I have been asked quite a bit why I decided to do the segment “Dominicans con Rizos” and here are my reasons. When I was younger I remember walking by a Dominican hair salon on my block and hearing the loud sounds of the blow dryers and seeing women sitting in a row under huge hairdryers with pink covers protecting their ears. I would watch through the window and see all these women getting they’re hair straightened and wondering “why”? I mean I knew curly hair was different, but watching the whole process of getting it straightened looked like pure torture – that was until one of the ladies walked out of the salon with her hair done. She looked like one of those models on the Spanish show Sabado Gigante, as her long straight hair blew in the wind. She turned to me and said “Mami, y ese pelo tuyo“? (Mami, and that hair of yours?) I was confused and I didn’t understand why she was asking me that question, I thought my afro puff looked just fine. What was she trying to insinuate? So, I nervously asked her while holding on to my hair “Que quieres decir“? (What do you mean?) She responded “Tienes que hacer algo con ese pelo, se ve terrible“! (You have to do something with that hair, it looks terrible!) and she walked away. I stood there outside the salon and cried (still holding my puff) as I watched her luscious mane flow away in the wind. At that point, I was convinced curly hair was pelo malo (bad hair) and this indelible encounter led me to my first appointment in the torture chamber to get my hair permanently straightened.
This experience led to the process of me wanting to understand why it was basically a ritual for those who had naturally curly hair to chemically alter it so they could be socially acceptable. Moreover, I was equally curious about the moments that drove them to just accept what they were born with (not applicable to the babies of course). I believe everyone has a story and I wanted to hear their personal hair journey.
I spent about three and a half hours with these beautiful ladies and in between my friend Maleknaz taking pictures, we talked about hair products, old school hair styles like moños con bolitas (tight ponytails with hair ties that have hard plastic balls at the ends), and countless “hair horrors”. We discussed the road to restoring not only our hair but our confidence and self-esteem in some cases. We all shared different but similar situations. Collectively, we all had a moment of nostalgia while reminiscing about the weekly trips to the salón and sitting under the hottest hairdryer known to man to have bone-straight hair.
The common denominator is that some Latinas have an unrelenting struggle with the depiction of what “beautiful” is, even when it comes to natural hair.
I had an absolutely wonderful time and I’m thinking of doing another segment highlighting another country.