I was saddened a few days ago to learn about the passing of beauty icon, Mirta de Perales. The Cuban cosmetics guru was admired by all of us when I was a child. Everyone aspired to be a "Chica Mirta' which required straight, bouncy, manageable, shiny hair. Unlike the lucky girl above, being groomed by the Capillary Maestra herself at the Miss Piel Canela Pageant (what could be better than a Miss Nutmeg Colored Skin Pageant?), my hair was not manageable, stick straight or bouncy. It is heavy, coarse, inconsistently wavy, static-y, and prone to expansion like a loofah sponge under water.
Intimidating to dozens of hair stylists, my hair elicited gasps and cries of "What will I do with this?" Or, as one woman in Spain told me "tu tienes pelo de negra," which my current styling goddess, who finally "gets" my texture and style goals (basically, to look like a woman in a Christian Schad painting or better yet, Isabella Blow), calls it "a cross between black hair and Asian hair." Yeeessss.
Pathologized as a beauty defect by my severe grandmother, who was obsessed with looking European, and as light as possible, my hair and I were subjected to strict discipline. Not requiring the dreaded lye, my hair could be "tamed" at home. Which in a way made it even more "shameful" - they couldn't even take me to "el biuti" (beauty parlor) to handle the situation. They had to take care of it at home, on the DL. The hair required hot coconut oil mixed with eggs massaged into my scalp, followed by vigorous pulling at the hair from various sides at once by a couple of aunts, who twirling the clumps into a big round brush applied 20000-degree heat temperature blow driers to it. Ouch.
Here is a fabulous photo gallery of Mirta's career