Think of a typical barber shop. You would probably only imagine seeing men behind and in the chair right? These days in 2018, women are entering the industry and changing up the game for better. Meet the young lady we’re about to introduce you to…straight out of Las Vegas. Kristel Nazareno — the creator of a one chair studio, The Clean-Up.
Once we connected, Kristel and I hit it off instantly. She’s Filipino and a New Jersey native like myself. We chatted about how much NJ weather sucks and how we both chose non-traditional career routes in the eyes of our parents. Kristel started pickin’ up the clippers in high school; cutting her friends’ hair in the PE locker room, bathroom stall, anywhere they wanted. She knew she wanted to do something with hair, but first attempted nursing as a more stable route like her parents wanted. She quickly realized it wasn’t for her.
“I just took a leap of faith and went to Euphoria Institute. I realized that coloring wasn’t my groove and way too much responsibility so I decided on clippers. Right after I graduated cosmo school, I started barber college.” Seeing that Kristel had a better hand at cutting than nursing, her mom saw the vision and let her transform the game room into her first studio. It’s where she figured out how to really treat clients and how far professionalism could go even if it’s her mom’s house. After outgrowing the former game room, she ventured out into opening her own spot- The Clean-Up.
In Vegas, the barber culture is what Kristel describes as segregated. “Shops only mess with other barbers in their shop. While sitting in my chair, countless clients have told me that it’s uncomfortable when some shops don’t even greet you. You don’t exactly know what cut you’re about to get, which barber is cutting you, if you’re going to be happy with the cut, or should you just take the risk.”
Kristel sought a way to change that particular culture in her studio. Customer service is of utmost importance. She wants her clients to feel at home while getting a great cut and educated about the products she uses. “My goal as a barber is about providing a better personal experience, with added luxury to my clients. It should be a place where they can tell me anything with total confidence.”
Enter in Instagram, in which hashtags and double tapping elevated her clientele reach. “Instagram has definitely helped my career a lot in terms of finding clients. A huge reason why I was able to open a studio right after college was because I posted my haircuts religiously and was able to market myself with an easy, personable username that attracted a lot of attention– clipperqueen.” She goes by @kristel.jnaz now but it was a good era, she says. “Everyone can cut hair but what sets you apart from the next barber is your brand and how you represent yourself. The right people will gravitate towards you.” Instagram helps with that because you can start a conversation and repertoire before someone even walks into your studio. They feel like they know you already.
She’s not only a barber, but also an event curator in the Las Vegas female barber community. It’s helping to grow the culture and act as a safe haven for women to feel comfortable when the industry can be overwhelming. “It can be difficult being the only woman in the shop and having to deal with inappropriate comments or feeling excluded. It’s a chance to meet other women barbers who have had the same experiences as you.”
Eventually, Kristel hopes Vegas at some point will be known for an identity other than gambling and partying. “Vegas has an amazing suburban culture and is super underrated. It has lively local life that people don’t know about if they’re just on the strip. We have some of the best chefs in the world and many of them open brother and sister restaurants throughout the entire city. In every plaza, there is so much bomb food everywhere and housing is stupid cheap. We want to be put on the map just as much as LA or NYC.” And now with Uber and Lyft, people are able to explore the suburbs more where there’s lots of bars and amazing food, without the added risk of drinking and driving.
Kristel says at the end of the day, barbering has no gender. It’s about experience and comfort and people are willing to pay more for a cut that sells on positivity. If you ever happen to be in Sin City and want to get fresh before a wild night, go see Kristel at her studio, The Clean-Up. Make sure to ask about her favorite ice cream shop, Nourish, and what her current favorite flavor is.
Images by Curvel Baptiste