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In the Kit

When Beyoncé’s Colorist Speaks, We Listen

Rita Hazan has been an industry legend for 20 years, and for good reason.

By: Alicia Cesaro
Photography: Weston Wells

We’re in a back styling room at the Fifth Avenue Rita Hazan hair salon with Rita herself. It’s the same area where she discreetly paints the hair of her many A-list clients like, uh, Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé (!), Madonna, and Mariah Carey (!!) (just to name a few). Yeah, no big deal.

There were a lot of noteworthy, awe-inducing tidbits from Hazan—like when she told me her career story, starting early on when she was taught the importance of beauty from her grandmother (who still wears eyeliner in her 80s), to her beginnings as an Oribe assistant, all the way to her current queen-of-color status with clients like Katy Perry calling on her in the middle of the night to dye her hair cotton candy-pink. And then she sprinkled some life tips in, to top it all off—because Hazan didn’t get where she is today through luck. She works hard—twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. And it’s all by choice, as she explained to us: “I don't need balance, when I need personal time, I take personal time, but mostly I enjoy working all the time. My life is full and happy, I get to do everything I want to do, when I want to do it.” So while I left the salon with some shampoo and full of new hair color knowledge, I also got a healthy dose of career advice, too. Which only further validates the theory that hairdressers also serve as therapists, you know?

 

When she knew she had the beauty gene:

“I always knew that hair was something I was good at. I grew up in a family of beauty, my grandmother used to make homemade wax and wax us. It woke up this part of me that beauty is important.

“I went to beauty school right after high school, I was very young. At the time, it wasnt really a career for women. I went to Oribe after graduating and said, Im not leaving here without a job. And I got a job that day.

“I assisted for a really long time. I was young and I wanted to make sure I knew everything about color before I went on my own. They say you can do it at home, but its chemicals and a lot of reactions can happen, so I wanted to be sure that I knew exactly what I was doing. From then I got promoted and worked as a colorist, it was the early 90s so a lot of chunky highlights, I wasnt a big fan of that, so I started to do my own thing, dramatic, but not too chunky. One of my coworkers saw that I was doing something different. At the time, Mariah Carey was getting divorced, coming out with a new album and needed a different look. So I did her hair, and then I ended up doing it for five years. I gave her a new image.”

 

How coloring Mariah Carey’s hair jump-started her career:

“It snowballed from that. J.Lo was coming up at the time and needed a look, so I gave her that color that she still rocks now. After that, people said, ‘If you want to change your look, be hot and glamorous, but not crazy, go to Rita.’

“Katy Perry wanted to do a big dramatic change without using wigs, she wanted to go pink, purple, and blue. And we did that, and I really thought the trend would last five minutes but its still going strong.”

On Beyoncé’s ever-changing looks:

“Beyoncé’s look has evolved, she went lighter. My theory in color is that you shouldnt be able to point out what’s changed. Color that still looks good in three months is a job well done.

“Beyoncé changes her hair every minute. The Lemonade tour was one of my favorites, because it was really light, soft, and she worked it onstage. Her color is a very specific tone for her. Its a lot of work to get it to look that good, but at the same time her hair is always healthy. For me, thats of number-one importance.”

 

Putting in work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (even when you’ve made it):

“I work with a lot of artists and theyre up late at night. Last week I got a call at one in the morning, Ill answer my phone at any time of day. I dont know if clients are impressed by it or it scares them. I sleep a deep sleep, but in my head Im always waiting for the phone to ring. Everybody always ask how I balance. I dont believe in balance. When I need personal time, I take personal time, but mostly I enjoy working all the time. My life is full and happy, I get to do everything I want to do, when I want to do it.”

Her number-one concern with hair & what she carries in her daily kit:

“I have combs, clips, boards, bleach, and color. I always always my [Rita Hazan] shampoo, conditioner, Weekly Remedy, glosses, and Triple Threat Split End Remedy, I use those on everybody. I always bring extra because everyone wants it. Its really good, Im very proud of myself. It took me a long time to come up with these products, but I put a lot of effort and thought into each one.

“My favorite thing is corrective color, I love to fix a mess. The deeper the mess, the more excited I get. It takes a long time and you have to really be careful because you can damage the hair. My biggest thing is healthy hair, if you see any of the women I worked with, they always have healthy hair.”

 

The shampoo, gloss, condition routine she swears by:

“Most people dont understand the theory of shampoo, gloss, condition, because it hasnt been installed in their brain. There is a new way of washing your hair, and everybody is in a hurry, they’d rather buy a bag than get their hair done, so at that point if youre doing it every month or three months, why not try to make it perfect in between? You have to gloss! It removes and eliminates any brassiness. Why should you let your hair be brassy if you dont have to? So shampoo, gloss, condition. Thats my revolution. So important and so simple—it’s life-changing.”

Advice for aspiring colorists (or anyone, really…):

“Work hard. Dont have a time limit. Be available all the time. Always learn new things, dont get stuck. Trends change. Know your craft. You cant take one class and think you know everything. A lot of things can go wrong when coloring hair, be prepared. Dont worry about what other people are doing, just focus on your own career. Especially now—on Instagram and Snapchat it always looks like the other person is doing better, but you can work wonders with editing and a filter. Nobody’s life is better than yours, easier than yours, or luckier than yours. Everybody who is successful works really hard. Everybody wants a pretty story, and thats what you see. You dont see all the bad stuff that happens. Dont feel like other people have it easier than you. Dont even focus on what other people are doing. Stay in your lane. Focus on your job, your career, your craft, and I think more doors will open that way.”

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