Glass doors slide open. Sleek bottles of Aveda products line the walls, punctuating the space between supersized photos of perfectly coiffed models. Jackson Ruiz Salon defines itself as a haven of style, an oasis tucked away from the rush and commotion of North Lamar. At the helm are co-owners Heath Smith and Allen Ruiz, partners in life and in business.
The salon has potential to be intimidating, with the constant hum of activity and high-caliber talent. Ruiz rounds the corner rounds a corner with a smile, and within moments we’re scrolling through the Instagram photos of his two French Bulldogs, Holli and Fin. Here I find myself, sharing a laugh over puppies with one of the most talented hairstylists in the nation.
Ruiz recently won the 2013 North American Hairstyling Awards (NAHA) Hairstylist of the Year award, which is considered to be equivalent to the Academy Awards of hair. Stylists’ submitted works are judged by other top stylists and beauty editors around the world; fortunately, the highest praise of his professional community has not diminished Ruiz’s ambition. The man showing me his precious bulldogs is constantly determined, passionate and goal-hungry.
Ruiz has had years to sharpen his focus and build something beautiful at Jackson Ruiz: he was only twelve when—over the sound of a televised makeover show—he had an epiphany and told his father he would become a stylist.
That determination eventually led him to Aveda’s door, and Ruiz formed a natural alliance with the company. He was always impressed with their prestige and smart style.
“I thought, ‘That is a company that I can align myself with,’” Ruiz said, remembering with a smile. “That’s what I want. I’m going to work for them.”
Ruiz started working with Aveda in 2000 as an educator and then a Guest Artist, next making the leap to Artistic Director and then to Global Style Director for North America. And, yes, that title holds as much clout as it sounds like it does. And his trip to the top has been littered with accolades and awards: he has won the North American Hairstylist of the Year award twice, once in 2007 and once in 2013. He is the first Latin-American to take home the top honors twice, and is one of only three hairdressers in the history of the award to win it twice.
He also recently picked up the International Stylist of the Year prize at the Canadian Mirror Awards. Ruiz is familiar with the spotlight, to say the least, and his work is the subject of camera lenses, catwalks and advertising campaigns around the world.
He could not have achieved this level of success without a balance between left and right brain, though. “The more creative you are, the more people ask what kind of business you are running,” Ruiz said.
As if anyone familiar with his work could ever doubt his business savvy. Between working behind the chair on clients, running manager conferences, weekly education programs and hunt for new off-site offices, Ruiz has demonstrated a true knack for balance.
“There is the creative side which feeds your heart and your soul,” Ruiz said, looking out over the floor of his bustling salon. “Then there’s the business where we are able to employ a team of fifty.”
Underneath the glamour and style of being a frontrunner in the beauty industry is a life that seems impossible without impeccable organizational skills, to say the least. Between planning for New York Fashion week, planning his main stage performance for Aveda Congress, a major industry show in October and catching last-minute business flights to Australia, he still manages to make time for those who really matter most.
Ruiz is a big family man: he and Smith recently moved into a new home designed by Lake|Flato, which they are currently remodeling. He’s also an active uncle, taking his nieces and nephews from baseball games to sleepovers. His whole family also gathers for Sunday brunches and impromptu trips to South Padre Island. Ruiz lost his mother in December of 2012 in a tragic car accident; needless to say, her passing has been very emotionally challenging for him. He has surrounded himself with family, who help him thrive in what most would consider to be chaos.
He has other tricks up his sleeve though, ranging from opening up a second salon location to a great dinner at the end of a day. To Ruiz, happiness can be as simple as his favorite dish from Polvos and spending the day with his partner and their impossibly cute dogs on Town Lake.
Ruiz’s secret to balancing his fulfilling personal life and a critically acclaimed professional life is simple: “I love it,” he explained. “I’ve been doing it for over 20 years; there is not one part of being and hairdresser, salon owner and creative director that I do not love.”