Gina Rivera: Love every strand

Gina Rivera has been breaking the natural hair care mold since 1985. Photo by Aaron Rubin/The Courier

Hair is a sensitive topic for many people from all walks of life, but a lot for many women of color. Inadequate training, expertise, and a lack of diversity in the hairstyling industry have persisted in a segregated industry where tightly coiled Afro-textured hair has gone untended. However, Gina Rivera, owner of Hair’s Talent Salon, has broken the mold since opening her business in 1985.

Through her studies and her work in salons in New Haven and Branford, she worked on all hair textures, but took the opportunity to pursue her predilection for tightly coiled feminine hairstyles, again dismantling the designs precedents of beauty.

“It wasn’t until 1999 that I started using the Japanese hair straightening system, and they said it was not recommended on tight curly hair. And I proved to them that they had wrong,” says Gina. “In 2012 the natural hair movement started and all women stopped using chemicals. Because I loved Japanese straightening chemicals so much and saw what it was doing to their hair, and it was healthy, shiny, and soft, I said, “I have to find something,” because these women are going to start looking for an alternative when they start [restyling], They’re going to have natural hair for years, and it’s a lot of work. So I decided to perfect my technique.

Since then, her namesake “GinaCurl” techniques have been successfully and positively received by women who visit her multi-ethnic salon from around the world, as a different approach to previous hard relaxers, and a curling and straightening expertise that has left many women. of the feeling of color excluded from healthy hair styling and care, which would allow them to sport their hair naturally.

“I would say that throughout my career, 80% of my clientele are women of color. Only recently, in 2020, we only do the GinaCurl variation, Gina straight and my Japanese straightening here,” she says.

The international impact of Gina’s disruptive status quo style has attracted clients from all over the world. From South Africa, New Zealand to the city of Dubai, women have traveled to Connecticut for her and the service provided by Hair’s Talent. For their comfort and wholesome experience, it pays homage to the Holiday Inn hotel serving the New Haven and Branford areas.

“They are wonderful for my customers, and most of my customers go there. And how they sometimes come in the morning, or sometimes the night before, they spend two nights here, and then they come here and have their hair done,” Gina explains.

Gina’s impact has made her mark in the hair and beauty genre of social media, as numerous videos on YouTube and Tiktok feature women of color praising her techniques and the safety they have brought to their hair. A simple search on TikTok with the words “gina curl” will show a total of almost 399 million collective views of content with those words attached in some way. For Gina, it’s quite a wondrous and unfathomable abstraction.

“People say to me, ‘Wow, do you realize what you’ve done, do you realize what you’ve created?’ It’s unreal. This is another thing. YouTube, number one, is where most of my collaborators come from. They want to see what I do. Customers doing reviews and tutorials, people want to hear from other customers, not just me. »

These other clients have the opportunity to learn Gina’s techniques at the online GinaCurl Academy, the launch of which couldn’t have been more perfectly timed.

“2020 is when I decided to do the Academy. I wanted to do it in person, and I had a business consultant I was working with, and she was like, ‘No, do everything. online. And that’s a good thing I did because it was right before the pandemic. It was a great way for these stylists to get back to work and get a clientele. A lot of salons here have merged, many of them closed, so with the GinaCurl, it brought business back to their living rooms.

Through education at the International Academy, students from across the United States and around the world learn the aspects necessary to become a successful, confident stylist. They learn customer service, which includes educating women about self-care for their hair, how to cut and maintain healthy hair for their customers, “one strand at a time,” as Gina points out, and the component patience essential, as a session using Gina’s curling and straightening techniques could last six to eight hours

“I just felt obligated to help these people who really wanted this technique and couldn’t get it because they couldn’t travel here. A lot of [beauty] schools right now, there’s only one chapter in the book that teaches you how to do textured hair,” Gina lamented. “A lot of customers go to salons to get their hair cut, but nobody educates you, and that’s really important. That’s what they pay for. »

For hairdressers looking to make things happen on their own in the industry, courage, listening and patience are imperative factors. And also an understanding that style is a sensitive issue and cannot be taken lightly as an easy task.

“You can’t be afraid to work. Even though it’s a glamorous industry, it’s not when you’re behind the chair, it’s hard work. They really have to be prepared for this,” she says. “Customer service is so, so important. Being courteous, being kind, listening to the customer, knowing what’s in their hair before you put a chemical in it. You have to love every strand and come into this business as a loving what you do. You have to come with passion.”

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