Humble and Hungry
John Mosley, who helped develop the barbering program at Paul Mitchell Schools, believes staying humble and hungry is what drives his passion for barbering and giving back to his community.
John Mosley thinks of himself as a “popular nobody.” He isn’t being self-deprecating; he’s simply expressing his worldview. Before Instagram and Facebook, nobody knew who Mosley was even though his work had appeared in magazines and movies, and that’s the way he likes it. “I try to stay away from the best barber title,” says Mosley, who wants the emphasis to be on his work, not him. “We’re all good at something.” Mosley attributes his success to his humility and always wanting more. “I look at a lot of people who get to a certain level in our business and forget where they came from,” he says. “They think they’re bigger and better, but for me barbering serves a larger purpose, which is staying connected to your community.” The bottom line: When you stay hungry, you’ll always do your best, while people will want to work with you if you stay humble.
Mosley’s work ethic and humility are partly influenced by the women in his life, mainly his mother, Doris, and two sisters, all of whom work in the beauty industry. His mother attended Universal College of Beauty in Los Angeles and founded Spectrum International Beauty Expo, which is becoming one of the largest educational beauty events on the West Coast. Doris came from Dixie, GA, to Los Angeles as a young woman. For a time, she was on welfare and struggled to provide for her family, but she remained undaunted. One of the ways Doris stays connected to her roots is by giving back to her community, something that Mosley takes very seriously. “My mom gives back to the students, and she gives back to the industry,” he says. His sister, Lillie Frierson King, attended Vidal Sassoon in London when she was 18 (Doris paid her tuition with savings), and it changed her life. Now King is sought out for celebrity work on TV shows and in movies. “Lillie showed me how to never give up and to put myself in the situations I want to be in,” says Mosley.
Given his low-key image, Mosley actually works with quite a few celebrities. Last year he went on tour with Eminem and Rihanna, serving as the personal barber for Eminem and his crew. He’s also worked on the Music Midtown and Austin City Limits tours, but the client he is most excited about working with is the two-time Grammy winner Kendrick Lamar, a hip-hop star from Compton, CA, who was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone in March. Mosley and Lamar have worked together on the cover of Billboard magazine and on a piece in Vogue’s music section. Since giving back is one of the driving forces in Mosley’s life, it makes sense that he wanted to collaborate with Lamar on Reebok’s “I Am” campaign that focuses on inspiring young people.
Mosley continues to give back to his community through mentoring. He coaches Pop Warner football for Lakewood, a city near Los Angeles where he grew up, and also goes back to his alma mater, Lakewood High School, to speak to the students, hoping to motivate them about their future. Mosley says that there are a lot of kids growing up without positive role models, so he takes that responsibility seriously. Through coaching and speaking, he offers an alternative career path for black kids other than being an athlete or a rap star. He’s so close to those he coaches and mentors that he sometimes has dinner with their families.
What drives Mosley to give back? “I want to see a change in my community, so I have to be a part of that change,” he says. Mosley wants to be an inspiration to people around the world, not just to barbers. His goal is “to show that you can believe in yourself and do whatever you want to do in your life.” And a worthy goal at that. ✂ —Erin Munsch