These Afro-Latina Beauty Influencers Know How to Celebrate the Wonders of Black Beauty
Afro-Latinas are very much a part of the Black diaspora, yet there's still a major lack of representation. Growing up, I rarely saw Afro-Latinas in television series, movies, books, or advertising campaigns. Although I recall seeing Afro-Cuban singers like Celia Cruz and La Lupe in music, there was still a massive part of the media counting us out. Pop culture consciously spoke to Latinas who saw themselves reflected in celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Shakira, and Mariah Carey. Although these A-listers are glamorous, respectfully, they do not represent the diversity of Black beauty within our community. They cater to Euro-centric beauty standards such as fair skin, light eyes, and straight hair.
Hence Afro-Latinos within the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Honduras, Panama, and Colombia, to name a few, are curating their own spaces. And this is especially true of the hair, makeup, and skin-care industries, where influencers and entrepreneurs are forging a representation path for those who identify with these experiences. Here, we collected the perspectives of Afro-Latinas who turn to Black women for inspiration and are honoring the African diaspora and embracing their Black beauty through their brands and the content they share on social media. Because, as Lulu Cordero points outs, "Our hair, skin, hips, etc., are a part of Black beauty."
When Alexa Dolma came to Houston from Honduras, she did not see any representation of herself among the masses. The influencer identifies as Garifuna, a mix of African and Indigenous ancestry, mainly from the Caribbean coast of Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Belize. Over the years, Dolma tells POPSUGAR, she's grown to be more vocal and confident about celebrating her Afro-Latina roots on her page and Garifuna Bosses, the platform she created to represent and highlight other Garifuna women. Dolma has featured Black women like Kalifa Marin and Eunice Suazo, the founders of Tru3 B3llas, a hair-care brand that offers detangler brushes, edge controls, and bonnets. "I felt the need to do this because, as a blogger, I always came across pages that highlighted other bloggers, and I never saw one who did the same thing for my people," she explains.
As a proud Black Latina, Dolma says she saw herself in the rom-com "Nappily Ever After" featuring Sanaa Lathan. Based on Trisha R. Thomas's novel of the same name, the film illustrates the relationship between Black women and beauty standards imposed on them by society. "This movie shows that our hair is beautiful whether bald or full of coils," the beauty influencer says.
Lulu Cordero, the CEO of Bomba Curls, wasn't always proud of her natural hair. Like many, growing up she heard the word pajón when people referenced her hair, but when she stepped into womanhood, Cordero decided to let go of the relaxer and embrace her natural texture. Being an Afro-Latina from the Dominican Republic, she always knew the beauty benefits of natural ingredients, and that's how she decided to formulate her line of curly-hair products featuring fundamental formulas such as cafecito, rosemary, and more.
"Our hair, skin, hips, etc., are a part of Black beauty. These are all gifts from our ancestors, and by celebrating said gifts, I honor them," says Cordero, who remembers watching Dorothy Dandridge in "Carmen Jones" as a pivotal moment in celebrating Black beauty and representation. The 1950s American musical features an all-Black cast and tells the story of a parachute-factory worker and an Army corporal. "I'd never seen anything like it before. Before that, I'd only seen Latino media, which has a history of erasing us." Seeing the iconic Black actor sport a sultry red lip and epitomize retro glam gave the beauty entrepreneur hope.
Like many Afro-Latinx women, Sherly Tavarez grew up hearing the phrase pelo malo, which means "bad hair." After years of chemically treating her gorgeous curls, the fashion stylist decided to design apparel to debunk the notion of "bad hair" once and for all. The Dominican blogger created Hause of Curls and is now known for her shirts and accessories that read "Pelo Malo Where?" and her feed that features diverse women within the natural hair community.
"My first time appreciating the beauty of my Afro-Latinidad was when I watched the Netflix series 'Celia,'" Tavarez says. "It taught me about my background, roots, what it was like to be an Afro-Latina back in the day, and how much we have had to fight to be seen." She adds: "Back when I was straightening my hair all of the time and honestly being a slave to my hair, I didn't feel like my true self. I felt like I was celebrating a version of myself that other people told me to be. I didn't even know what my natural hair looked like until I stopped applying heat and relaxing my hair. Now I celebrate by sharing my journey to natural hair with others and by building this community we have at Hause of Curls."
Better known as "The Hair Saint" by clients and followers, Ona Diaz-Santin is a celebrity stylist and educator who has dedicated her career to curly hair. Growing up, the CEO of 5 Salon & Spa spent a big part of her childhood at Dominican hair salons. Since her mother was a stylist herself, watching clients come in with curly locks and leave with pin-straight hair became the norm. When she turned 18, she remembers, she turned to God and understood her crown was heaven-sent and that her Dominican heritage is tied to Blackness, so she began to embrace her natural coils. Now, you'll find her sharing inspirational hair stories and career wisdom within the stylist community, and encouraging Black and Brown folx within her community to embrace their roots, physically and spiritually.
"There is nothing rarer, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself," Diaz-Santin says. Among her inspirations to celebrate Black beauty, Diaz-Santin cites working with singers like Chaka Khan and entrepreneur Lisa Price of the hair-care brand Carol's Daughter. She also turns to books like "Pelo Malo No Existe" and "My Hair Comes With Me" by Sulma Arzu-Brown. The author is a proud Garifuna woman from Honduras and celebrates Black beauty through children's books. "One of the things I am most passionate about is teaching our children to love what they see," says the stylist.
Meet Kay Cola, the multitalented founder of OrganiGrowHairCo, who identifies as Black, Puerto Rican, Spanish, Salvadorian, and white. The entrepreneur, Grammy-nominated songwriter, and singer aims to uplift Black women with her hair-care products.
When asked about other Afro-Latinas that inspire her to celebrate Black beauty, the influencer says she is a fan of Amara La Negra. "She is unapologetically herself, honoring both her Afro roots and Latinidad. She wears her hair naturally, and she's a gorgeous darker-melanated Afro-Latina," Cola says.
She was also inspired by the movie "The Photograph," directed by Stella Meghie and starring actors Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield. "I love that film. It's an art romance piece that highlights two darker-skin-toned leads with natural hair. The whole film, from music, casting, directing, and styling, is sexy and Black in all the right ways."
For Shirley Dor, identifying solely as Afro-Latina erases an already-marginalized group with immigrant experiences: people of Haitian descent. She proudly believes in living unapologetically in her Caribbean and African roots. As a content creator who focuses on skin care and intimacy, she began looking for other Haitians to relate to and found herself stuck. Unfortunately, there was no platform. Taking matters into her own hands, she launched Haitians Who Blog. "I was inspired by the Haitian writers of the world having a hard time sharing their story in spaces they were not sure they would be heard," Dor explains. "This birthed the first online community catering to increasing the visibility of Haitian creatives, a brave space for Haitian bloggers, creatives, and influencers." The site also serves as a bridge between brands and content creators to form partnerships for inclusion and diversity.
"I attribute much of my beauty to my mother, who constantly reminded me to put some powder on my face, earrings to bring out my facial features, and red lipstick," Dor says. "I celebrate Black beauty by living unapologetically in my Caribbean and African roots. Both Haiti and Africa have taught me to embrace the very definition of kinks in my hair, the width of my nostrils, the plump nature of my lips, and my eyes' almond shape. Embracing these has allowed me to develop a beauty standard that meets my needs rather than the needs of society."
The influencer is a huge fan of books that highlight Black history, which for her is a celebration of Black beauty. For inspiration, Dor recommends The Adventures of Yaya by Angie Bell and Tico Armand. The book series features a beautiful Haitian girl blossoming and embracing the rich history, culture, and language of the world's first Black republic. As an advocate for intimacy, the Haitian influencer turns to "Black Girl in Love (With Herself): A Guide to Self-Love, Healing, and Creating the Life You Truly Deserve" by Trey Anthony. The book serves as an exploration and reclamation of Black Girl Magic with each turning page.