Chávez, Nick: 19(?)(?)—: Hair Designer, Model, Entrepreneur
Nick Chávez: 19(?)(?)—: Hair designer, model, entrepreneur
Growing up among the dusty desert ranchlands of the Southwest, Nick Chávez developed an early obsession with animals—horses in particular. As a youngster Chávez filled his days trimming and grooming his horses to perfection, earning piles of awards when he presented them at horse shows. Most people thought Chávez would grow up to be a horse trainer. Instead, Chávez turned his infatuation with grooming into a professional career as a hair stylist and became one of the hottest hair gurus in Beverly Hills, California. The Nick Chávez Salon attracts clients like comedienne Caroline Rhea, Maria Shriver, Ivana Trump, and Queen Noor of Jordan. To complement his salon, Chávez created his own line of hair-care products called Perfect Plus, which hair-conscious consumers seize at a rate of up to $1 million worth of products sold per hour on the QVC home shopping network.
Got Start Grooming Horses
Chávez's path from farm boy to hair guru has taken many twists and turns. He was a December baby, born and raised in the desert terrain of Yuma, Arizona, where his father worked on a ranch. Chávez was the second of seven children born to Kathryn and Juan Chávez and counts among his relatives political activist Cesar Chávez, who was a third cousin. Chávez's bloodline can be traced back to Chihuahua, Mexico, the city his great-grandfather left behind when he came to the United States. He also carries some Yaqui and Quechuan Indian blood.
Chávez's fascination with horses began around the age of ten. To earn money to keep and show his own horses, Chávez spent a fair amount of time grooming and taking care of other people's horses. He also belonged to the 4-H Club and Future Farmers of America. Chávez raised his own lambs and cattle. Whenever the county fair rolled around, he trimmed and brushed their coats to perfection so that they would fetch a first-place ribbon for showmanship.
In his book, Perfect Hair Every Day, Chávez joked about his early start in the hair-styling business. "I guess this means my hairdressing career actually began with those animals…. The great thing about the animals was that they let me do my thing, and they never talked back. Boy, was I surprised when I came to Beverly Hills and started to do hair!" After perfecting his shearing skills on the animals, Chávez began trimming the locks of his cousins. By high school, he had a large local clientele.
At a Glance . . .
Born in Yuma, AZ; son of Kathryn and Juan Chávez.
Career: Model for Yvez St. Laurent, Thierry Mugler, Jean Paul Gaultier, Gianfranco Ferre, and Valentino, 1980s-90s; actor, 1990s; Perfect Plus hair care products, creator and promoter, 1994–; Nick Chávez Salon, Beverly Hills, CA, owner and head stylist, 1997–.
Address: Salon— 9032 Burton Way, Beverly Hills, CA, 90210.
Chávez is quick to credit his parents for his success in life. Growing up, Chávez said, his parents did not make many demands on him; they let him be his own person. His father's only request was that each child finish high school. Chávez's mother took care of him and his brothers and sisters and "was always home to make the tortillas," Chávez recalled to Contemporary Hispanic Biography (CHB). She became a driving force in his life. "My family instilled in me lots of love," he told CHB. "Even though we didn't have anything, we always had each other. When you come from that kind of background, you know you can do anything."
After graduating from Yuma Union High School, Chávez headed to Los Angeles. "I had big dreams and aspirations of becoming rich and famous," he recounted to CHB. After arriving in Los Angeles, Chávez, just 19, took a job at a salon on Hollywood's famed Sunset Boulevard. His duties: cleaning up. Chávez spent his days sweeping up mounds of hair instead of styling it. He cleaned the salon bathrooms and washed the floors, having faith that his moment would come. As Chávez told Hispanic magazine, "Even if you are cleaning toilets, I've always believed that if you're the best you can be, you will always go forward."
He also earned money in nightclubs with a dance revue. As disco became popular during this time, he joined The Rhythm Co. dance troupe. One year he and his dance partner, Sarah Miles, placed in the top ten at the Playboy National Disco Championships. By 1977 Chávez was working in a well-known Beverly Hills salon as an apprentice while trying to get licensed to do hair. An early riser, Chávez walked into the salon early each morning and had the coffee brewing by 8 a.m. Most of the salon's hairdressers did not start work until mid-morning, so customers began asking Chávez to do their hair because he was available so early. His list of clients began to grow. Chávez soon landed up-and-coming stars like Margaux Hemingway, Dana Plato of Diff'rent Strokes, and Mindy Cohn and Kim Fields, both of the 1980s NBC hit The Facts of Life.
Became Runway Model
In his late twenties Chávez put his hair dressing career on hold and headed to Paris to become a model. "I told myself that I was going to go over there and get an agent," he recalled to CHB. "I was always talking to myself, telling myself what I was going to do, telling myself this is my plan. If you have a plan, an idea, just do it," Chávez continued.
In Paris, Chávez had no trouble signing with a modeling agency. His only decision was which one. On his first day with an agency, Chávez went on an interview and landed a job, beating out 200 other models who were vying for the slot. "I had a look," he told CHB, which he described as exotic. "There's something for everybody. That day they were looking for my look." At six feet three inches tall, the dark-haired, dark-eyed Latino Chávez certainly stood out in Paris. Soon, Chávez was a jet-setting model, working in Paris, Milan, and Switzerland. He was a runway model for the menswear collections of Yves St. Laurent, Thierry Mugler, Jean Paul Gaultier, Gianfranco Ferre, and Valentino. He appeared on the pages of Vogue, GQ, Elle, and Esquire. Swatch and Piaget used him in their campaigns. He also appeared on a 100-foot billboard in New York City's Times Square in a Jeff Hamilton advertisement. Chávez was also the pitchman for Valvoline oil, Mazda Miata cars, and Taco Bell and appeared in several other TV commercials.
Chávez told CHB that while growing up he suffered relentless teasing. Because he was so wiry, kids called him "the human spring." They also called him "Road-runner" because he moved quickly and had a large Adam's apple that resembled the cartoon character. Kids followed him around shouting taunts of "beep, beep." This made the validation he received from modeling very therapeutic for Chávez. He commented to CHB, "I finally realized that if people were spending thousands, millions of dollars on the campaigns I was featured in—and it was working—then I must look OK. The validation helped me realize that I must look OK." Chávez modeled for about five or six years. Then, his steamy good looks landed him a role on The Young and The Restless. He played a character named Steve for about a year, and also appeared on the show Hollywood Detectives.
Developed Own Hair-Care Products
Still drawn to hair, Chávez returned to hair styling and Beverly Hills. The more he worked with the various hair-care products on the market, the more dissatisfied he became. Unable to find a full hair-care product line he liked, Chávez took matters into his own hands. He pulled together all of the products he liked and delivered them to a chemist, asking for the ingredients. As Chávez created new products, he tested them on clients to be sure they worked. Instead of rushing his products to the market, Chávez took the time to create products that worked well on all types of hair. In 1994, after two years of experimentation, his "Perfect Plus" line hit the market.
In August of 1994 Chávez appeared on QVC and sold 1,200 hair kits in two minutes. Chávez recalled the moment in his book, "I could hardly believe it, and the look on my face must have been one of pure shock. Moments later, when it hit me, I ran to the phone to call my mom and dad and just started crying. What an amazing feeling that was, and I'll never forget it as long as I live." Chávez still appears on QVC in its U.S., British, and German outlets, as well as on Canada's The Shopping Channel. The products are also an e-commerce hit on QVC's website. He credited the product's success to his perfectionism in taking the time to test and create a perfect product.
In May of 1997, Chávez opened his own salon, called The Nick Chávez Salon. Chávez told CHB that he enjoyed hair styling because it allows him to listen to lots of people and soak up their advice, giving him an education money cannot buy. He also loves the creative side of the business and delights in the immediate gratification both he and his clients get from his services. Chávez is not one to keep his secrets to himself. In 2000 he published Perfect Hair Everyday, aimed at helping people get that stylish salon look in their own homes. The book is packed with step-by-step instructions—including pictures and illustrations—for shampooing and styling every type of hair, from straight to wavy and curly to kinky hair.
Chávez is still interested in horses and owns more than 50. They live at his Yuma, Arizona, ranch, which is complete with an indoor, air-conditioned training facility. His pride and joy is a stallion named José Bueno Chex, who won the United States Equestrian Team Futures Competition silver medal in June of 2002.
With all of his success, Chávez has never forgotten his roots. He used his profits to help with various charities, including the Race to Erase M.S.; the Carousel of Hope Ball for diabetes, held annually in Beverly Hills; the Crenshaw Christian Center of Los Angeles; and Best Buddies International, an organization that helps people with intellectual disabilities. He also gives scholarships to adults going back to school to earn their high school diploma or GED. "As a Latino, I can be a great role model," he told CHB. "By being my best, I can inspire and let others know they have a chance. I'm blessed to have the name Chávez, which I honor and respect by being the best I can be."
Perfect Hair Every Day, QVC Publishing, Inc., 2000
Chávez, Nick, Perfect Hair Every Day, QVC Publishing, Inc., 2000
Atlanta Journal and Constitution, April 15, 2001, p. 8M.
Hispanic Magazine, June 2002.
"Making It With Style," Hispanic Magazine www. hispanicmagazine.com/2001/jun/Features/nickcha vez.html (June 9, 2003).
Additional information for this profile was obtained through a personal interview with Contemporary Hispanic Biography on May 30, 2003.
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