Rita Hazan doesn’t have bad hair days. She’s also never taken a sick day or missed a day in her namesake salon.
She describes herself as “equal parts colorist, artist, and innovator,” and for good reason. The industry veteran is known for creating a product so genius, it’s hard to imagine life before it: root concealer. As an expert colorist entrusted by the likes of Beyonce, Katy Perry, J-Lo, and Jessica Simpson, Rita is familiar with the agony of visible roots between salon visits. Enter her root concealer—AKA the easy-to-use solution to your root woes (you can thank us later).
The hair guru first made her mark on the industry in the 90s, establishing herself as an authority on colors and trends amidst a male-dominated beauty field (queue eye rolls at the patriarchy). Her first major client was Mariah Carey, everyone’s favorite songstress, diva, and MTV Cribs subject. Word of mouth travels fast: If you’re Mariah’s go-to, you must have some sort of special sauce.
Fast forward to 2018, and Hazan is still on her hair hustle, but with widespread brand recognition. Between her innovative products, A-list client roster, and illustrious 5th Avenue salon, consider Rita Hazan one of your hair fairy godmothers and always take her advice.
Your client roster includes the likes of Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, and Madonna. Tell us a little about your journey in the beauty industry. What was your big break?
I was an assistant at Oribe for around 6 years, then I got a promotion to colorist. At the time, my work was a little different from everyone else’s and it caught the eye of one of my stylist friends that happened to be working with Mariah Carey. It was 1997; Mariah had gotten a divorce and was putting out a new album; she needed a new look. My friend referred me to work with her on her new image and the rest was history. Anyone looking for a new look after that would call me.
How do you build trust with such high-profile clients?
First, you have to have confidence and know your craft; you need skills and a vision, which takes time. You must be able to deliver a look that works on stage or in print and also in everyday life. It's important to be precise, and execute what you say you’re going to do. Consistency is key. Another tenet that I’ve always lived by is to be discrete. Discretion is very important, when I work, I say I am deaf and mute; I hear nothing and say nothing.
What’s your number-one essential to keeping color looking healthy?
Well, it has to actually be healthy—looking healthy is not enough. It can look healthy with a simple blow dry. You must know how to use hair color in a responsible way. I know how to manipulate colors and products to give me the result I want. It's taken years of learning, trial and error, to fully understand my craft. I also do tons of research before I do any product in my own line and before every job I get, even today.
What advice would you give to young aspiring colorists?
LEARN. You can’t learn anything about color in one year. It takes years of studying and practicing. You can't learn a vocation like this by watching videos on YouTube or Instagram; it's not real. Everyone has to develop their own style. It seems to me that everyone is doing the same thing these days. You need to get out there, assist, get your hands dirty, and be creative. That's the only way to develop and grow your own color aesthetics, but to do that, you need to be skilled. A lot of people don't realize that hair color is chemicals—it’s chemistry.
What other women in your industry do you admire? Why?
When I was starting out, there were not many women doing what I wanted to do, if any. It was an industry of men. I was one of the first female colorists to open my own salon and to have a product line. I see so many talented women doing it today and it makes me happy because as women, we know our hair, the emotion, and reality that comes with it. When I see women like Marie Robinson, Tracey Cunningham, Riawna Capri, and Nikki Lee doing their thing, it makes me so proud.
What’s been the biggest surprise or highlight of your career to date?
It has to be creating an entire new category in color care: my root concealer. There was no product like it on the market for covering gray roots before mine. Now, of course, several big companies have copied my idea (within an inch of my patent). It's both immensely flattering and annoying at the same time.
If you weren’t a colorist, what career path would you choose and why?
There was no plan B. From the time I was 17, I knew this was what I wanted to do and I wasn't going to stop pushing and working for it until I did.
Where does your passion and drive come from?
Honestly, I’m not sure. I think it comes from my soul. I think I was born this way. I was raised with a really strong work ethic. I’ve never called out sick a day in my life, cancelled a job or day in the salon. I know it’s not normal, but that’s just me.
When you hit a bump or hurdle in your career, how do you find new roads + switch gears to find success?
It happens to everyone! In this social media-driven era, it can look like everyone's life is perfect, but really it’s just a highlight reel. My advice is to never look at what other people are doing. It’s not your path and it's not your vision. Most people never understand my vision until it's done or in progress. My journey is at my own pace. I don't feel the need to be in the same gear as others; when I need time, I take it. I pause, I breathe, I obsess a little and then I take a break. I listen to my soul and then the answer always hits me—I trust my gut!
What are you most excited for in 2019?
I’m working on a new line of styling products for color-treated hair. It’s an innovative way to use ingredients that are protective & nourishing for color-treated hair but are effective at styling. The development process is always a really exciting time; picking colors, designing packing, finding fragrances and testing, testing, testing! I love all that stuff. If I’m putting my name on something it has to work and be the best!