Sitting inside his car which is parked just in front of Platinum Hair Design, the barber shop where he works, Jamiel Bustos excuses himself in the middle of our zoom interview to take a call. It is 430 p.m. in Toronto, Canada and his shift is over for the day. He apologises for the brief interruption. At 18, Jamiel is not your ordinary teenager. Instead of hanging out in the malls or spending his free time playing video games, he is busy entertaining business calls, planning for his next video contents and making house calls to his rich clients. But he is not complaining. In fact, he is enjoying the perks of having 4 million followers on TikTok (@jbalwaysfresh), having millionaires as clients and being in the news for some time now.
Jamiel started uploading videos of him cutting people´s hair on his Tiktok account in June 2020. But it was his video showing up at a client´s mansion and giving a haircut that made Jamiel an internet sensation. To date, the said video has almost 10 million views which his other videos have generated 20 million views and counting.
Knowing your passion, be persistent
Jamiel was 14 when he realised he wanted to be a barber. “That fresh and clean feeling after getting your haircut, that feeling drove me the desire to make people feel that way as well. I want to spread positivity and change the world one haircut at a time,” enthuses Jamiel.
His parents never thought he was serious. But he was persistent. He got himself a pair of clippers, scissors and comb to start off his new passion.
Although his first “client” was a woman, he gave her a man´s haircut with some twists, a flower design and a lightning. From then on, Jamiel would cut the other students´ hair for free in school or in the washroom of Tim Horton´s, a coffeeshop in front of his school.
Jamiel was born in the Philippines. His parents came to Canada in 2005 but left him behind until he was 4. His parents got divorced in the same year he came to join them. “My mom raised me and I didn’t come from money. I grew up in a very small apartment, just me and my mom.” Although his parents are separated, he also maintains a close relationship with his dad. He doesn’t speak Filipino though he can understand it.
Practice, patience, practice
Young and eager, Jamiel just walked right into Platinum Hair Design barber shop and told them he wanted to be a barber. “I was let in and they told me to keep practicing and take pictures of my haircut and show them.” Jamiel cut his hair once a week and he showed them his progress.
A couple of months later, when he turned 15, the barbershop gave him a call. But not to cut hair but instead to sweep the floor and watch them do their stuff. He was finally allowed to cut hair after he turned 16.
After school, Jamiel would spend most of his time at the barber shop. He was determined to wait for people to let him cut their hair. “I wasn’t charging a lot of money but I just kept going and kept pushing. My clientele just grew.”
Never get demotivated by negative feedbacks
There were times when his clients didn´t like their haircut. Instead of feeling demotivated, Jamiel used it as a way to improve himself more. He quickly learned that whenever he falls down he has to get back up two times stronger.
His parents didn’t want him to pursue barbering as his profession at first. They didn’t see the potential and how successful a barber can be. But Jamiel didn´t lose heart. “I wanted to prove to them that this is what I love to do, and I´m gonna do whatever it takes to show both of you this is gonna be my career.”
Strategise and be visible
Jamiel started posting photos of his cuts when he was in 9th grade but it was his post on TikTok that made him a celebrity. “I started TikTok in summer 2020. It started blowing up since then and it changed my life.” Jamiel hit his first million views for his video cutting hair in the barbershop. Clients who saw his video began coming in. It was a perfect marketing strategy. “At first, I was doing it for fun. And then I started a series called Cutting Millionaires.”
With his rising popularity on TikTok, Jamiel got to meet interesting people. “I have a buddy of mine, Aaron Vankampen, who is also a content creator. He knocks on people´s door and asks them what they do for a living. I have been cutting his hair and he referred me my first millionaire client. real estate lawyer David Defeld and our video hit over 10 million views on TiktTok.”
Jamiel´s parents began to realise that their son was not playing around when they saw him on the TV news and on a billboard at Yonge and Dundas Square with their Jamiel´s face, describing him as “The #1 TikTok barber in Canada. There was no denying that it was time for them to take their son seriously.
Listen to the experts
“One thing I like about cutting millionaire´s hair is they give me pieces of advice when it comes to business. I take them to heart and want to create my blueprint, learn from their mistakes and then iIcan have a successful future.” Jamiel believes that if he is surrounded by five successful people, he will be the 6th.
He is extremely grateful for what he has accomplished so far. He is happy to inspire people and motivate young entrepreneurs and kids his age telling them that through passion anything is possible. “If you love what you do whether it´s cutting hair or whatever, you can be the best version of yourself. People come up to me and tell me they look up to my work, that I´m doing the right thing and I make them laugh.”
Write down your goals
His busy schedule makes him wake up as early as 6 a.m. He goes to work at the barber shop from 8 a.m. to 2 pm. He later does his content creation, his videos on TikTok and Youtube and calls it a day at 10 in the evening.
When under pressure, step back and reflect
Being famous comes with pressure. In dealing with it, Jamiel takes a step back and reminds himself why he is doing all of this. “People think that I am going to be a millionaire because I hang out with rich people. And that´s a lot of pressure. Deep inside, I know what I´m doing and I have a game plan. Sometimes, I´m scared of the pressure that I don´t want to fail.” Whenever pressure sets in, he thinks of his family.
Never forget your early beginnings
Jamiel never forgets how he started. He is grateful to his co-workers at Platinum Hair design who showed him the ropes. “I look up to my co-workers at the barbershop, Dione Denzel, Mo Tye. Owners Paul and Kyle. They are like brothers to me. They have taught me everything when it comes to the craft of barbering.”
Jamiel sees himself cutting hair all his life. Although pursuing a university degree is not his priority at the moment, he is not closing his doors. In the meantime, his focus is on the opportunities that are coming his way. He is working hard because he wants to have a legacy, create a name for himself and make a difference. “Cutting hair is my craft. I will always be cutting hair. Barbering is what got me to where I am now.”
Also read about the woman who raised Jamiel Bustos in the Spring 2022 Issue of The Filipino Expat Magazine.
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Nats Sisma Villaluna has been serving the Filipino community in Spain for more than 13 years. His volunteer works include teaching Spanish to Filipinos, and as artistic director of the Coro Kudyapi, a group of musically inclined young Filipinos in Barcelona. His passion to serve the Filipino community now extends to other countries in his role as Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the new The Filipino Expat Magazine.