I’ll never forget the first time I had the pleasure of meeting Carolina Contreras, a.k.a Miss Rizos, the woman behind one of the first natural hair salons in the Dominican Republic. Miss Rizo’s salon opened its door in 2014, creating a safe space for women who needed a place to go if they wanted to embrace their natural curls. Contreras has since been a very powerful voice and advocate, in the natural hair community. Women from all over the country fly to the DR just to get their curls styled and cared for by her, which is why my first question to her when we met this past fall was if she would ever open a salon here in NYC — a city with an ever-growing Dominican population. She couldn’t tell me much then but with her business continuing to thrive, Contreras had already realized it was time to expand — she’s officially bringing her salon to NYC and curly girls can rejoice!
Contreras announced the expansion of her Miss Rizos salon in NYC at a Beautycon event this spring, where she was recognized by SheaMoisture as a digital leader. In an effort to be accessible to the community, Contreras plans on opening the doors of her new salon in Washington Heights, a.k.a Little Dominican Republic.
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Traté de buscar la “foto perfecta” de esta noche pero tenía los ojos cerrados en casi TODAS! La falta de sueño y el estrés que he tenido estas últimas semanas ha sido difícil y no importó ni la ropa ni el maquillaje, se me notó. Pero también se notó mi felicidad y mi inmenso agradecimiento esta noche mágica que fui otorgada este hermoso reconocimiento en #TheBeauties. Amé representarlas, mis dominicanas, mis afrolatinas, mi gente que viene a este país a buscársela y triunfar. Pero también amé que en esta ocasión tuve la gran oportunidad de anunciarle al mundo a través de una plataforma como @beautycon, que yo traía una gran idea de Santo Domingo, @missrizossalonrd y que la implementaré aquí como @missrizossalonus. De mi país salen cosas buenas y esta idea es una de ellas. Que orgullo representarte República Dominicana y representarlas a todas ustedes, abriendo caminos como lo hicieron los que vieron antes que yo, para que después y junto conmigo sigamos creando más oportunidades. ____________________ Oh boy was it hard to find “the perfect” picture where I didn’t have my eyes closed from the lack of sleep and the level of stress I have experienced these past few weeks! No makeup could hide this! But what was also evident, was my happiness and immense sense of gratitude for this magical night where I was given this very special award #thebeauties. I loved being able to represent my Dominicanas, my afrolatinas, the immigrants who come to this country in search for opportunities. But I also loved that I was announcing publicly for the first time at an event like @beautycon that I was bringing something dope from Santo Domingo @missrizossalonrd to NYC @missrizossalonus! Good things come out of the Dominican Republic and this is one of them. I’m proud to represent my country and all of you, to open new doors as it was done for me and to lift as we continue to climb! Thank you @sheamoisture and thank you @beautycon! #doitafraid #hazloconmiedo #missrizos #carolinacontreras #missrizospremios
What sets Miss Rizo’s salon apart from other curly hair salons in the city, is that the focus isn’t just on styling and the final result. Contreras’ mission has always been to help empower her clients and leave them feeling “worthy, important, beautiful, and powerful.” For a Dominicana especially, who grew up hating her curls and being told she has “pelo malo,” a visit to Miss Rizos could be a healing experience, an opportunity to erase the Eurocentric lies society has told her about her natural hair and her beauty as a woman of color. Contreras gives her clients the opportunity to be the expert and to feel safe taking up space.
“Although there are other salons that cater to curly hair, what makes us so special is that we operate as a purpose-driven company, we make you the expert of your own hair and we are a place that celebrates curly hair,” Contreras tells HipLatina. “I wanted to open in New York City, specifically in Uptown Manhattan, because there are not spaces that specifically cater to curly hair there… Our communities are rapidly changing, rents are going up, the landscape of business is changing and so bringing a space that celebrates us is important.”
With loyal clients of hers flying out to the DR on the weekends just to get the special Miss Rizos treatment, it only made sense she’d open another curl haven here. “About 5-8 percent of our clientele are women who traveled to the Dominican Republic either just to visit us, or would schedule their visit during their vacation there,” she says. “A lot of women who return to their curly hair miss the feeling of going to a salon and having that space to vent, share, celebrate and spend time with other women. We want to bring this back and enhance that experience by providing women with a space to network and to share and obtain resources.”
And trust that you will find all the offerings they have in the Dominican Republic salon location, at the NYC location. Contreras aims to make it a one-stop-shop for curls. Along with their famous curl cuts (which range from $45 to $150), the new salon will also offer consultations, wash and go styling, box braids, transition styles, and so much more.
She even plans on decorating the space similar to the DR location, keeping it earthy and minimalistic. “The inspiration comes from not only our commitment to creating sustainable and eco-friendly practices but also maintaining a minimal space where the curls and pajones are the protagonists,” she says.
Contreras plans on opening the salon sometime before January 2020. In fact, you can technically already buy your first appointment or gift a service to a close friend or young girl. She’s using Indiegogo to raise money for her new location, a similar method she used to allow the curly community to help her fund the first salon. So far, she’s already raised $10,705 out of a $50,000 goal. I’m confident we’ll be seeing the new Miss Rizos salon’s doors open sooner rather than later. Her salon is so much more than just curl styling, it’s an opportunity to give back and empower our community — and we can always use more of that.