Ada Rojas and Rocío Mora are beauty bloggers with tens of thousands of followers on their YouTube channels dedicated to discussing natural hair care. But just a few years ago, the two Afro-Latinas were in a similar place as their fans: deeply anxious about their coils, which they sometimes considered aesthetically inferior to unbending tresses, and unsure how to manage them.
Hoping to help their subscribers through their own natural hair love journeys, Rojas and Mora launched Rizos on the Road, a six-city tour that educates and empowers curly-haired Latinas on how to care for their ringlets.
“It was a celebration of curls,” Mora, the Mexican-hondureña behind RisasRizos, told mitú of each three-hour tour stop. “There are natural hair communities all the time, but for Latinas, it’s very rare. So this was special.”
Starting in April, Rojas and Mora drove vehicles provided by Kia, the tour’s titled sponsor, through the streets of Miami, New Orleans, Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, bringing their hair gospel to more than 770 people across the nation.
At each event, the tour’s resident hairstylist, Ona Diaz-Santin, performed a live haircut demonstration to educate women with curly hair about different styles for their texture.
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“A lot of the girls don’t know what to ask for when they get to a salon, so we wanted to show them some of the best styles for them,” the New Orleans-based Mora said. The women also held contests for free haircuts and recommended hairdressers to attendees in each city.
This part of the affair was particularly important to Rojas.
Growing up in a single-parent household of six children in New York, the dominicana Rojas remembers her mother couldn’t afford to take her to the beauty salon each week, so she had to work with pharmacy products – which some of us know don’t really cut it.
They didn’t suffice. The gels hardened her hair and the greases left it oily. “It was a pain to deal with. I never understood why I had to do extra stuff to make it look decent when others could wake up and be fine,” Rojas, 27, said. It wasn’t until she was clicking through YouTube’s natural hair videos while in college that she started to learn of the myriad products on the market that could keep her curls healthy and beautiful — some of this merchandise was given to attendees in gift bags.
“I finally learned how to take care of my hair, and it was life-changing,” Rojas, who went on to start her own blog/vlog All Things Ada in 2009, said.
Thanks for all the love on my 2am IG stories ❤️✨ Been feeling the weight of everything on my plate lately and was super unmotivated to do anything even though these are the blessings I've been praying for. Saw the dopest video of @johnhenrystyle come up story and listened to my fav Kanye track (Last Call – my go to when I feel like shit) and was instantly reminded that I can't slow down now. There's no time to be tired, there's no time to complain, there is no time to be ungrateful. The dream is free but the hustle is sold separately and you better be ready and come correct or don't come at all. Next time someone asks me how I'm doing I promise my answer won't be "tired". If you're reading this KEEP GRINDING. . "I ain't play the hand I was dealt, I changed my cards I prayed to the skies and I changed my stars…" . ?PC: @thugnanny_ Have you read her latest blog post btw? ? . #allthingsada #entrepreneur
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Following the live haircut demonstrations, curl guidance and beauty tips, Rojas and Mora held panel discussions on what it means to be Afro-Latina in the natural hair movement.
The level of love that was activated at last night's #rizosontheroad was amazing. It was a pleasure to share a stage with this group of magic makers. @allthingsada @risasrizos thank you for birthing this amazing vision for women of color to share a safe space of empowerment. #afrolatina #naturalhair #blackgirlmagic #latina
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During these conversations, the pair talked about how their families’ ideas of “pelo malo” and “pelo bueno” taught them to view their coils as a burden, an unsightly part of themselves that needed to be fixed if they were going to be considered beautiful or respectable, and how the online natural hair movement helped shift the way they thought about their hair and, in turn, themselves.
“I learned about the history and roots of the African diaspora, and how our hair is a direct lineage to our ancestors,” Rojas said.
For Mora, 29, this was without-a-doubt the most emotional part of the event.
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Growing up mixed-race and multicultural, she sometimes felt like parts of her identity weren’t welcomed on either of her Mexican or Honduran sides, particularly her blackness. Despite her darker hue and afro-textured hair, she, like her family, never identified as black or Afro-Latina, but that began to change when she started her natural hair journey.
“It was more than hair. It was learning about my roots and my story. It was rediscovering my identity,” Mora said.
Her greatest hope for the tour is that it becomes a catalyst for attendees’ own pro-black, self-love awakening, one that also sparks dialogue about afro-latinidad among their families.
While the tour’s last stop was in August, the duo would like to bring back Rizos on the Road next year.
Wait a second ✋? I feel like I'm still dreaming! #RizosOnTheRoad New Orleans was phenomenal and everything we could have asked for! We've been raising awareness and challenging what people think and know about Afro-Latinas y Gracias a Dios, we share the same philosophy as our partner @kialatino ?? Just like they invite their consumers to discover the new Kia, we want to invite our followers to discover the new women in them ? two cities down and four more to go! Next stop ➡️ #HOUSTON Shoutout to our #ROTRteam @allthingsada @_thehairsaint_ @marissapina and @thugnanny_ (who by the way took this shot and had me feeling like a superstar) #risasrizostravels #CurlsandKia
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They hope that with more Latina-centered natural hair events, ideas of “pelo malo” and “pelo bueno” in Latino homes can fade away into history, and more girls can grow up being encouraged to celebrate their coils rather than loathe them.
“To see a new wave of women embracing curly hair, and have them be Latina and proud of their afro roots, is beautiful. To be a part of that with Rizos on the Road, being able to create that environment, is so overwhelming, amazing and inspiring,” Rojas said.