Reina Gomez, from wandering hairdresser to influencer, with a dream for (afro) hair

Originally from the Dominican Republic, she calls herself a wandering hairdresser and an Afro hair problem-solver. And she has created a line of products that bears her name.

Reina Gomez, 26, is an influencer and travels around Italy teaching Afro hair care. Dominican on her mother’s side and Venezuelan on her father’s, she moved to Lomagna, in the province of Lecco, when she was 9 years old and has always felt a strong passion for her curls. During her high school years, she started using her Facebook profile to spread the word about Afro hair: “I started working as a hairdresser thanks to Afroricci, the first Italian company dedicated to afro hair care, which had noticed me on social media,” she explains. “I found myself running a series of courses for parents interested in treating their children’s hair in the right way. From there, getting to the salon was a breeze”.

Work and teaching in the salon

Reina Gomez is passionate about her work, which she feels is also a time for women to share and open up: “I come from a culture, the Dominican culture, which is strongly Afro-descendant and from a country where there is a hair salon on every corner. In the Dominican Republic, a child is born and grows up in the salon, it’s an important part of our lives,” she explains. “I still enjoy working as a hairdresser so much because it gives me the opportunity to listen to so many stories, stories that are similar to mine”.

My work has been the best thing that has happened to me: the clients have given me a different vision of Africanness and black culture. I carry their words in my heart and they are a constant source of inspiration for me.

Reina Gomez tells how talking to women helped her to accept herself: “I had to overcome many negative prejudices inherited from the Dominican culture. In Latin America, there is strong contempt for Afro hair and for everything related to Blacks and Africans”, she explains, “but the problem is not only in the Dominican Republic”.

The battle she has chosen to fight

Reina Gomez does not yet have her own salon, nor is she interested in one, as she is driven by another ambition: “When I worked in Milan, there were women who even came from Cagliari to have their hair done. That always flattered me, but it’s not fair”.
I want to be able to help as many hairdressers as possible to treat Afro hair: when I will know that I have helped establish a curly hair salon specialising in Afros in every single region of Italy, then I will think about starting my own salon
Reina Gomez talks about how the lack of Afro hair services in Italy is a reflection of the negative view of African hair. She witnesses black women’s aversion to their hair on a daily basis and she gets very impatient with wigs, an accessory that many of her clients depend on to feel attractive. Nevertheless, she is sure of one thing: change will depend on black communities and on the way they look at Afro hair. “We have to stop thinking of ourselves as beautiful just wearing wigs. We ought to see ourselves as beautiful just the way we are. There is a lot of work to be done”, she explains.
There is a new generation in Italy, resulting from migration. Today we are a minority, but tomorrow we will no longer be.This requires all Italian Afro-descendants to take responsibility for their own history and their image, for the kind of example they want to set to future generations
“It is true that Western standards of beauty are oppressive, but the battle for self-acceptance is a battle that directly relates to us: Black communities”.

A new product line for afro hair

Driven by her values and goals, Reina Gomez has created a line of products for Afro hair: two creams for adults and one for children. “If finding products for curly hair is very difficult, it is impossible to do so for Afro hair. That’s why I’ve created creams exclusively for that”, she explains, adding, “I’ve stopped the production of the adult line and I am now focusing exclusively on the children’s line. Work has slowed down because of the virus, but I’m working hard to get the cream on the market this year”.

This choice has been driven by the frustration that little girls experience with their hair, fuelled by cartoons: “My heart sinks when a little Black girl with very curly hair comes to me and asks for the long braid worn by the main character in Frozen. This is diametrically opposed the hair she has and it is something that I can’t give her”. So what can one tell these little girls? Reina Gomez answers in a tactful and sincere way: “Honey, you are not Princess Elsa from Frozen, you are you. And trust me, you are just as beautiful as she is, you don’t need to look like her”.

Translated by Costanza de Toma