As someone who grew up in a Dominican household, I can tell you the cultural standard of beauty can be quite shaming. Despite many Dominicans having curly, textured hair, la cultura favors long, straight locks. Curly hair is often called “pelo malo,” which translates to “bad hair.” Due to this stigma, many women feel pressure to straighten their hair.
I grew up wearing my curly hair, and I must give props to my beautiful madre for always loving my curls and encouraging me to show them off with pride. Unfortunately, her love did not resonate with extended family members.
The pressure to conform drove me to spend many hours in Dominican salons straightening my curls. I had super long hair, so I would spend an hour and a half in the “rolos” (when they sit you in a roller station under extreme heat for silky-straight hair). Then, I would spend another 30-40 minutes getting my scalp burned to achieve the perfect blowout all in the pursuit of “good hair.”
Many Latinas like myself have been conditioned to believe that textured hair is unattractive or undesirable, as well as to be ashamed of our African and Indigenous roots. Before I would go out to a party or any type of family gathering, I had to go straighten my hair. Wearing it naturally curly was not an option. If I didn’t go to the salon to have my hair professionally done, then it basically was considered “not done.”
My family would refer to my curls as “lion hair.” They would say it was too big or that it looked like a “pajon” (poofy hair), and they would laugh. I loved having big, poofy hair but always felt uncomfortable.
It pains me now because I really want my curls back so badly. Trying to undo the effects of keratin treatments and excessive blow-drying isn’t easy. But I am so thankful that now more Afro-Latinas, especially my fellow Dominicanas, are creating safe spaces for curly, kinky-haired women and girls all over the world.
Julissa Prado, Carolina Contreras and Lulu Cordero are three Afro-Latinas who are bringing their unique style to the curly hair movement. Through their presence and products, they have cultivated more representation for curly-haired bonitas! Keep reading to learn about the positive mark they’re making.
Julissa Prado, Founder of Rizo Curls
Los Angeles native Julissa Prado is the founder and CEO of Rizos Curls, a Latina-owned haircare line that aims to embrace and celebrate the beauty of curls, coils and waves. The standout product from Prado’s hair line is the Rizos Curls Curl Defining Cream. It provides moisture and definition to a wide variety of curl patterns.
What Julissa loves about being Latina
“I feel so blessed to have a culture that prioritizes celebrating with family,” she says. Julissa grew up having a quinceañera, baptism, etc. to attend. Every weekend her family would come together to dance, eat and just enjoy one another.
Curly hair to me represents a big part of my identity and the result of my journey to self-love. I say this over and over again, but learning to love my curly hair was a big part of learning to love myself. As a Latina, that’s very important because it’s tied to my identity and my heritage. Julissa Prado
Carolina Contreras, Founder of Miss Rizos
Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Boston, Mass., Carolina Contreras has dedicated her life’s work to advocating for underrepresented people. She created the Miss Rizos salon with the goal to have women learn about their hair and how to “to love themselves just as they are.”
Carolina’s wants to inspire women and little girls to “believe in themselves and to have the tools to change their lives and become empowered to conquer their goals.” She adds, “I hope to change the world, one curl at a time.”
What Carolina loves about being Latina
“ I love how much diversity exists in the Latino community and having language and other shared experiences to unite us. Latinas are hardworkers, resilient and determined women”
[Curly hair represents] power and resilience. Carolina Contreras
Lulu Cordero, Founder of Bomba Curls
Bomba Curls founder Lulu Cordero infuses her culture into every product, using organic and super-pure ingredients within her formulations that are native to the Dominican Republic. Her curly hair products are all about embracing the liberation that comes with accepting yourself fully.
The brand’s star product is the award-winning Forbidden Hair Mask. Made with Cupuacu butter, pistachio oil and cinnamon extract, this ultra-rich hair treatment is packed with superfoods that’ll hydrate and nourish heat-damaged curls, while stimulating healthy hair growth.
What Lulu loves about being Latina
She believes that every Latin American country has its own unique history and culture and they each make up this vibrant tapestry that is “Latino culture. Somos unicos!”
“My hair is a direct reflection of my roots — my curls are my history. I look in the mirror and see my abuela and my mother in those curls — they make me proud.” Lulu Cordero
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