Beauty giants push An Afro Latina to embrace natural hair

Dominican American Carolina Contreras has made a name for itself through social media and salons. Her upcoming Miss Rizos products can be purchased at Sephora.

Beauty giants push An Afro Latina to embrace natural hair

Carolina Contreras is the founder and CEO at Miss Rizos. Her upcoming products are designed for curly hair and Afro-textured hair.

"I knew that we had something special. She said that she knew there was an unfilled shelf online and in stores, waiting for the product to arrive.


 

Contreras, a Dominican American, will have her products sold by Sephora. It is part of Sephora’s 2022 Accelerate brand incubator program that focuses on supporting and mentoring aspiring beauty entrepreneurs.

Contreras views Miss Rizos products not only as hair care but also activism. She was first known by her blog Miss Rizoscelebrating natural Hair, and through her social media presence as well as a few hair salons that she opened.

Accepting blackness is a good thing, but what about your hair?

Miss Rizos, which in Spanish means curls, was created in 2011. Contreras, a college graduate, decided to travel to the Dominican Republic where she was born.

She was interested in learning about Blackness in Dominican diaspora. It wasn't something that was openly discussed in the community. Two-months of travel turned into a 10-year adventure.

The Dominican Republic was not a place where routine blowouts were necessary. It became difficult to choose between a day on the beach and maintaining her straight hair.

She was determined to find out more about her Afro Latino roots and returned to her homeland. But she was avoiding the one thing that would help her get closer -- her hair.

Contreras claimed that two college professors approached Contreras one day while she was on the beach. They advised her to stop sunbathing as soon as her skin gets too dark. Contreras was aware of the issue of colorism that is prevalent in her country. Although she told them that she wasn't concerned about becoming darker, they later said that it felt like a rude awakening.

She said that they had told her, "You talk about accepting blackness, but you relax hair."

Contreras was woken up by this realization. It was not her choice to straighten her hair, but it was what she knew. From a young age, her mother would relax her hair. A hair relaxer was her best friend when natural hair growth began to occur and money was tight. Straight hair became the ultimate expression of beauty with time.

She learned how to cut her hair naturally and curly after the comments of the professors. As she got in touch with her Blackness, she found her purpose.

Contreras' online network grew as she taught women on social media how to take care of their hair and remove the stigmas associated with Afro-textured hair.

People in Dominican Republic asked her to share her hair journey via her blog. She had only one experience, other than styling her hair herself.

Contreras opened a hair salon for Afro-textured hair and curly hair in 2014 in Dominican Republic. Her salon was a huge success and she opened Miss Rizos NYC in Washington Heights in 2019. She plans to reopen the salon in New York City at some point.

Prior to applying for the Sephora Accelerate program she had been creating her hair care products in high demand. Her first attempt in the Dominican Republic was unsuccessful.

Sephora's program is still in its infancy, so Contreras cannot say much about the final hair care line.

She stated, "I want people be able to glide through their hair using our products and to feel kind of this ease and joy around curls," stressing her goal to celebrate Afro-textured hair.

Contreras wants customers to feel confident when they pick up the product.

Women of color should be funded

Now in its seventh year, Accelerate is focusing on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC entrepreneurs) for the seventh time. The program will see the launch of 10 BIPOC beauty brands this year.

Accessing funds can be difficult for women, particularly. According



 

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