Jul 31, 2015


Natural Hair Lessons on the Streets of Dominican Republic

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Employment and natural hair

Question:  If your natural hair is frizzy, tightly curled or coarse, would you go to a job interview with your hair a lo natural — unrelaxed, without blow-dry or un-ironed?

Most likely not. Latinas and African-American women are often faced with tremendous bias and prejudice against wearing their hair naturally. There is a subtle but powerful perception that curly, wavy and nappy hair is unprofessional, ugly and unkept-looking.  These biases against naturaly curly or Afro-textured hair has penetrated all spheres of our lives — work, our community, our families and even ourselves. As young as 2 years old, girls and boys begin to receive negative messages about their natural hair — a socialization process that culminates in a multi-billion dollar hair relaxing industry in the United States, the Caribbean and Latina/Central America.  A trip to the hair salon every 8-12 weeks to relax the new natural hair growth is a normal part of many Latina women, of all ages.  The pressure to give in to soft, controlled and straightened hair is often stronger than the will to embrace your natural hair.

Una Lección en la Calle (A Lesson on the Streets) – Natural Hair Challenges

Faced with these experiences, Carolina Contreras, a young Dominican American currently living in the Dominican Republic and working on HIV prevention, decided to bring this conversation to the streets of Dominican Republic.  She recently collaborated with Paloma Valenzuela (La Gringa Loca Productions) and created two videos in Spanish, one is about the negatives things that people say to women and men who wear their hair natural, and the other is why they went natural.  We thought this was a conversation we wanted to have here on New Latina, and on the blogosphere.

natural hair

CLICK IMAGE TO WATCH VIDEO: Una Lección en la Calle

To watch the second video, click HERE.

natural hair Carolina Contreras, is the creator of MissRizos.com a place where women who are natural, thinking about it, or who are going through the intense process can find a support group.

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Angélica Pérez-Litwin

Angélica Pérez-Litwin

Dr. Perez-Litwin is the Founder & CEO of ELLA Leadership Institute, a multi-platform professional development organization designed to advance the careers and leadership of women. She's the creative force behind the LATINAS THINK BIG™ national tour, sponsored and live-streamed by Google.

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  1. que viva el pajon

  2. arriba el pajon

  3. The answer is yes – I would and have. And, no. I did not get those jobs. I actually almost had a physical confrontation at the first corporate job I had the first time I wore my hair natural. Co-workers were coming to my desk “literally” pointing, laughing and making jokes about my hair. The 3rd person caught the wrath and apologized. Cussing the first 2 out didn’t seem to make an impact. And how sad that in this land of diversity that we STILL have morons on this planet like that. I’m very thankful to now be in an environment where getting the job done is paramount to how I look doing it!

  4. I am happy that Latinas and African Americans alike are having these kinds of conversations. We really need to heal and educate others at the same time. I rarely see a natural women speaking negatively about a women who is relaxed, even when she strongly disagrees with the chemical process, yet so much violence, discrimination, and abuse towards women who decide to leave their hair in its normal state. I refuse to accept this and will fight till the end.

  5. I support Carolina (Miss Rizos) in this aspect a lot. We both see how people come to us saying they got fired because of their hair or how they have trouble in their jobs regarding their hair. Many people when they see our websites (I own the project gonaturalcaribe.com a dominican site too) they tent to say Oh thanks finally someone is thinking about us! An the reality is sad that being a “Afro/Caribbean” country, people dont appreciate and recognize that the majority of our population is black or mixed, so is a denial that I really dont know where comes from but is strongly present in our culture. But with our websites we are in some way educating people, we have a rich and authentic beauty that needs to be accepted by itself and we need go forget stereotypes!

  6. I am in love with these 2 vids, they show the reality of ”hair” here in DR… I heart Carolina for doing this great project!

  7. Hair is such a big thing and that’s coming from a Dominicana who’s mami was a hairdresser!! My hair is not too coarse so I can straighten it by using rolos or a simple blow dry. But my rizos are so much fun that I love that I have the ability to go back and forth. I think the thing with curls is that people may equate that with carefree so they may not take you seriously. At least in job interviews, IMHO. My hair tends to look a bit like Shakira’s when it’s curly. With all of the stereotypes of Latin women out there, I feel like I would be taken less seriously. But do I leave my hair curly for my corporate job? Por supuesto que si! I will never chemically straighten my hair. That’s like taking a piece of me I can’t get back.

  8. Beth Ortuno says:

    You know, I think it does depend a lot on where you want to work. In my industry it’s very international. To see a guy in a guayabera shirt or a lady with “natural” hair is pretty normal.


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