Afro-Latina Hair Stylist Ona Diaz-Satin Talks Demystifying ‘Pelo Malo’

In the last decade, the curly hair movement has dominated the beauty industry with the rise of diverse influencers and curly cuts being the latest trend

Ona Diaz-Satin hair saint

Courtesy of Ona Diaz-Satin / photo by: Robert Vasquez

In the last decade, the curly hair movement has dominated the beauty industry with the rise of diverse influencers and curly cuts being the latest trend. Yet despite this sudden urge for consumers to fully appreciate and embrace their natural hair, the beauty industry was and in some avenues remains informed by the Eurocentric male gaze. Specifically within the Latinx community, as many of us remember our childhood trips to the local hair salon and slowly catching our curls burn under the heat of the secadora. There was an underlying emotional and also physical misery to the routine, and in spite of that we gleamed at no longer having “pelo malo.”

“I think back then perception was everything…If you look well done, and if your hair is done and your makeup is smacked on. It has shifted very much so now because people are being very smart about where they spend their money,” celebrity hairstylist, curl expert & owner of 5 Salon & Spa, Ona Diaz-Satin tells HipLatina.

salon 5 spa ona diaz-satin

Photo: Courtesy of Ona Diaz-Satin

The  Afro-Latina business owner also known as “The Hair Saint” talks about the truth behind building a valuable business that goes beyond just a curly cut. Establishing a safe haven for any and everyone with curls, Diaz-Satin shares how avoiding internal negativity, and education have and continue to be critical for her business. “I think the most rewarding experience is when you have people crying in your chair and their bawling because of how beautiful they feel, finally feeling accepted, and me being able to guide them in that direction.”

It Takes A Village

Before Diaz-Satin became the renowned hair stylist that she is today, the CEO of 5 Salon & Spa had a long linage of Dominican hairdressers within her family that has paved the way for the do’s and many of the don’ts of running a business. “My mom was a salon owner, she owned 4 hair salons, and I feel like she worked harder not necessarily smarter. She’ll (Ona’s mom) tell me, ‘I never thought to do it that way,’ and ya know things evolve but I learned almost what not to do from my mom”. This learning curve became a generational teaching moment that had shifted both Diaz-Satin’s and her mother’s perspective on the ways running a business can constantly mature. Diaz-Satin does note that hard work is at the core of her business, but more so it is the community of people aiding her along the way. “I have a support system I know I need and I always say I am not self-made. I know that God has my back one hundred and one percent, but He also puts the people that need to be having my back in my life and I am forever grateful because I know I need help.”

Don’t Believe that Negative Talk

With 30 percent of Latina-led companies closed during the pandemic, along with 16 percent of Latino-led businesses, it has become disheartening for current and potential Latina entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams. While the external odds may seem out of one’s favor, it is typically the negative self-talk that stops many of us from building an empire of our own. Diaz-Satin advises that you “don’t believe that negative voice because sometimes we’re raised in an environment that almost teaches you to be submissive. I am not saying being domesticated is a bad thing, but I think sometimes we fall victim to it.”  Diaz-Satin  is proud of the many hats she puts on that inadvertently support each other, hinting at the ways gender roles and machismo can at times hinder Latina’s understanding of our own possibilities.“I am a wife, I’m a mom, I’m a home keeper, and then there’s I’m a boss, I’m an owner, I’m Latina, and I can do this.” Harnessing her confidence and faith in God has truly guided the Dominican curl expert through many, if not all, of the hardships that come with being a business owner. This self-assurance had not always come easy, she bears in mind that asking instead of expecting a “no” was one of the best lessons she has learned. “Ask, it’s a no for right now not a no forever. Brush it off and keep on moving.”

Education is Key

Now that Diaz-Satin  has made a name for herself, she understands how pivotal education is to keeping customers satisfied. Especially within the curly hair community, Diaz-Satin has realized that there are certain skill sets that allow a customer to not only learn more about their hair but other internal traumas. The entrepreneur proclaims, “every day is like “no that’s not true, let me school you, let me help you,” and I think that’s very rewarding, getting to educate people and seeing how they’re amazed by themself.” As she continues to provide her clients with the tools they need to value their inner and outer beauty, Ona is excited for the future of 5 Salon & Spa and the curly hair movement. She’s currently working on a curriculum, an academy and a second location in the Hamptons. With these ambitions and entrepreneurs like Diaz-Satin paving the way, it has become hopeful and revolutionary for Latina entrepreneurs to dream beyond what society expects us to reach.

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