” We don’t believe in bad hair, just bad hair care.”
This is a motto that Mariel Meija, founder of Pink Root Hair Products goes by for the mission of her brand. Let’s be real, growing up Afro-Latina this is something we all needed to hear.
As an Afro-Dominican, Meija herself understands what it’s like to have years of damaged hair following relaxers most of her life, caused by chemical and heat damage.
There is a stigma that embracing your kinks and coils is attached to a phrase we all may have heard before ” Pelo Malo”. Meija is redefining what it means to have healthy and nurturing hair and created her own products to protect and improve their client’s hair.
Her products are made lots of TLC and Tumbao, to ensure her community is not only utilizing organic products but loving their natural hair texture.
Since 2019, Meija has been navigating her way through the beauty industry empowering and encouraging women that look like her to embody their hair.
Talk to me about growing up Afro-Dominican, have you ever faced any challenges with your identity?
Growing up Dominican, but being born and raised in the United States, I think definitely caused me to question my identity at some point or another and this was reinforced through my lived experiences. People would question my Blackness or my Latinidad because you just did not see people like me being represented. It wasn’t until I got a little older that I was able to fully understand my background and who I was.
How important was celebrating your Afro-Latinidad? Did you always identify with the term?
I learned the term Afro-Latino/a through my studies in university when I was taking Latin and Caribbean history courses and this was when I felt I finally understood where I sort of fit in. Growing up in Latin culture, things can get very white-washed as far as representation so I never felt I quite fit into “Latinidad” and learning about Afro-Latinos and the history of the term really helped enlighten me.
There has been antiblackness and colorism that has taken place within the Dominican community, what steps do you think can be taken to change the narrative?
I think that more than ever it’s important to hold space to have these tough conversations within our community. There is so much to unlearn and unpack within not just the Dominican community but the Latin community as a whole to get to a better place collectively and these types of conversations start at home. Tell your Abuela to stop calling you “greñua” when you wear your hair naturally. Tell your Tia to stop using the term “mejorar la raza” when talking about who you’re dating life. Don’t just sit in silence or fake laugh when you know something is wrong for the sake of not making them uncomfortable.
There has been a stigma of self-hatred towards coarser and kinky hair within the Latinx community, known as Pelo Melo. How was your relationship with your hair growing up?
Growing up in the Latin community, I viewed my natural hair very negatively and it was here that I formed a toxic relationship with my hair. I started relaxing my hair at a very young age because I was taught that I had “pelo malo” and I needed to strive for better-looking hair to fit a eurocentric beauty standard that very few of us could even achieve in the first place. I remember that weekly salon visits were non-negotiable in my household because textured hair was looked down upon and this created a lot of insecurity for me growing up.
What encouraged you to transition your hair journey from relaxing your hair?
I think the turning point for me was when I had just started college and felt extremely insecure about how damaged my hair was from all the years of relaxers. I was already in a transitional phase in my life, to begin with so the current state of my hair made things feel so much worse. It was then that I decided that enough was enough and it was time to unlearn all the ideas I grew up with about my hair and learn to care for it exactly as it grew out of my head.
What triggered your launch for Pink Root Products?
Pink Root Products was really created out of this frustration with my own hair. After so many years of using relaxers and heat, I decided that I was going to go natural to try and fix what I had left of my hair. This eventually led me to create my own formulas in my mother’s Bronx apartment to help regain my hairs health without having to commit to a big chop, I began to notice a dramatic change in my hair, and I decided that I wanted to share these formulas with others because I knew I wasn’t the only one who could benefit from them.
Did you feel a lack of representation for curly hair within the hair industry?
Most definitely! When I was young I think curly hair was super unpopular in most cultures and was therefore looked upon negatively. It wasn’t until about 2012-2014 when I was already a young adult that curly hair started to become more acceptable and people became more vocal about the acceptance of natural hair in the workspace, beauty space, fashion space, and more.
How do you hope to use your hair product brand to help redefine your own beauty standards?
I hope to be able to reclaim our beauty through my brand. For so long, up until recently, European beauty standards had a chokehold on so many of us and I think today the focus is really about reclaiming what we were told was undesirable about us and recognizing that it’s actually the best parts of us.
How did you know your product was perfect before putting it into the world?
I worked on Pink Root’s formulas for a very long time before putting them out into the world. I started making my own formulas in 2015 and didn’t officially give Pink Root a proper launch till 2019. I went through so many different ingredients and formulas before landing on the ones we currently have now. We take our time and adjust as needed to ensure efficiency. We constantly take in feedback from customers and supporters to make sure we’re giving them what they need.
Did you face any hardship in the creative process of Pink Roots?
I would say that the launch process was the hardest part for me as I really didn’t know much about branding, packaging, marketing, etc. at the beginning of my journey. My area of expertise really was the formulas themselves so I decided to just incorporate that into our core values. We are very formula-focused and truly care about the health of your curls so we really wanted to get that message across to our audience through our branding which eventually helped me put the final pieces of the puzzle together to officially launch the company. I worked with people who were just as passionate about our mission and that helped us tell our story.
What do you want your customers to take from your product and what advice may you have for anyone wanting to launch their own hair products?
I would love for Pink Root to be seen as a brand that cares about your hair and not just makes another dollar. We’ve spent years developing our formulas and there’s a reason for that. We want you to feel like your hair is truly thriving when you use our formulas and it’s not just another bandwagon to jump on.
My biggest advice for anyone looking to break into the beauty industry is to only do work you’re passionate about. There are tons of brands out there selling skincare, hair care, makeup, etc. so when you’re just trying to make a quick buck consumers can most definitely sense that so be sure that you’re doing your research, tell your story from a genuine place, and be ready to be the voice of your brand.