Carolina: Natural in the Dominican Republic

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Who are you and from where do you hail?
Hello everyone! My name is Carolina and I was born in the Dominican Republic. I lived most of my life in Boston, Massachusetts, but I am back in the DR and have been living and working here for over 2.5 years now.

What do you like most about your homeland?
I have to say that the beaches are my favorite part of my country. I also love fresh tropical fruits like mangos, coconut and papaya because, of course, I put them on my hair! The weather here is fantastic, especially since I grew up in one of the coldest states in the US, I really enjoy the heat!

What is the hair norm for Black/Brown women where you live? If natural hair is not the norm, is it becoming more prevalent?
Natural hair is definitely not the norm, quite the contrary. Relaxers, weaves and straight hair reign in the Dominican Republic. Natural hair is becoming more and more popular for sure though. When I went natural a few years ago, I remember seeing maybe three other naturals walking around the city. Now, when I go to the movie theater, the malls, the super market, everywhere I go, I see a natural head and I love it!

What was your hair like during your childhood and teen years? How did you feel about it? How was it perceived by others?
This is a really interesting question because I grew up in the US and my hair was perceived different there than it is here. During most of my childhood years and throughout my teenage years, I rocked relaxed hair, which was perceived by most of my African-American friends as “good hair.” I remember feeling like my hair was always a lot of work, but actually never questioned why I got relaxers, it was such a normal thing.

If you relaxed your hair at some point, why did you (or your guardian) make that decision? When and how long were you relaxed before you decided to go natural?
My mom decided to relax my hair because she claims it was too difficult to manage. I do have a lot of hair and if you are never taught to work with natural hair, the only known solution is relaxing it. I relaxed my hair for over 15 years until I decided to go natural.

What prompted your decision to go natural?
I was seriously just curious at first. I was also tired of going through that process every 2 months. I hated the hair salons, still do. I was ready to accept me for who I was, naturally. It was also an identity thing for me. I wanted to acknowledge and celebrate my blackness and wearing my kinky afro was one way of doing that.

Did you transition or big chop or are you currently transitioning?
I transitioned for less than 2 months and then got a BC. I couldn’t handle the two textures. There was a war in my head and the curls won!

What has your natural hair journey been like? How has your decision been received by family, friends and people in general?
I have to say that my natural journey has been really amazing! I have learned so much about myself and, most importantly, I have learned to love all of me. I have also met lots of interesting people through the different natural online networks. It is incredible, but I have “curlfriends” in Sweden, Brazil, Germany, Spain, Mexico, Columbia, Peru, Canada, USA, India, seriously all over the world!

My friends were super supportive, my family not so much. Some of them still think I’m either crazy or that I am going through a phase and will eventually get a relaxer!

What do you see as the challenges of being natural? Are there any things that you think are unique to where you live? If so, what and why? How do you think they can be overcome?
The most difficult part about being natural here in the DR is the constant harassment I face from complete strangers in the street to colleagues in my field. I have learned to choose my battles wisely and correct people when they say something disrespectful. The other day for example, a colleague noticed that I had flat-twisted my hair and said, “Oh, so you decided to comb your hair today.” I responded that the day my hair was out in a fro it was also “combed.”

Every so often, I talk to random women that say that I have “bad” hair and get them thinking a little about where it came from and why we still use that term. I’ve had some pretty amazing conversations with many different people about hair.

What is your regimen? Do you use/prefer commercial or natural products? Are the products that you like and want to try readily accessible and affordable? Where do you purchase them?
I don’t really have a set regimen, because I am constantly trying new products and new styles. I usually wash my hair twice a week, once with a sulfate-free shampoo (my favorite one right now is SheaMoisture the yellow bottle) and once with either a cleansing cream (CURLS) or co-wash (Tea Tree Tingle Trader Joes). I usually do twist-outs and Bantu knot-outs, but about twice a month I’ll rock a wash and go. Love natural oils and butters. At first, it was almost impossible to find natural hair products here in the DR, but now I run a small store and a few others are distributing different hair products.

Are there salons that cater to natural hair where you live? Are stylists trained in handling natural hair? Do you go to a salon?
Sadly, I don’t really know of any that work with natural hair and keep it in the natural hair form. I know of salons that work with straightening natural hair, but none that will give you a twist-out or natural hairstyles.

What do you enjoy and/or love about being/going natural? Has the journey taught you anything about yourself?
I enjoy so much about being natural. I love being able to embrace the rain, to shower without a shower cap, swimming in the ocean and pools and being able to love what I once thought was a bad hair day look. I have learned to really take care of all of me through this process. I usually put on my hair the same things that I put in my body and to me that is very important. Finally, I think this is an ongoing journey and I really hope to get the opportunity to write about being natural with grey hair from a personal view!

Do you have a Hair Crush?
I have so many hair crushes. Ok for one, YOU! Seriously, I love your buns and how you incorporate so many cute accessories into your styles. I think I have too many, but here are some of my fave blogger’s and famous people’s curls … DailyCurlz, HeyFranHey, Solange (natural wigs and all), Naptural85 (love her texture), Izzy (fearless Elle from Questfortheperfectcurl) Chescaleigh (love her locs), Esperanza Spalding, Lola (Cassidy from naturalselectionsblog) and my friend’s Tasmy and Paloma curls (Gringa Loca Productions).

Who do you follow online?
I follow everyone and their mommas! I follow a lot of the women I mentioned above. If you would like to follow me I’m everywhere too …on Twitter: @Miss_Rizos; on Facebook: Miss Rizos; blog: www.missrizos.com.

You’ll also find my co-hosting every so often on Nappturalite Radio!

Anything else that you’d like to share?
Just embrace you, all of you, straight hair, curly hair, just start loving yourself!

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4 responses »

  1. Carolina, your hair and your skin is gorgeous. You are working that fro and I am extremely jealous that you get to eat fresh tropical fruits and swim all year round! Don’t you dare cut that hair…….

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  2. Thanks ladies! Thank you Shelli for this feature! @Erica, lol, I won’t cut it just yet, I want to rock it long, but I will eventually do another BC, I love how fun and easy short hair is!

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  3. Hey i read your experience and it was awesome!!! Im thinking on going natural too and you motivate me to do so! You look beautiful with your natural hair and all the people that hate on you are just jealous!!! I am dominican too but i was born and raise in the newyork but my parents live in dominican republic but im def going natural!! Thanks for your story!!!

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