EXCLUSIVE: Celebrity barber Marcus Harvey on LeBron James’ HBO series ‘The Shop’

We caught up with the barber while he trimmed up his longtime client, Nas.

Marcus Harvey/Nas
TheGrio

LeBron James and Maverick Carter’s digital media company, Uninterrupted, partnered with HBO over the summer to bring us The Shopan unscripted, culture-pushing show that brings those conversations and heated debates amongst men from all different walks of life to television.

The barbershop is a staple in a man’s life from a young age, particularly in the Black community. No matter your social status, inside that shop, everyone is on an equal playing field, and it makes for some of the most pivotal discussions and life lessons that can ultimately shape a young man’s life. As celebrity barber Marcus Harvey puts it, “Barbershops and salons, especially in the black community, are important for the sheer fact that a barber is the first entrepreneur that a man typically meets.”

This past weekend, HBO created a full barbershop experience at ComplexCon in celebration of The Shop, and promoted the familiar conversations and camaraderie you’d find in a real barbershop. For both days of the two-day convention in Long Beach, CA, celebrity barbers were on site to provide free haircuts for the attendees, as well as some of the big names who stopped by like Nas, Victor Cruz, Grant Hill, Shiggy and more.

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Harvey, who is Nas’ longtime barber, spoke to TheGrio in between cutting his legendary client’s hair about the importance of the barber shop within the multicultural community, and how it all ties back to the hit HBO show.

“Before he meets his pastor, before he meets anybody else, the barber is always the first entrepreneur a young man meets,” he noted. “He’s always typically the most influential person in that community to the point to where lawyers are waiting, celebrities are waiting, the guy with five kids who just wants to get home to his wife is waiting. Everybody who is impactful in the community comes to the barbershop. I feel like the barber influences the client, the client influences the family, the family influences the community, the community to the city, the city to the state, the state to the region, the region to the country! That’s how it works.”

It’s a concept so simple that it may have never even crossed your mind, but when stated so perfectly by Harvey, you realize how truly influential the barbershop can be – particularly the barbers themselves. Just last week, Harvey got a call from one of his mentees who’s now on his way to getting a masters degree.

“I’m baffled by how time flew by so quickly and just to see how wonderful his life has come out! It’s awesome just knowing how impactful the shop was,” Harvey said. “He meets everybody in that shop, so it’s just good to see all the different examples of what you could be, and that’s what I think it does for a young Black man.”

Aside from day-to-day interactions in his chair, Harvey also cultivates opportunities for both people in the community and fellow barbers. One of his projects, Prom Kings, gets seven young men from Tri-Cities High School in Atlanta ready for prom every year – including a total makeover, a suit, dinner, a haircut and mentorship.

“We just always know the impact of what’s going on, and I know that the narrative has always been brothers are this and that, but if we really look at the numbers, every brother who’s been in the barbershop, every vision has happened there,” he said. “Every movement has started in the barbershop, so that’s why I feel like these shops are what they are.”

In addition, Harvey and his peers have created another experience called The Summit, where they take dozens of barbers from around the country to a yearly retreat that provides classes on things like trademarks, real estate, finances and fatherhood, and perhaps most importantly, mental counselors are there to provide help as well.

“As a barber, we’re always hearing everyone else’s problems but we sometimes don’t have anybody to vent to, so it’s always good to just start getting into that practice of talking and expressing your emotions. And like I said, with us being the most influential, typically when they see us bettering ourselves with mental health, then they feel just as comfortable to do so.”

Though the stigma that you’re somehow less of a man by going to therapy or even merely expressing your emotions is slowly fading, it still exists and it’s hurting our Black men. Harvey is doing his part to help change that.

“Typically when we all talk about what’s going on in our head, we just say, ‘I got a lot going on.’ When you have a lot going on, you’re always trying to fix everything but you’re not fixing it correctly. So what happens is you’re all over the place, so that’s why I really am an advocate for third party help.”

As for The Shop? Naturally, it ranks high on his list.

“I think it’s a very important show. It really shows how brothers are multi-dimensional – like they have layers!” Marcus Harvey said. And it provides insight on just how important these conversations are at the barbershop. We’re just there to be the beacon of the community. That’s what barbershops are.”

The Shop airs on HBO, and episodes one and two are available now to stream online.