Daniel Rubin For the Win!



APPRENTICESHIP: Vidal Sassoon (color department)

ON BUCKET LIST: Winning a NAHA in the color category

MOTTO: Don't quit before the miracle happens.

SPECIAL SHOUT OUT: The US Color Zoom Team and especially Michelle Pargee, Michael Shire, Mark Holloway, Mio Sota, Derrick Zeno and Sal McKinzie. 


There are many paths to take to earn a place and success in the salon industry. Most of the people we chat with knew it from the git-go while others have taken a more circuitous path. For many it is all-good, for others, all-great.

Meet an all-great: award winning colorist Daniel Rubin. While most within the Goldwell family know his story and all about his tough journey, he has decided to go “public” on these pages for the MODERN audience.

“I was deep into addiction,” says Rubin admitting he was over imbibing in both drugs and alcohol from his late teens to his early twenties. “My life was in chaos. I hurt my family and friends. I had nothing. No relationships, no home, no job. All my energy went to being an addict and I had no time for anything else. I was numb for 5 years and I was ruined.”

It took an intervention, (yes - one of those) to get Rubin on the right track. “My family intervened. They knew, and more importantly I knew, it was my last hope. I was so wrapped up in my addiction that I couldn’t make any decisions. They helped guide me to do something positive and to turn my life around. I realized I wanted, and had to, do something that had meaning and purpose.” At this point he was so raw he had no idea what that would be.

After a year of recovery, Rubin’s mother suggested Beauty School and he jumped at the idea. “This helped to continue my journey to rebuild my life,” he says. “Every positive thing that has now happened to me has happened because of that decision.”

What has happened is that after earning his license from Pivot Point Academy, Rubin chose to apprentice in the color department of Vidal Sassoon in Chicago. “That discipline, structure and environment was exactly what I needed,” says the then 25 year old. After working at a few different salons in the area, he ended up at Trio in Chicago (where he now serves as a master colorist.)

In 2011 Rubin decided to enter Goldwell’s Color Zoom Challenge, the annual color competition designed to “inspire creative, passionate and inventive colorists from around the world.” Rubin entered in the New Talent category.

“It was my first-time competition ever and I became a finalist,” says Rubin. “Just getting the recognition validated my efforts and offered great momentum.” Although he didn’t win, he was excited to enter again. In 2012 he entered in the Partner Category (he officially joined the Goldwell family by then). Again, he did quite well and ended up competing in London at the global competition. “I lost by one point in the international leg,” he says. “It was still an incredible experience.”

Still on a roll, he entered in 2013, but this time did not make the finals.  Undeterred, he entered again in 2014 and made it to the Berlin competition. “I came in 5th. I lost. I started to question the judging and the process, thinking maybe something was unfair.”  The ever optimistic and enthusiastic Rubin was losing his mojo at this point and was ready to throw in the towel. “I really wanted to give up,” he says.  “I told myself ‘I’ve done it and I guess it’s not going to happen’. I was ready to admit that I was the Susan Lucci of Color Zoom.” (Lucci is the actress who was nominated 19 times for an Emmy and lost every time before finally winning in 1999.)

Rubin pulled himself together and entered again in 2015, earning a spot as a semi-finalist. “I didn’t win, but this time I accepted it graciously because Corinne Brown [a fellow US finalist] won in Las Vegas. Even though I was defeated, it was okay. I felt I lost to someone worthy of winning. I saw why her entry won and I was content with that.” 

Now encouraged, the re-energized Rubin entered the 2016 competition with new vigor. 

His entry, a multi-shaded sleek bob with an asymmetrically accented fringe, won the USA leg of the competition. After the cheering died down, Rubin realized that there were going to be some challenges for the international leg of the competition (held this past fall in Stockholm, Sweden.) “For the photo I had lifted the hair straight up and let it drop. The picture was taken while the hair was in midair. Now I realized I was in trouble!” Trouble because the beauty of this competition is that the finalist must recreate the photo to be judged live! The live portion of the judging could take place anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes after the hair is finished. The artist is not allowed to touch the hair during that time. “My problem was that I realized I would not be able to walk in with my model and ‘drop’ the hair for the judging. I was afraid I had set myself up for failure.” 

The good news was that Rubin had months to figure out how to make it happen. “I reached out to my editorial friends and asked them how to replicate it and make it last. I got a lot of different opinions.” It took a team and a culmination of many hairdressers and hours to come up with the mathematical solution. “There was a lot of hit and miss,” says Rubin. “It took a lot of time but we came up with a game plan and made it happen.” When asked to describe how, in a nutshell, it stayed up, Rubin says “Lots of overlaying and interlocking in four different sections. There is some light backcombing, hair pushing and stacking. Once every piece is interlocked, the shape is refined with the end of a tail comb.” Rubin practiced and practiced on both a mannequin head and his model. “There was a lot of failure, but eventually I had it figured out.”

 At the live competition, Rubin used many of his three hours perfect the lift. “It elevated just high enough and didn’t move for the 45 minutes of the judging!” While those were a nerve wracking 45 minutes, Rubin knew his efforts, and the efforts of his Goldwell family, would pay off (and obviously they did!) Rubin wants to send a special thank you to the US Color Zoom Team and especially Michelle Pargee, Michael Shire, Mark Holloway, Mio Sota, Derrick Zeno and Sal McKinzie.

Rubin has spent these past months enjoying the victory and traveling to share his story of perseverance and news about the upcoming Color Zoom collection on behalf of Goldwell. The next global competition will be held this October in Barcelona, Spain. 

Becoming sober and re-directing his energy has allowed Rubin to live up to his full potential. Would he have ever been able to win Color Zoom if he hadn’t turned his life around? “Never. “Being sober has allowed me to be creative and successful. All the energy I used to put in my addiction I am now putting in to my career, hairdressing and my clients.” Rubin says that he hopes revealing both his personal and professional struggles will help others. “I am proud to be sober,” he says. “I am proud where my journey has taken me so far. Being sober has allowed me to be creative and ultimately the gold medalist of Color Zoom 2016. I hope to be an inspiration to others.”

Daniel Rubin for the win.

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