The natural hair movement is now a global phenomenon. While it has mostly encouraged women stateside to embrace their curly strands, other locations are gradually getting onboard. One of those places is Puerto Rico. In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, more women have chosen to show off their natural hair, as NPR recently reported.
Hurricane Maria has been repeatedly quoted as one of the worst natural disasters ever to affect Puerto Rico. Residents island-wide were affected by power outages, and some communities are still suffering from the severe blackout.
Many salons rely heavily on electricity for flat irons, blow dryers, and more. Yet, with the ongoing outages after Hurricane Maria, women were forced to ditch their usual hair-straightening treatments and rock their natural hair textures instead. This led to a boom in new business for OM Studio hair salon because it’s one of the only salons in Puerto Rico that offer styling services for curly hair.
“Maybe only about 10 percent of women in Puerto Rico wear their hair curly,” Laura Om, owner of the OM Studio in San Juan, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Now it’s changing a lot. A lot more people are wearing their hair curly. It’s a movement worldwide, but in Puerto Rico, because of the humid weather, and because of what just happened, many are still left without power, so they had to change the way they wear their hair.”
In Latino culture, wearing your hair in its natural state has a stigma, and New York City-based fitness instructor and proud Puerto Rican Alicia Archer can attest to being personally affected by that mindset. Reflecting on an exchange she had in middle school, she tells Yahoo Lifestyle that a former classmate said to her, “My hair is long and beautiful; your hair is short and nappy!”
Archer wore her hair straight until her senior year of high school, in 2006, when she made the switch to curly hair. “It was a rough transition when I did ‘the big chop’ [a dramatic haircut that consists of chopping off chemically or heat straightened strands]. I didn’t know that I had it in me to do that, especially since I was raised to view long, straight hair as beautiful. People reacted, but I stood my ground and was happy with my decision.”
Om is happy to play an integral role in the expansion of “Maranta Power” in Puerto Rico, which she explains is all about celebrating big, curly hair. For the past 16 years, she has had experience working with curlier-textured hair, but it wasn’t something she learned in a school. The professional developed her skills over time as her clientele’s demand for natural-hair styling increased. “I teach my style here in Puerto Rico, and everybody that works in my salon has been trained by me because I want to guarantee that they know how to treat curly hair,” says Om.
“The thing is, nobody teaches how to style curly hair in schools. You don’t learn that. Most hairdressers prefer to blow-dry and straighten your hair instead of doing a nice curly, natural haircut. Our mission is to teach more people so the whole country can work on curly hair.”
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:
- Afro-Latina recording artist accused of ‘blackface body’ claps back with childhood video
- Who can count all the outfit changes and dollars raised at Jennifer Lopez’s Puerto Rico benefit?
- Photo of woman wrapped in Puerto Rican flag is symbol of island’s strength