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Nick Chávez: 19(?)(?)—: Hair Designer, Model, Entrepreneur

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–.

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.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Katie Burke (1953–) Biography - Personal to Galeazzo Ciano (1903–1944) BiographyNick Chávez: 19(?)(?)—: Hair Designer, Model, Entrepreneur Biography - Got Start Grooming Horses, Became Runway Model, Developed Own Hair-care Products