“When my parents came over from Italy to the UK in the 50s, they had nothing but a suitcase,” hairdresser Lino Carbosiero told The Local in between haircuts.
Last week, the stylist reached the pinnacle of his 34-year career when he was awarded an MBE in the 2014 New Year’s Honours list.
Although not a household name himself, he has groomed some of the most famous heads in modern times – including those of British Prime Minister David Cameron, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and singers Adele and Madonna.
But he wouldn’t have achieved anything without the strong Italian work ethic instilled in him at a young age by his parents, he said.
Both Carbosiero’s late father, originally from Foggia, Puglia, and his wife, who is from Naples, “worked their socks off all their life”, according to their son.
Now aged 49, Carbosiero is known for never taking holidays and for also doing extensive charity work. “My clients often tell me I work too hard,” he said.
However, he maintains that family values are the most important of all.
To this day, his happiest memories are from family meals around a dining table with his siblings, parents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
“Now I’m bringing up my own children with the same mentality,” the father of four said.
When he received the letter telling him he was about to receive an MBE last month, he assumed from the envelope that it was from the taxman.
“I’m very conscious of things like that, so I panicked. It was only when I actually read it that it dawned on me what it was.”
While the award was overwhelming in itself, nothing could have prepared him for the media attention that followed, which he describes as “insane”.
Some politicians accused David Cameron, who has been a client of Carbosiero for five years, of cronyism – and Labour MP John Mann claimed that the MBE “devalues the honours system”.
Cameron’s critics also suggested that the stylist had done little apart from cunningly changing the prime minister’s parting from right to left in order to hide his spreading bald patch.
But Carbosiero shrugs off all the carping. “People have told me as a fact that it [the MBE] has to go through loads of committees and steps before it’s approved. So it would be impossible for someone to interfere,” he said.
What mattered to him far more than the criticism was the heartfelt congratulations from his Italian family. “My Italian cousins were just so overwhelmed, and they’ve written me lots of messages on Facebook.” In Italy, he added, an MBE is the equivalent of the title of “Cavaliere” (Knight).
He is also very grateful to his clients. “The fact that some people have gone out of their way to nominate me is very humbling – it’s obviously no game for them. Whoever they are, I thank them from the bottom of my heart.”
A glance at Carbosiero’s Twitter page – which has been flooded with congratulations since the announcement – is testament to his popularity among clients.
— Helen Parker (@helsmbels) January 9, 2014
Carbosiero says that he “fell into” hairdressing as a teenager after landing a Saturday job in an Italian salon in Windsor.
“It was a typical Italian salon which was also half-selling pasta and shoes,” he recalled.
At the salon, he was inspired by the work of a Sicilian hairdresser who has since passed away.
“I used to watch him work and really enjoyed it. So I contacted a cousin who was also a hairdresser. He said: ‘If you really want to be a hairdresser, you should go to London and learn your trade.’
“So I packed up and went to work for the Neville Daniel salon. It was a terrific place with an amazing set of stylists. I’m fortunate to have worked with some of the greatest hairdressers of all time.”
There he says, he was even trained by the Queen’s hairdresser. “How ironic – it’s like a full circle!” said Carbosiero, who is now a stylist at the upmarket Daniel Galvin salon in Marylebone in the West End of London.
You can visit Lino Carbosiero's personal website here.