From Miami to Cleveland to Los Angeles, celebrity groomer and stylist Nick Castellanos is always on the move as the exclusive barber of LeBron James—and he shows no signs of slowing down.
When your main client is LeBron James, life is pretty good. Just ask celebrity groomer and stylist Nick Castellanos. James’s exclusive barber for the past decade, Castellanos recently relocated from Cleveland to Los Angeles (where James plays forward for the Los Angeles Lakers) and he’s having the time of his life. “I loved Cleveland dearly, and I appreciate every person I came across but LA is a dream,” he says.
Life was not always so rosy. The son of immigrant parents, Castellanos grew up watching his parents struggle to make ends meet. He attributes much of his work ethic and current success to his family and his tough upbringing. “It was all about survival. [My parents] have been through hell and back,” he remembers. “It makes me appreciate my life. I’m proud of their perseverance and resilience. They’re my role models.”
As a kid growing up in Miami listening to hip hop and shooting hoops, Castellanos never dreamed that he would one day work for one of the most famous basketball players in history. In fact, he never even dreamed of being a barber. “I didn’t even know this was a career,” he admits. “I thought I was going to be an architect.”
Castellanos cut his teeth at an early age, giving haircuts in between classes in middle school. “I got a big razor and snuck it into school,” he explains. “Looking back, I don’t know how I got away with it.” By the time he graduated high school, he was churning out twenty cuts a day, six days a week at a local shop in Miami. Even then, Castellanos was adept at building lasting relationships with clients, the key to any barber’s success. He got his big break with a house call to a friend’s apartment—a friend whose roommate just happened to be a newly drafted NBA player. “I’m packing up my stuff and in walks this guy who’s 6 feet 7 inches tall – Dorrell Wight,” he remembers. “I ended up cutting his hair for the next two years.” Through word of mouth, Castellanos’ reputation as an elite barber spread through the inner circles of the NBA and slowly his client list expanded to include such legends as Dwayne Wade and Kobe Bryant before he was tapped by James in 2010. The two hit it off right away. Over the years their relationship has grown because of a “five letter word called trust,” says Castellanos. “I am where I am today because of trust. We met and he just started to trust me little by little.”
Like all artists, Castellanos is constantly honing his craft and eager to learn from the best. “The people I work with are once in a lifetime kind of people and I get to learn from them. I get to catch up. It’s like I’m on a scholarship and I’m getting paid to go to school,” he says. Although Castellanos attributes much of his success to being in the right place at the right time, his ability to create an open line of communication is what sets him apart. “I ask a lot of questions that people don’t normally ask,” he explains. “As long as I figure you out, you’re going to like your cut.” Natural born skill, personality and passion are key factors as well. “I’m lucky. Everyone just happens to like me. I do what I love and I guess it shows.”