Ada Rojas is the powerhouse voice behind the lifestyle blog Allthingsada.com. She is also is the owner and founder of haircare brand Botanika Beauty.
If you look at pictures of me when I was a toddler, you probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference between my brother and I since we had the same tapered haircut. The reason for that was that I had a head full of curly hair that my Dominican mother with straight hair did not know what to do with, so her remedy was to keep my hair as short as possible because it was low maintenance.
Sadly, this is a story most Afro-Latinas are familiar with. We all had a short curly cut at one point in our youth and have the pictures to prove it.
For as long as I can remember, my hair always seemed "bad." Growing up with a family of six in a single household, my mom couldn't afford to send me to the Dominican salon for a weekly blowout, which most of my friends got. She used to relax my hair until I got tired of the process and asked her to stop. Though she was busy juggling multiple jobs, I had no choice but to learn how to do my hair at a time where there were very few products on the market for curly hair.
Fast forward to my freshman year of college, my roommate had a flat iron and I was thrilled to finally have access to the only standard of beauty we all acknowledged. I straightened my curls to the point that caused heat damage, ruining my entire curl pattern.
I was devastated, to say the least, and thought I would never get my curls back, that is until my friend Lisa introduced me to the natural hair community on YouTube back in 2010. Thanks to incredible vloggers who shared their transition journeys and a community of supportive naturalistas, I was able to repair my damaged curls and bring my hair back to life. I couldn't believe that with love, patience and dedication I was able to return my hair to its natural state.
I learned the importance of deep conditioning and protein treatments as well as the crucial way to layer hair products so that my curls were always moisturized and defined. The entire process took about a year and a half and I learned so much throughout my journey.
The process of reviving my natural curls was not easy, as there were many days that I looked in the mirror and did not feel beautiful, but it taught me that my true beauty comes from the inside out. I was determined to share this feeling with other women who had also grown up thinking their hair was bad. Many of these feelings led to the creation of my blog, AllThingsAda.com, where I began sharing what I was learning.
I managed to foster the most incredible community of Afro-Latina women who are insanely proud of their roots and the curls that crown them. When I look back at my career over the last 10 years, I am in awe of the things that I have been able to accomplish simply because I wanted to feel seen in the beauty space after noticing a lack of representation.
As a teen and young adult, I struggled with my identity because I always felt like I wasn't enough of anything. When I create content, it always comes from an intentional space. I'm always trying to speak to that younger version of me by educating her and creating space for all the layered parts of who she is. I want her to feel seen and heard and I take a lot of pride in creating that type of environment online for the younger me as well as my community.
Looking back at my life, I get very emotional thinking about the fact that I once hated the very thing that I love the most about myself now. It breaks my heart knowing that I grew up thinking that I had bad hair. My hair is not bad, it did not kill anyone, it did nothing wrong. Why did I grow up thinking my curls were a burden, a shame I carried around that always made me feel less than?
I think back to the little girl who used to be so frustrated trying to tame her wild hair before class and I hope she is insanely proud of the woman she has become and how she has used her platform to encourage others along the way.
As a proud Afro-Latina, I don't need a special month to celebrate my culture, because I do it every single day, but as we spotlight the contributions of the Latinx community and our impact on this country, I hope we take a moment to celebrate the uniqueness that exists within our collective and acknowledge all the differences that make us beautiful.
This Hispanic Heritage Month, I am encouraging others to honor and uplift the marginalized voices in our community that are still fighting to be seen and heard.