Travel like a NYC hairdresser

Cuba as seen through the eyes of Gigi, a NYC hairdresser.........

I see the world through the lens of someone who has been in the beauty industry for over two decades, and that does not change even when I travel. The trends, self expression, watching how people around the world express their personal story through mannerisms, hair, clothing, makeup; I love all mediums of art, but this by far is my favorite.

My recent trip to Cuba gave me the richest experience of Latin America to date. Cuba was stuck in time, as everyone describes. I had never experienced a time capsule such as this. The art deco hotels, vintage kitchens, classic cars...there were moments that I could even imagine what it smelled like back then. When you’re in Cuba, you really feel there. Though I am too young to know the complicated history first hand, its presence is undeniable.

Their resources are limited, but Cubans make it work. Mismatched tiles, that if I didn't know better I would assume were intentional, lush green gardens using old coffee cans for planters and ceramic vessels that were cracked just-so. A woman who was the host of the casa particular I stayed at showed me how she took stems of her plants and propagated new ones creating a lovely garden of which she was very proud. The Fiber Arts were all created without patterns: lace and clothing from rote with limited yarn types and colors. No matter how little you have, you want to create beauty for your life.

The women didn't do much with their hair. Nearly everyone had their hair in a top knot and I couldn't blame them. The scorching August heat forced me to wear my hair up as well. What was on trend, surprisingly, was nail art. I saw a decent number of women with floral decals and bright colored perfectly manicured nails.

The salon is abundant with products and tools. We lack nothing. Three different lines of haircolor behind the color bar, pins of all colors and sizes in our updo kits, and tools for days. I brought a ziplock bag full of product samples and gave them to one of my hosts. She was over the moon, and it made me want to give more, especially to the professionals. If I have the opportunity to go back to Cuba, I'm going to buy a bunch of nice polishes and give them to the manicurists doing nails in their living rooms with the front door open.

Clarissa MalekComment