A Dominicana Launched The First Natural Hair Only Salon In Her Country And Now She’s Bringing It To NYC
For Black and Afro-Latina women with tightly curled hair, discrimination is not unusual. For example, the military just barely approved natural hairstyles for their Black female service members back in 2017. Before that, they were only allowed to choose from a hand-full of processed hairstyles. The reason for this was that the organization argued that natural hair was “unprofessional” and did not have a place in the military.
Additionally, it’s still legal in 49 states to discriminate against people based on their natural hair. California only just banned that discriminatory policy back in early July 2019. In the rest of the states, people can be dismissed because of their hair based on dress code regulations.
Obviously, there is still plenty of work that needs to be done in order to stomp out prejudice against Black hair textures and this Dominicana is leading the charge.
Carolina Contreras — known as Miss Rizos — has made her career providing hair care for Black and Afro-Latina women. Born in the Dominican Republic, Contreras’ start in the hair business began back in 2011 with her blog, “Miss Rizos.” The blog features posts in both English and Spanish about natural hair care and was inspired by the entrepreneur’s own journey towards natural styling.
The popularity of her blog led Contreras to launch a fundraiser that raised more than $10,000. She took those funds along with additional donations and her own savings and invested them into a huge project. In 2014, the entrepreneur opened her first all-natural hair salon in the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo. While she only began with two employees, the shop — Miss Rizos Salon — now claims twenty employees and sees more than 500 clients each month.
“Once girls leave the salon you can see them skipping,” Contreras explained to BUSTLE. “They’re standing a little taller, they’re swaying their hair side to side … seeing them own their hair and own their power as they’re walking out, and stepping out, it’s just a very beautiful sight to see.”
However, not everyone has embraced natural hair as much as Contreras and her clients have.
Racism and colorism are prevalent around the world — even in Contreras’ own Dominican Republic. The country has the largest Black population outside of the African continent and yet, the anti-Black sentiment is seen in several places in DR society. In everything from beauty standards to social approval, Black attributes are looked down on as being undesirable.
In response to this discrimination, the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Education released a video to promote positive feelings towards diversity back in March of 2019. In the PSA, different hair textures and skin colors are represented in a scholastic environment. This video is a direct reaction to an incident concerning a DR student named Omara Mia Bell Marte. The child was denied access to her classes after she chopped her hair down to promote her natural hair growth. The refusal to allow the 11-year-old access to class based on her curls is nothing short of racist.
Even Contreras has experienced this kind of racism first hand. She shared with BUSTLE that she herself has been turned away from bars and clubs because of her own curly hair.
Still, the entrepreneur plans to continue her fight against this discrimination. To do so, she’s taking her successful business state-side and opening up an all-natural hair salon in New York City.
Much like before, the new shop is opening thanks to Contreras’ savings and a fundraiser. The donation drive earned over $29,000 before it was closed — almost three times as much as her Santo Domingo shop raised. The new Washington Heights shop is set to open sometime in 2020 and will offer a wide array of services for Contreras’ clients.
Besides offering hair care, the entrepreneur wants to give her clients information.
Contreras personalized customer service is especially impressive because she teaches her clientele how to care for their hair and use different products and methods to get different effects. She also works to build a community around natural hair care so that those who visit her shop have support. She wants all women to know they can look good and feel good with their natural hair.
“A lot of people want to look externally for ways to change the world,” Contreras explained to BUSTLE. “Often times the answer to how we can change the world is how we’re living in the world, and what we are doing with our own time and resources, and our existence in the world and our power. When we’re doing what we love and we’re walking in our truth, and we’re living life in a very purposeful way, we can inspire other people. We can change things. I think that has been my secret formula.”
Here’s to hoping that her new NYC shop leads to more salons all over the country. The world can use more of Miss Rizos’s kind of care.