Rita Hazan has been making stars blonder (and, sometimes, pinker) since the 1990s, when she got a job at Oribe right after beauty school. Since then, she's become a towering figure in the industry, and now counts everyone from Beyoncé to Katy Perry as clients. In our latest installment of Stylist Stories, Hazan talked to Hair Days about how she got started in the business of celebrity transformations, the biggest mistakes people make when they go to the colorist, and how she made Beyoncé “really blonde.”
How did you get started in the business?
I actually went to beauty school right after high school, at 17, and I started working for Oribe right away in 1992. It was really the only thing I knew I wanted to do right away. I went for my dream job, and I got it. I grew there as an artist, as a colorist. And that’s where I worked with a lot of celebrities, then I opened my own place.
Who was the first really big celebrity that you got to color?
Mariah Carey. I can never forget! I was so young that I didn't even know that I should be nervous. I just went to her apartment. Basically, what she wanted was a new image. I guess she was going out on her own and they wanted something younger, more youthful, and a little more edgy. I did honey and golden-blonde highlights just to give her a little bit of lightness around the face. I always like her when her color’s a little lighter.
How was she to work with?
Easy, funny enough! Easy, cool, kind of let me do my own thing. Trusting.
What's the most challenging celebrity hair color you’ve had to do?
One of the most challenging jobs I ever had to do was Katy Perry, when her hair was black and she wanted to make [it] lavender. To get that black out was really hard without damaging her hair. I think that was the most challenging and the most rewarding thing at the same time, because when I did it I was just really proud of myself. It took six or seven hours.
What are some of the most common mistakes people make when they’re asking for hair color?
They use the wrong words to describe what they want. People say they’re afraid of gold, but they’re not really afraid of gold, they’re afraid of orange. Every colorist and every person in the world sees things differently. I always say the best way to get what you want is to bring pictures of what you like and pictures of what you don’t like. It’s visual, it’s clear, it’s simple. The other mistake people make is if they are olive-skinned, they’ll bring a picture of somebody with blonde hair, blue eyes, and pale skin. Stick to people that look the most like you.
Whose hair have you done recently?
Jessica Simpson, Christie Brinkley, Beyoncé. Chrissy Teigen just wanted a change, and one day she was like, Rita, you can do something dramatic? I was like, Okay, come in, I have a couple of ideas, and of course I obsessed about it. She cut her hair and we did a cool version of an ombré. She’s a cool girl. She can carry it. She’s confident.
What did you do to Beyoncé?
We just made her really blonde. She switches it up so much. It’s her hair and then she’ll add hair or subtract hair or whatever. She knows what she wants.
In your whole career, can you choose a favorite that you’ve done?
Creating J.Lo’s look was something I’ll never forget. It was the late 1990s — 1998, something like that. She came to me with dark hair and I lightened it up and gave her these honey highlights and it was the biggest thing in the universe. It just changed her whole look and I remember a sales rep came to me later and wanted to sell me hair color and he said, “I have a color that J.Lo uses to get those honey highlights.” And I started laughing, like, Oh my God, it’s a thing now? I thought, This is insane.
What's the big hair-color trend now or request you're receiving a lot?
The biggest trend for spring is going to be platinum. Everyone wants to go blonder, blonder, blonder. Part of it is fashion and part of it is that it’s been such a long winter that people want to be lighter. Like going lighter will bring the summer faster.
What are some hair trends you’re getting tired of seeing, or you’d like to see change or go away?
The dark to very light ombré, I would like to see that go away. I like the softer ombré, where it blends together and it’s not so dramatic and so harsh.
Have you had any disasters where it turned out not what you expected?
No, thank God. I prepare myself so well for what I’m doing that I actually obsess about it for days. How I'm going to do it, what could go wrong, how should I prevent that, what should I bring. Every kind of scenario goes through my head. Thank God, thank God a million times I’ve never had anything go wrong!
This interview has been edited and condensed.