Stylist and Salon owner — Arlene Rivera is a controversial natural curls entrepreneur. A curls-preneur. And a self-proclaimed “hair doctor.” Her professional philosophy on how to grow and maintain beautiful natural curls and waves is that race or ethnicity does not matter when it comes to understanding curly and wavy hair. This position is controversial because it is different from what most of the haircare industry says about curly hair.
“It is actually controversial for most cultures. The challenge about the curls is about ethnicity. And the focus on the type of curls — Type A, Type B, Type C, it is a way of marketing. So I am controversial because what the main street market says (about curls) is different from me.”
Controversial curly hair philosophy
Here comes my philosophy — I look at the hair. And what the hair is telling me. Not at the person that is wearing it. I never sell a product. It’s not about you buying. It’s about you knowing. By the time you leave my chair you can shop wherever you want. But you have the knowledge to be victorious in your journey with your curls.Arlene Rivera — Owner and founder of “Maxine’s Shears and Wigs, Salon and Barbershop.
However, Rivera was much influenced by her heritage. A rich, culturally fluid Puerto Rican ancestry.
First, there is her upbringing as a Domestic Third Culture Kid.
A Domestic TCK is someone who moves in-between cultures within the borders of one’s own country.
Rivera was born in New York, USA. Her parents — both Puerto Rican, looked ethnically different from each other. One parent had dark skin. The other parent had light skin — as did Rivera and her sister. Part of the rich and complex cultural history of the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico.
Rivera was a young girl during the racially tumultuous 1960s, USA as a result of political, economic, and social unrest.
During this time it was problematic for a dark-skinned woman like her mother to be seen with children that some might have viewed as Caucasian. And things became uncomfortable for the family as a result.
Puerto Rican cultural influence on hair care
So, Rivera’s parents decided to sell their two hair salons in New York. The salons were named after Rivera’s sister Jeannette. Rivera would continue the tradition one day and name her salon after her daughter too.
But before that the young Rivera family moved back to their ancestral home in Puerto Rico when Rivera was 4-years-old.
According to the “The History Channel” and Rivera’s family’s own historical recollection, Puerto Rico has a rich multicultural heritage.
First, the island of Puerto Rico was originally named — “Borinquén” by its indigenous population — the “Taíno” who called themselves “Boricua” back then.
Many Puerto Ricans still refer to themselves as “Boricua” today.
After the Italian explorer — Christopher Columbus claimed the inhabited island of Borinquén for the European country of Spain it was later renamed “San Juan Bautista” in 1493.
By 1521the island was renamed — Puerto Rico.
The U.S. Army held the island of Puerto Rico in 1898 during the brief Spanish-American War. Spain ceded Puerto Rico and other island territories to the USA at the end of the war. Making Puerto Rico a U.S. territory. And its people citizens of the United States of America.
In conclusion, Puerto Rico saw the ethnicity and culture on the island change throughout its history. Over the decades, the Boricua bloodline was mixed with colonial Spaniards, African slaves, French, Syrian, Dutch and Asian immigrants, and more.
Today, the people of Puerto Rico have embraced their multiculturalism. So much so the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture’s official seal depicts a Taino Indian, Spanish conquistador, and an African slave.
Rivera’s own multiethnic, culturally mobile life shaped her perspective on hair.
In Puerto Rico, “90-percent of the families look like mine.” With some members that are light skinned and with blue eyes. Others with darker skin and brown eyes.” — Rivera said.
Puerto Ricans are three things
When we go to school Puerto Ricans are actually taught that we are three things:Arlene Rivera — Owner and founder of “Maxine’s Shears and Wigs, Salon and Barbershop.
“European. We don’t choose a country because we have so much influence from all over Europe.
We are black.
And we are native-Indian — Taíno.
You are born. You are raised not denying that in your blood you have all this richness. It is not something bad. It’s actually a flavor of cultures.”
Puerto Rico has over 500-years of multiculturalism.
Rivera’s heart burned to grow and style beautiful hair. Long or short. Straight, wavy, or curly. She speaks with great compassion for the women and men of every ethnicity, nationality, or religion who felt ashamed and struggled with their curly hair. In part-2 of curl-preneur, we go deeper into Rivera’s controversial philosophy on how to have beautiful and healthy curly and wavy hair.