photo: Paulina Rojas

Growing up, my curly red hair was the center of attention, people would always ask if they could touch it, while at the same time asking my mother if she had dyed it. Her response was always the same, “No, that’s her natural hair color.” Many had a hard time believing that a child with two Dominican parents could have such a hair color. 

Curious kids in my mostly Dominican neighborhood in New York City would always ask, “Are you sure that you're Dominican?” They would also call me names, carrot head, was their favorite. 

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I really couldn't understand what the big deal with my hair was and part of me wanted to have brown hair like everyone else. I would often ask my mother if anyone else in our family had red hair. She would always shake her head no and tell me that it probably came from our ancestors, who were from the north of Spain. 

In high school, I dyed my hair a range of colors. From black to brown and even blonde. The cycle of colors continued into my early college years. One day I bought a bleach kit at a pharmacy and gave myself hot pink streaks. Still, none of the colors I had tried throughout the years felt like they fit me. It was time to go back to basics. 

I bought a bottle of red hair dye that was a shade or two brighter than my own. The next day at school, I walked around with a new sense of confidence and got a ton of compliments from my classmates.

My family members were also happy that I had gone back to my natural color. As I grew into early adulthood my the vibrancy of my hair started to fade and my hair turned into a light reddish brown, which has led me to enlist the help of my favorite colorist to get the shade I had as a child. 


Abuela's first grandchild was a ginger.

photo: Paulina Rojas

I look back on all the years I spent trying to be someone else and now have forgiven myself and confidently embrace my hair color. I have come to terms that people will always be curious about it. And, the questions don't make me feel awkward anymore. Now that I am in my mid-twenties, I've learned to completely accept myself.

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We live in a time where pastels are the new hair trend and my hair doesn’t stand out in the way that it used to. Although every now and then I do get urges to try something new. I always end up sticking to red. To me, it is more than the pigment of my hair. It is a part of my personal history and I couldn't be prouder of it.