By: Naydeline Mejia
When Ada Rojas started blogging about natural hair in 2009, she never imagined that she would be catapulted into creating her own successful hair care line, Botánika Beauty. Now, as one of the first Afro-Latinx women to start a natural hair care brand, Ada Rojas is paving a path for future Latinx entrepreneurs and creatives.
Her story starts in 2015, when Ada was working as an influencer and also on a cruise ship where she spent six months ideating and thinking about her goals. “My greatest dream was always to have my own natural hair care brand because I saw what I was able to do for other brands [as an influencer], and I thought it would be amazing to have my own.”
Before that became a reality, she collaborated with another Latinx hair blogger, Rocio Isabel, and put together the Rizos on the Roadevent series that brought panel discussions about Afro-Latinidad, aka the intersection of being Latinx and Black, as well as natural hair to six major U.S. cities with large Latinx populations. This eventually led to her meeting Aisha Ceballos-Crump of Honey Baby Naturals, who encouraged her to start her own brand.
She takes inspiration from her community. The name of the brand as well as the ingredients used in the under-$12 products are inspired by the botánicas [stores that carry spiritual goods as well as medicinal herbs] populated throughout Latinx communities such as the South Bronx neighborhood where Ada grew up. Historically, botánicas have served as communal hubs where Latinx immigrants would shop for natural ingredients for traditional remedies and rituals. For example? Bay leaves. Ada says they add natural shine to the hair but also are used for manifestation: You write your desire on a bay leaf and then burn it to set the intention out. “I just love how these ingredients have such a cultural significance to our community, but they’re also really good for your hair, so I wanted to be able to tell that story and really educate people on that,” says Ada.
The spiritual significance of botánicas might also explain why for Ada, hair care is self-care. With Black hair constantly being scrutinized under the lens of Eurocentric beauty standards, she believes that a hair care routine is vital to creating a healthy relationship with one’s natural texture.
“Navigating the world as a Black woman is really hard–it’s taxing. We have to create those moments of self-care and what better way to do it than when you’re doing your hair?” she says. Ada believes her natural hair journey helped shape her as a woman. “It really is like ripping yourself apart, looking at yourself in the mirror, and asking yourself: Why do you hate yourself? Getting to the core of that is really not fun,” she says, admitting that just 10 years ago she hated her natural curls. “It makes me emotional thinking back – I hated the thing I love most about myself today.” Embracing natural texture, she says, is directly tied to self-acceptance.
Breaking down Eurocentric perceptions of beauty and debunking the “pelo malo” trope that Afro-Latinx women know all too well is not only at the core of who Ada is; this mission also transfers into her work. “My thing is always going to go back to breaking down that perception of beauty that is rooted in Eurocentric ideals and [advocating for the celebration of] yourself, and accepting yourself for who you are at your core–accept all the things that make you beautiful and all that which society will try to tell you everyday is not,” she says.
After many years of not being reflected and celebrated in the media, she is grateful to be a part of the change that creates more Afro-Latinx representation in beauty. When Ada is tagged on social media by moms using her products to style their daughters’ hair, she is reminded of the impact her brand is generating and the opportunities she still wishes to bring back to her community.
“Embracing your natural texture…is about accepting yourself for who you are.”
“I think the thing that drives me the most about the line is that because I chose to be fearless and chase my dreams, I’m going to be able to help other people make their dreams come true,” says Ada.“I want to reach back into the community. That’s what it’s all about. When one wins, we all win. So when I make it, I’m going to bust open through that door and bring my whole community with me, and that really excites me.”