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Hair Color > Articles > Color “Aha’s!”
Top Tinters’ Turning Points

One moment of discovery can be a life-changing event. Scientists have their "eurekas," Oprah has her "lightbulbs," and haircolorists have their "ahas." We asked four top tinters to share turning points that changed the way they look at color.

"Hair is Fiber" or "The Bald Blonde"
Jo Blackwell, owner Dop Dop, New York, NY

Blackwell was thrilled and flattered when in 1993 she was recruited by JOHN DELLARIA SALON in New York from her job at VISIBLE CHANGES SALON in Houston. "Not that I didn't love where I was, but this was a chance to run an entire color department and continue building a reputation as a specialist in corrective color," says Blackwell. Not long after she hit the Big Apple, she had just applied bleach to a platinum blonde with hair halfway down her back, when her new boss invited her to do a consultation with Lauren Hutton. Excited to be face-to-face with the screen goddess, Blackwell bounded upstairs where the star was waiting, and the two began to chat.

Fifteen minutes passed, and Blackwell glanced over the railing to her station to check on her assistant's progress. To her horror, she saw that nothing had changed - the cap was still on her client's head (the assistant had gone to lunch). Panicked, Blackwell leapt into action and hurried the woman to the shampoo bowl. "But when I tried to rinse her, all her hair fell out. She sat up and looked like a downy chick," says Blackwell. The colorist began sobbing convulsively, and apologizing. Luckily, the client - who was a friend - began to laugh. She'd just been offered a role in a film - but had turned it down because it required her to shave her head. Now she could take the part.

"It was so humbling for me," says Blackwell. "Here I had been recruited because of my color expertise, and I had melted someone's hair off. I had seen hair split, but never melt. It was so clear that hair is fiber and it will tear if it is abused." And the bald blonde? She's still Blackwell's client today - and she has platinum hair that hangs halfway down her back.

"Go With Your Gut" or "The Actress Who Almost Killed Me."
Justine Beech, colorist, Umberto, Beverly Hills, CA

Being fairly new to the salon floor doesn't mean you don't have any experience. Back in the early Nineties, when Justine Beech first got her own station at Umberto in Beverly Hills, she'd already been through beauty school, and worked as an assistant to one of the town's top celebrity colorists. She definitely knew her stuff. So when "Hue Hollywood," her mentor, began spending one week out of every month working in New York, he handed over some of his famous regulars to her.

One day, a certain actress who went on to appear in numerous films and a long-running HBO series, showed up for a retouch. As she would with any client, Beech pulled the color card and began mixing up the formula. "It was a red, and I kept looking at it and thinking - something's weird here, there's no neutral in this at all," says Beech, who was concerned the mix would turn pink on the client's hair if she had any gray. "But I ignored that inner voice." She applied the color, and the roots came out - guess what? - hot pink. "She was in a rage," says Beech, "Because the same thing had happened a month before. It was corrected then, but no one fixed the card." Beech knew she could repair the actress's hair by adding some N, but the woman stormed out and never returned to the salon.

"I learned that you really have to go with your gut," says Beech. "You have to go with what you know. Don't over-think things."

"Free Your Creativity" or "When I Met J-Lo"
Rita Hazan, owner, Rita Hazan, New York, NY

Eight years ago, Rita Hazan was working at Manhattan's ORIBE SALON. She had made a name for herself as a go-to colorist for clients seeking an image change, and boss Oribe often sent referrals her way. So who shows up at her station one day seeking a new look? Jennifer Lopez - before J. Lo was a household name. When Hazan asked the young actress - who starred in

Selena that year, but had yet to release her first CD - what she wanted to do with her hair, Lopez said: "You're the expert. Do what you want."

Instead of being petrified, Hazan says she felt a rush of excitement and creativity, "I was relieved. She was giving me free range. This was going to be cool." She took La Lopez's locks from a boring brown to a stunning sea of honey-colored highlights. "She loved it," says Hazan. "It was a frenzy of color - dramatic but not punky, a soft look that gave her more Hollywood glamour."

"From then on, I just released my creativity with every client," says Hazan. "I wasn't afraid to take risks. Too often as colorists we compromise. But all that changed for me on that day. It opened a door." Hazan's fearless artistry has made her so popular that she was able to open her own shop three years ago. And Lopez? Hazan did a touch up on her the day before this interview. "We met at the beginning of my career and the beginning of hers. We grew up together," Hazan says.

"Remember the Basics" or "The Pink Punk"
Nancy Braun, owner, bhava, West Hollywood, CA

So you're an established colorist, and you think you've seen it - and maybe know it - all. Eight years ago, Nancy Braun was working as head colorist at FREDERIC FEKKAI in Beverly Hills, and had become so respected that she taught the weekly evening education classes. One night, "A girl came in with pink hair. She had used Manic Panic or something like that, and she wanted more normal hair," says Braun. "Her hair was really this fuchsia color, like the L'Oreal Kerastase bottle or something. Bad."

Braun's first idea was to bleach out all the not-so-pretty-in-pink. "But her hair had already been bleached once, and was so porous that the last thing you want to do is bleach again," says Braun. But the second option was to layer another color over the pink. Braun - and the students in her class - decided this was a better choice. They went back to the color wheel to choose a shade that would cancel out the pink. Since pink falls opposite gold, Braun used the 24-karat shade on the client's hair. To be extra careful, they tested the formula on a small section of hair before doing the whole head. "It turned out the perfect color," says Braun.

"Sometimes, you have to take a step back - go back to basics," says Braun. "This incident really sticks in my head because it is a reminder to go back to that color wheel."

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