One fact of life as a woman of color is: it’s hard to figure out how to deal with our hair.
We all have various types of hair, and many Latinxs got to watch their mothers, sisters, or aunties fix theirs. Often, these are rituals we keep with us forever.
For 27-year-old Los Angeles Native Julissa Prado, growing up with big, curly hair would become a massive journey into self love, appreciation of her culture, and, most recently, the creation of Rizos Curls, a hair company specializing in women with beautiful curly hair.
I sat down with Julissa in her Central LA home to discuss growing up in LA’s large Latinx immigrant population, the many hairstyles she experimented with throughout her life, and, of course, what it means to be a Latinx entrepreneur.
Shop Latinx: Where does the name Rizos Curls come from?
Julissa Prado: I wanted the name to be bilingual just like me. Rizos means “curls,” so we are saying “Curls Curls.” I wanted it to represent the modern Latina. We have these two culturas and we have a variety of hair textures from curls, straight wavy, kinky, whatever it is. It represents the multicultural American that so many of us are.
S: When did you decide to do this? Has it been a long time coming?
J: I have always dreamed of doing this! Even as a little girl, I always felt like Latinas are often left out of the curly hair conversation. The majority of my family and community has wavy to kinky curly hair. I felt nothing out there was serving our community.
I would go to stores and see products that would promise a lot of things for curly hair, I would save my money to try it all, but nothing would work. Even curly hair ads deemed “for Latinos” weren’t actually for Latinos; companies would just translate their preexisting ads to Spanish, and hope we wouldn’t notice. We knew and it didn’t fit us. So at 15 years old, I started saving my money so I could one day create Rizos Curls.”
S: So this has been planned a long time!
J: Yes! Curly hair has always been my passion. I always tried to learn everything about it; I’ve tried every product out there. Learning to love my hair meant learning to love myself, my culture, where I’m from and so on. I went through every phase imaginable with my hair; I hid it in a tight, gelled-down ponytail, even straightened with a clothes iron! I did everything to my hair not trying to accept it. I was also going through a phase where I wasn't proud of my culture. There was even a point when I was embarrassed that my parents couldn't speak English.
S: Yes, like an identity crisis.
J: Exactly. Part of the journey was being proud of me. Yes, my parents speak Spanish, and you see them out here hustling, working hard to give our family everything they didn’t have. Now it is something that makes me proud.
S: How does it feel to have younger girls with your curls look up to you?
J: Growing up as a Latina there weren't many Latina role models in the media for us to look up to. Selena of course was a big one for all of us, but we had limited options. So this is something that is very important to me. Social media has made it easier for young Latinx girls to be aware of more Latinxs out there doing many different amazing things. Growing up, I felt like Latinas were expected to fit into a box. And if you didn’t fit into this box, you felt like you didn’t belong and something was wrong with you. In American culture usually the only popular Latinas we hear of are models, actresses or singers. For such a long time I assumed those were the only options Latinas had if they wanted to be successful, I didn’t know what else was out there. So I love that online, like on Shoplatinx, we are now able to see examples of such a wide variety of bad ass Latinas following their passions. So it’s truly an honor if anybody can relate to my story and it helps them in any way believe in themselves and their dreams.
I always got my inspiration from seeing my community hustling every day no matter what. One thing that people miss about Latinos is that we are so entrepreneurial. No matter how much my people have they always find a way. From the elotero on the corner, he is the owner and CEO of his business! The raspado man, the lady selling flowers….Whatever it is, Latinos have this spirit of hustling, being our own boss and giving good quality service.
S: To go back to the younger girls and self love, people don’t realize how damaging european beauty standards actually are. It only serves that people that fit into that image…
J: Yes exactly. I will never forget when I was 7 and my mom took me to get a haircut, she said “you can pick any haircut you want.” so i flipped through the hair magazine from the salon, of course no one looked like me. Finally I opened it to a page with a white blonde child with long straight blonde hair and I told the hairdresser “I want this!” she looked at me all brown with my coily short curls and laughed and laughed and said “ I couldn’t do that even if i tried!” Even at such a young age, I subconsciously aspired to have eurocentric features.
S: That’s so interesting that even at a young age you felt your hair wasn’t enough, that even at 7 you felt inadequate because of these eurocentric ideals we have in this country…
J: Yes exactly. It wasn’t until high school time that I decided I would learn to love every part of me including my curly hair. But even then I would straighten the roots and leave the rest curly. It looked crazy! But I was still scared, so I left a little bit straight. It was my security blanket. And to be honest i stopped using that security blanket only within the last 4 years.
S: Let’s get into Rizo Curls! How did you get the formula you use now?
J: It took me 4 years to create the formula. I worked with 2 different labs within those 4 years. The first lab, I wasn’t completely satisfied with the formulas, then i found the second lab and it was a blessing. All the stars aligned. It was a lab owned by a Nigerian family. It was the best experience, making these products was a black and brown collaboration. I learned a lot from them, ingredients and teachings that they had from their community; and i brought alot of teachings and ingredients from my community as well. It took us two years of a lot of trial and error, to create a product that worked for both of our communities. It was an amazing experience to work with another culture that values quality ingredients, like oils and butters. These are the ingredients that will actually care for your hair.
S: Lastly, this is a product for everyone, not just curly haired girls….
J: Yes of course! I had one review recently and it said “I am Japanese, my hair is very straight, but i have dry scalp and this shampoo is everything!” So it’s really nice to see stuff like that. Also men! Men have been leaving awesome reviews. I love that Rizos is working on everyone!
You can purchase Julissa's haircare products here.