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The Salon Industry + Its Crucial Part In Dominican Culture

BY Mirna Jose

Dominican Hair salons are known to the world for making the curliest and kinkiest hair straight. I call it “whipping out the ethnicity” out of your hair. Dominican beauty standards are centered around Eurocentric beauty standards of long straight hair, where anything else wasn’t considered beautiful. 

The earliest memory I have of myself is having a head full of rollers under the hair dryer. I remember complaining to my cousin that I wanted to get out of the dryer and her words were “el que quiere moño bonito aguanta jalón” meaning, “if you want nice hair you have to pull it tight.” According to Dominicans I didn’t have “pelo malo” which means bad hair, but it wasn’t “pelo bueno“, or good hair, either, so I had my first texturizer at eleven years old. Going to the hair salon every week was part of growing up Dominican. The straighter the hair, the prettier you were. 

I never knew I had curly hair until I cut all my hair off after a bad break up. I lived in an area far from Dominican hair salons so I had no choice but to figure out what to do “con estas greńas.” I started experimenting with products and styles until my hair was long enough that it looked “presentable” . I started wearing makeup to compensate for my hair texture. Whenever I would wear my natural hair texture around friends and family members they would all look at me as if I had lost my mind. They always made sure that I knew that my natural hair made me look “disheveled.” I would occasionally blow out my hair just for a different look or to make it easier to color . 

I’ve been wearing my hair natural for the last 15 years. I do notice the difference in the way people treat me and the type of attention I get when I wear my curls or when my hair is blown out and styled. I love my hair. I’ve learned to embrace a part of me that I didn’t even know it existed. My curls are a reminder of my own strength, my rebellion against beauty standards imposed by others on me. 

Embracing my hair is an act of rebellion against the culture I grew up with. Having curls and kinky hair is a reminder of my blackness. A reminder that I am beautiful no matter what others think of my hair texture.