Even my mother to this day, you would never see her like this. She’s like, My name is Val and I’m a proud Afro Latina. Straightening my curly hair was part of what I thought it meant to be a Dominican, but when I moved to Los Angeles everything changed. I grew up in New York City which has the largest Dominican community in the US, with Dominican hair salons on just about every corner. I was raised with the idea that my naturally curly hair was “unrefined” or “messy,” and wearing it that way was not presentable. It definitely impacted the way I felt about
my curly hair for years But I never stopped to question it until I moved to LA three years ago and I was unable to find a Dominican stylist that specializes in my hair type. I had no choice but to embrace my natural curls. But while I learned to love ‘em, a part of me still missed the experience of a Dominican blowout. Hi Ma. Hi sweetheart. What are you going? How is DR? It’s good, I’m just at the beach, see? Oh wow. I just got my hair done by a Dominican and she charged me 250 pesos, its $5 dollars. She charged me $5. Oh my god. I’m actually gonna go get my hair straightened. We were able to find a Dominican hair stylist, finally. No kidding, finally. I’m glad you finally found a place that’s able to do your curly hair. Because unfortunately, being that your hair is very thin, you know, not a lot of people can specialize in that area to do it, you know, properly. Every weekend we would go spend up to seven hours at the hair salon to get our hair straightened, why would you straighten our hair so much as little girls? You know, people would be judgmental if you had that kind of hair. Being a Dominican, we bring such a different diversity to the world. But I felt that to fit in with the kind of people that we were around, you had to fit a certain criteria. And I think that that was the way that you guys were more accepted. But I know what, if you do your hair curly or if you want to have straight hair, don’t care what people say. As long as you feel comfortable. Talking with my mom left me feeling even more nostalgic for the blowout experience. I went to Salon Republic in West Hollywood to meet up with Rosa, a Dominican hair stylist to give me a blowout. Like me, Rosa has come to embrace both curly and straight styles since moving to LA. And I’m so excited to see what she does with my hair. Wow look at your hair, I love it. Let’s wash it first and then we’ll start. Okay, sounds good. Cool? I immediately felt right at home. And I realized quickly how much we had in common. So you’re Dominican too? Yeah, I am. I’m from Santiago. Oh okay. Yeah, where are you from? Well I was born in New York but — Me too! I used to live in Santo Domingo. Oh, okay. I didn’t leave my hair curly until I was 18. Me too. And I grew up going to the salon every week, religiously. I think that’s the main thing in Dominican beauty. We do whatever it takes Absolutely. to look good and feel good, you know? It’s the culture. You have to look presentable, Dominicans they don’t go to the supermarket without having their hair done, and their clothes need to be good. Back in New York, when I’m home, I usually do roller sets. Roller sets? Okay. Yeah the roller sets honestly makes it smoother and shiny, and glossier. That’s like a two hour process. Yes. The Dominican blowout, it’s such an essential and vital part of our culture. Absolutely. To me and to you it’s a regular blow dry, Exactly. But for most people the way we do our own technique. Yeah. You’re blow drying your hair in a healthy way with a round brush and actually putting that tension how we do it. It closes the cuticle better. As Rosa did my hair, I realized how much I had missed this. It felt especially good because this time I was straightening my hair on my own terms, rather than from a need to fit in. And after going so long without seeing my hair straightened, I was really excited to see it. You ready to see it? Yes, I’m so ready. Oh my gosh, no way. My hair never looked so bouncy. What? This is a Dominican blowout right here. Yes. Although I love my curls, getting a Dominican blowout reminded me so much of home and my childhood which felt really comforting. Next, I’m headed to meet up with my friend Gina for lunch. Gina is a professional dancer. As Dominicans growing up in New York, we shared a lot of the same experiences. Today we’re discussing how moving to LA has shaped our hair journey. Thank you. Thank you so much. Yes. Wow. Thank you. That looks so good. I know. Even though this is not Dominican food, that looks like a Dominican meal. Something my mom would make. Absolutely. The platanos maduros. Platanos is such a vital part of our culture. It is, it’s just platano with everything. Literally anything. If there’s no rice in it, it’s not a meal. Yeah. It’s just a snack. It’s so hard finding any Dominican spots out here. Barely any Dominican people too. Literally I’ve met like four Dominicans out here and that’s it. What do find is a struggle for you being a Dominican in LA? It’s definitely being a struggle finding a place for someone to manage your curly hair. Exactly. I don’t really straighten my hair at all anymore, I just always just keep it natural. I feel the most beautiful with my hair curly for sure. So when you were younger you used to straighten it more? Definitely, my mom would blow dry my hair all the time, go to salon. My mom did not want to see me with my, she called it a pajón. My grandma does too. Yeah, so Dominicans that moved to America kinda emulate more of the European culture. I think I was always told my whole life like, “You’re just Dominican, you are not black.” And when I went to college they were like, “You know you’re black, right? Like that’s part of who you are.” And I just didn’t know that. But it just makes sense, like when you research Dominican culture, Dominicans, where they come from, all the heritage, and just the land itself — it makes sense to be considered an Afro Latina. Things that have been hidden or denied in the past as a part of our culture is finally — people are being more accepting towards it. My mom has just, she’s been finally complimenting me on my natural hair and it’s amazing to watch her growth. And so it’s been so good to finally be the real me and just myself in my natural state. And have my mother finally embrace it and appreciate it. After some good food and conversation with Gina, I decided that I want to embrace my true roots. Literally. I headed over to Ouidad salon in Santa Monica to meet with Marissa, a curl professional. I was so excited to get all her tips for happy and healthy curls. So I’m gonna use a leave in and then a styling gel. So I’m applying the leave in, mostly to the ends and mid shaft area, and then I’m gonna do a little bit of the gel all over. So I’m gonna have you feel it. This is how it should feel, nice and slippery. That’s how you know you have enough. I kind of finger comb to break through, break up the curls. Once I’ve done that a few times and it feels nice and smooth, shake it to activate it. This is where the diffuser really comes in handy. My hair has never looked so good curly. Thank you so much, Marissa. It’s my pleasure. Yay, I’m so excited. Today has been a day of self-discovery that I didn’t know was possible here in LA. I felt reassured and secure in ways that I wasn’t expecting. From finding out more about where I come from and connecting that to where I am now, I feel like I have a better sense of self and I’m so ready to bring some Dominican flavor into the city of angels. Thank you so much for watching, to see more videos like this click here, and to subscribe click here.