early success? What was the moment you decided, “I have a gift and a talent for this?”
When I was featured in a magazine called Tiger Beat they named me “the Beverly Hills Stylist to the stars.” My first year out I was doing Dana Plato from Different Strokes, and Mindy Cohn and Kim Fields from Facts of Life. It made me feel great because I knew I was on the right track and, with hard work, I knew I would be a success.
AC: Tell us about your acting and theatrical experiences? Why did you quit?
I was featured on Young and The Restless, Moonlighting, Hollywood Detectives, numerous national commercials and modeling campaigns, print work, and runway for major designers around the world, even billboards in Times Square. I loved the creative aspect of being able to use my hands making women look beautiful as opposed to standing in front of the camera or walking down a catwalk, so I went back to what I loved the most.
AC: Do you view yourself as a technician or an artist? How much does personality have to do with being the best at what you do?
Easily I would have to say artist. Personality is everything – you really have to have a rapport with your clients; you have to listen to them and be creative. You have to make them look beautiful and give them a great, positive experience in your chair. They bring the portrait (their face) and I frame it with my hair style.
AC: How hard is it to run a successful Beverly Hills business while trying to manage a group of talented and often times dramatic artists?
As a salon owner/hair stylist, I am only as good as my employees. We empower each other.
AC: How did you go from “West Coast rock star hair designer” to an internationally known expert with their own product line?
As a hair dresser I felt a need to create my own brand instead using different national brands. I thought how great it could be to create the best hair spray, the best shampoo etc. that could work on everyone’s hair across the board. I wanted to customize my art with the perfect products. The Nick Chavez Beverly Hills hair care line currently has over 100 products and counting. My Latino and American background are combined by mixing my ancient traditions with modern technology. My products create that healthy everyday glamour.
AC: Why did you decided to come out with your own product line and what makes your products different and competitive? How has new media changed the way products are marketed?
The media has enabled my company to reach a broader range of customers – I can bring my line right into my customer’s living rooms. I bring Beverly Hills to them. My website has also been a great marketing tool (www.nickchavezbeverlyhills.com).
Through my site I’m able to present everything from the products to news to blogs to appearances. From there we, of course, have a Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nick-Chavez-Beverly-Hills-Products/207391795326?ref=mf and a twitter account http://twitter.com/NickChavezBH.
AC: What do you tell young people who want to get into the business? Could they make a decent living in the industry? What should be their prime motivation for becoming a hair stylist?
Live your dreams and think big! Have passion for what you do. That is a formula for success.