Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Finalemente...I found a hairdresser.

Okay, so to most people this would not be a cause for celebration.

However, being a black woman in Rome with natural hair this search was a pain in the butt. I can't just roll into any salon.

Even with black salons in the States you have to make sure a stylist does actually know what to do with hair that is not chemically straightened.

One thing I thought was so weird is that no one could give me a name of a specific person at a salon. I asked every black woman I know whose hair didn't look a mess, where did they go? All I would get is a name of a salon. All were located by Termini.

Months ago someone was nice enough to leave an anonymous comment on my blog with the names of various black hair salons. Another person said to call "Paolo" at X salon. That salon was on the list and I thought phew I'm finally getting somewhere. Well he owned the salon, was not a stylist and gave me the name of whoever happened to be free that day.

I only needed a trim. I went. The stylist didn't say a word to me. Granted at the time my Italian was weaker but still. She was Dominican and I assume she spoke Italian and Spanish. The place was packed. It was very old school. They were selling DAX. I haven't seen that in any shop since the early 80s and even then it was at my mom's hairdresser which was one of those "older ladies" shops.

Anyway, every single woman, included the drag queen next to me, were geting weaves. My stylist did an okay job. I left and was pissed. I felt like a number and the place was a dump.

The woman who does my brows is also Dominican, and speaks not a single word of English yet the first time I met her (through an expat friend), she was engaging and I have been going to her every since. I go to Nail Bar for manicure/pedicures, budget allowing. My manicurist is Italian, we speak Italian when I see her. One day I walked pass the shop window while running an errand and she waved. Is it too much to ask for the same level of service from your hairdresser?

A blogger (thanks Antoinette) gave me the name of a friend of hers at Contessa Rock Style. Then one day I was walking down Via del Corso and happened to see a woman with a big 'fro in Sephora. I ran into the store, up the steps and was surprised to see an Italian woman (I only saw the back of her head). I forgot the Italian word for hair salon but she figured out what I was asking. She went to the same person at Contessa.

I was skeptical. In the States other than some stylists who work in fashion and with celebrities, most white stylists don't "do" black hair. It like how some stylists are know for color and other are know for great cuts.

I went to see Elena for a consultation. She has worked with my texture in the past. She talked about keeping hair healthy and not fighting against it. She asked me how I normally wear my hair and a bunch of other questions. She suggested we start working together and see how it goes. I scheduled an appointment.

I went to the salon. She was professional and I acutally got out of there in an hour. She's Australian, her parents are Italian and she moved to Rome a year ago or so.

I don't think she does twists. However, she did a great job with my cut and everyone at the salon was chill. I paid more but it was worth it. The salon reminds me of the place I used to go to in LA. and NYC.

I have heard of Noi, where a lot of my white female expat friends go. Two of the owners are Italian but lived in So. California where they operated a popular salon for years.

Contessa Rock Style has salons in Rome, Florence, one in Miami and one in Shanghai. Here is the website.

Now that my hair drama is over I have one less thing to worry about. ha


joanne at frutto della passione said...

Congratulations! Finding a good hairdresser is the hardest thing there is. It took me years to find one I liked in Milan and I have been hanging on to him for dear life.

Kataroma said...

I don't have it nearly as bad as you being a white woman but I have dirty blonde hair in which I get blonde highlights. Since so few Italian women have naturally blondish hair, I was a bit nervous about going to get the highlights done at an Italian salon. My first experience at the salon on my street was a disaster (stripper blonde hair and a mullet!!!)

I don't go to Noi as it's just too expensive but I found this great English hairdresser here in Rome who does a great job with the h/lights.

If I had darker more "Italian" hair I'd just go to an Italian hairdresser- but after my first experience with the brassy blonde hair colour I'm happy to go to a foreigner. As a bonus he makes a great cup of tea. :)

Anyway glad you found someone you like - glad to hear she's an Aussie too. :)

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Hang on to that hairdresser and get her contact info. I finally found one who was terrific and went to her twice, before she moved to a different salon and nobody would tell me where.

Ms. Wooden Shoes said...

Congratulations on finding a hairstylist. I completely understand where you are coming from. I, unfortunately, never found one who stuck around, no a couple of years ago I cut it off. Now all I do is go to a barber to have it shaped and trim every few weeks.

Black and (a)Broad said...

During my first few years living in Holland, my husband's sister, a certified hairdresser, did my hair. Yep, she learned how to relax hair on my head! Then one of my Dutch colleagues gave me sort of consumer guide that was dedicated to black hair. I found two places from that. But, I got tired of going to Amsterdam each time and spending an entire Saturday sitting at the salon (sound familiar). Then I walked past a place call World of Hair in the city right next to mine. I was satisfied and went there for two years. they closed down but referred me to another place called No Joke - We Do Hair. All the hairdressers are from the Dutch Caribbean and are young and hip. I love them - and they're close. On that note, I have to tell you that a friend of mine living in Holland goes to London to have her hair weaved. Yes, she flies to London so don't feel bad!

Di Mackey said...

I have the opposite problem and still haven't had my hair cut since arriving in Belgium, not professionally.

I have long straight hair and a face that needs it ... and so many hairdressers just want to cut it off and while in the chair, I'm kind of easy but growing it back takes so veryveryvery long.

It's been almost 4 years, I should do what you did. Anyway, congratulations, I know what you mean.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

joanne - ha. seriously. One thing down, several more (like driving) to go.

kataroma - a mullet?! no.

ciaochowlinda - good advice.

ms. wooden shoes - when I first cut off all my hair I went to a barber after my original stylist took some time.

black and (a) broad - two years ago when I was here on vacation I met a former exchange student who told me she went to Milan every other month from Rome for a touch up. I remember seeing quite a few salons in Amsterdam when I went to visit my cousins (from the Dutch Caribbean) years ago. I can't believe your friend goes to London. That is a long trip for a hair appointment. ha

di mackey - good luck. I don't play when it comes to my hair, face or skin. I have such a short hair cut I can't hide behind it. Therefore my brows can't look jacked. I think it's worth it to take your time and find someone who you feel comfortable with and will listen to your concerns.

Ms. Wooden Shoes said...

black and (a) board, I live in Holland and considered going to London, or at least Paris to get my 'do done. But then I decided to cut it off.

erin :: the olive notes said...

YAY!!!! The right hairdresser is always reason for celebration ;)

Lilacspecs said...

I still haven't taken the chance on a hair stylist here. My hair is thick and curly and most of the hair I've seen here is fine and straight (and not cut well anyway). Unfortunately that means I'm only getting my hair cut once a year in the States. It feels like I have a carpet on my head.

City Girl said...

Wonderful! :)

glamah16 said...

Great! Its funny how how you had to change your expectations to find someone whos will be competant with your hair. I would imagine a lot of the Euro salons can do a good job with natural hair.

SDG said...

Bravo and congrats. I know its hard when it comes to us wearing our hair natural, even with some Black people. Glad you found a good stylist. That's Huge!

wordtryst said...

Finding a hairdresser who knows how to handle natural kinky-curly hair is indeed cause for major celebration.

I've been natural for 8 years and I'm still learning how to handle my hair. I'd like to find a stylist who won't want to weave or straighten it; I know they exist here but I haven't been trying hard enough. I do get the occasional compliment on my semi-wild, self-cut, self-coloured, now-curly-now-frizzy mop - and then I'm usually too stunned to be gracious about it...

Sherry said...


Congrats because that is a major accomplishment. When I moved, it was hell finding a good hairdresser and now that I have one, I'll do anything to keep her. We're even pregnant at the same time so we'll be on leave at the same time - totally a coincidence although I joked I wanted to be pregnant when she was pregnant so I wouldn't look crazy at work while she was out on maternity leave and apparently got my wish. :)

Jessica said...

So funny! Petu and I go to Contesta since it's right by us. Elena just cut my hair last week and did a fantastic job. And yeah, I see Sephora all the time at the bar and her hair is fantastic. Plus they're all super fun and friendly in the salon, love all the guys there. If I'd known they'd be good with your hair type I would have told you sooner!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

erin - yes it is!

lilaspecs - are there no shops that expats frequent? Maybe they would know how to cut your hair.

citygirl - :)

glamah16 - you are so right. At one point her co-worker walked over and said "bellissima" about my hair. Meanwhile my mom is like "can you please put a relaxer in your hair?" ha

sdg - I don't why it should be so hard to find (in the states) someone who can manage the hair that grows out of your head. I can't wait to see Chris Rock's documentary on "good hair".

wordtryst - for me I get bored of wearing the same style all the time but a press would last maybe two minutes. I can't imagine not working out or freaking out about moisture. I might braid it over the summer just to do something different.

sherry - I know what you mean. When I moved to L.A. I had a fantastic hairdresser at first then he left the salon to work on a TV show full time. I was so crushed but he did refer me to a great person.

jessica - what a small freaking world. ha I think I might have to rock out a big 'fro (once my hair grows a little's really short now) this spring. I love Sefora's hair.

Ms. Violetta said...

A good hairdresser is gold. I have big hair and if someone cuts it wrong, I have a 'fro and it just doesn't suit me.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

ms violetta - I agree. A good hairdresser is gold.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

You know, this kind of post really reminds you of all the little things you have to kind of "re-learn" when you move to another country.

I never would have thought of this. When I was in Russia I was only there for a semester, and I let my hair grow, I admit it. ;-)

I'm glad you found a place that works.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

jen - are you right. Of course things like language and cultural difference are important but every so often a little thing like looking for baking powder reminds you of the big move.

WineGrrl said...

I was lazy...I just wore braids.

I wasn't planning on staying in Italy permanently, so I am a totally different head case (a bit of geek humor).

Strangely, I find my natural hair easier to deal with than my relaxed hair. Hmmm....that's food for thought!

Ana - Michelle said...

Hey I am an island girl from trinidad who just came to florence for a study abroad program for 3 months. My hair needs to be straightened asap but I don't know if they understand the process i am describing to them... please advise me.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

winegrrl - If I were here for only a few months, braids or twists would be the way to go. Less work. My natural hair is a lot healthier and it's cheaper than going to get a relaxer every 5 weeks. I so don't miss that.

ana-michelle - does your hair need to be relaxed or pressed out? One of my friends in L.A. know a lot of black American expats (Florence is the most popular city for american expats). I'll ask her what her friends do. She might take a minute to get back to me as her work schedule is hectic.

Petulia said...

So glad you found them.I have been going to them for 7 years and they ar just the best. Cannot wait to see you in Rome!

girasoli said...

I am so happy for you. I know how important it is to have a hairdresser you like and trust. I found the perfect hairdresser a few years after I moved to Hawaii. Ten years ago, she moved to Arizona. I still haven't found a good hairdresser to replace her. I have even thought of flying to Arizona to have my former hairdresser cut my hair but that would get expensive fast.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

petulia - I like the vibe of the place too. V. friendly. Looking forward to catching up.

girasoli - you're right...that would get very expensive. ha

ana-michelle - I heard back from my friend who happens to be Jamaican (then lived in London and then L.A.)

"At the train station there is a no frill hair salon. There is a very sweet black lady who works there. I forgot her name but she is the only black person who works there. She blow drys my hair better than any one here (in Los Angeles). I think her name Isabell or something like that. She speaks very little English. "

Ana-Michelle - I hope this helps...good luck.

bastille said...

Great post!
As you know, I'm just a couple of weeks away from moving back to Paris and finding a great hairdresser is on my list of priorities. I have naturally curly hair but wear it straight in the winter months and channel my "inner Mahogany" in the summer months. Ha! I just hope to find someone that can properly cut my mane (it's huge when I wear a curly fro') and not damage it when I want it flat-ironed. Really not asking for much, right? I work part-time (for the free services!) at a one of the best salons where I currently live and decided to stop going to the Dominicans (great results but way too much heat involved) and let one of my colleagues ( a cute Vanilla coated' brotha') style my hair. Amazing job! He washed, conditioned, blew it dry and flat ironed it in 1 1/2 hours. My hairdresser in D.C. does it in one hour flat. I pray that I find someone just as fantastic in Paris!


nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

felicia - I think you should be fine in Paris. So many more choice than what we have in Rome.

I hear you about getting in and out. I don't have all day to sit in a salon. I didn't enjoy as a kid (I had no idea who everyone was gossiping about) and I don't enjoy it as an adult. ha

Ana - Michelle said...

I wanted to get my hair braided but I didn't get a chanced before I
left now the roots are getting thick and nappy, SO I need to have it relaxed... I saw some signs at some salons saying permanette, one guy gave me a price of 180 euros and another euros, i'm not sure if they understood what I was talking about... lol.. so i will take any help from you I can get...thanks

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

ana - michelle - got it. see my response to your question above. My friend emailed me. There is a woman in the salon at the train station that could help you.

If not you might want to get it braided instead of having a new person put relaxer in your hair. A braider should be easy to find. The majority of black women here are from Africa and most of them wear their hair braided.

Prova said...

Long time reader, first time commenter. Elena is also my hairdresser! She is amazing!

The first few times I went to Contesta I thought maybe they were a bit standoffish, but as with all things Roman, the relationship warmed right up on repeated visits. :)

Ana - Michelle said...

thanks alot.... I would like to braid my hair but do you think it's wise given that it's due for a relaxer? If you do advise braiding, do you know anywhere in Florence I could get it done? I have seen very few African women, mostly men. The one African woman i saw, i was so excited, went up to her and asked where do you get your hair done and she was like in France and I was like you go all the way to France and she said no, I'm from France. It was hilarious.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

prova - thanks for commenting. Elena has some serious fans here. I can see why. She's great.

ana-michelle - that is a funny story! I don't know about the braids vs. relaxer. Can you ask one of you fluent bilingual friends to go with you to that salon my friend mentioned? Maybe she would have good advice about what to do with your hair while you are in Florence.


Hi! I'm going to have to endure the same dilemma as you being that i will be moving to Naples, Italy in September of this year! I have been googling and trying to find out as much as I can about africans in the area because I know they will braid up some hair! I actually have a rekaxer now, but plan on going natural and probably cutting it down real low right before I move, and just wear braids the entire time that I'm there... I am in the military and I have to keep my hair up anyway, so I figure I'll try to do the easiest thing while I'm there (for 3 years) which is braids... Well, good luck to you and thanks for sharing!!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

saqqara - good luck with the move to Naples. It's a crazy but fascinating city. Re: your hair, I think that is a good plan and probably less stressful.

Roxy said...

awww the joys of running around to find a hair stylist. had to go through the same running around in Australia as well. Thankfully I found one. ciao

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

roxy - so glad that one task is ovah!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you sooo much!!
I found your blog( btw it's awesome!) after almost a year of hopeless search for a hairdresser that could guide me in my hair journey to natural hair.
I'm Nigerian but I've been living n Italy since I was 6 months, and for most of my life I've been wearing braids or weaves, and I've always neglected my hair.
Last year I've finally decided to go natural, after a dreadful experience with a relaxer, but it's so difficult to know what to do without proper guidance from a good stylist, especially now that my hair are suffering from some medication I'm taking. I've tried some of the ladies around termini, but they are not for me, I'm looking for something way different.
Is Elena working in the shop in via dei zingari? Thanks so much for your help!! Dodo82

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

anon - yes she is at that salon but she's working out of their NYC and Miami for a few weeks. Not sure when she gets back.

Elena's great for a trim/cut. If you want a press, twists, braids etc. she doesn't do that.

Good luck

Fof4 said...

Hi! I stumbled on your blog post about hairdressers as I was searching for one in Rome to competently cut very curly, frizzy hair. Can you tell me if you still use Elena at Contesta as this post is old! It is such a struggle to find a hairdresser here in Rome. Thanks much!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Yes I still go to Elena and now she's back after working in Contessa's NYC salon.

Fof4 said...

Thanks much!! I've got a much needed appointment next week w/Elena! BTW, we have common friends in Gillian and Coach G :-)

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Prego and good luck! Elena is great. The music's too loud, but I'm old. ha

Really? I'll have to ask Coach G. and Gillian next time I see them.

Fof4 said...

Thanks for the warning--I'll bring earplugs-hahahaha! I, too, am too old for that! Gillian was my first friend in Rome!!

Fof4 said...

Went to Elena, today. THANK YOU SO MUCH! I loved her; I love the cut and I love the fact that she listened to me and understood me and did what I asked/wanted and made me feel so much better about the way I look. I really appreciate it. Thank you :-) Beth

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Beth, you're welcome!! Glad to hear everything worked out.

Shanel said...

Hi, I am studying in Segovia and will travel to Rome the first week of April. Are there before and after pictures available of those of African decent? Also, does this salon specialize in hair extensions and/or relaxers?

Thanks a million!


nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Shanel, no they do not specialize in relaxers or extensions.

There is a salon called Ti Amo. Not sure about relaxers but they do extensions, however, they do NOT speak English.

Lola said...

I recently move to rome, I use relaxer, do you know somebody that does that treatment here, or could you give me the addresses of the two dominican hairstylist that you visit before, they are pro! in relaxed hair..your help is appreciated

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Lola, I don't recommend the salon, but the one called Black Hair across from Termini does relaxed hair. That is where one of my friends go. She gets a relaxer a few times a year.

Sunnbuzz said...

This is a long shot and a very old post but here goes! While I'm not black I have extremely frizzy curly coarse hair that is blow dryied straight every 5-7 days, I'm British Moroccan . I cannot go out in the damp and obviously wet or my hair getsruined there is NO doing it myself Sadly its the bain of my existence and drives me nuts. I've had my hair dresser for 20 years he's middle eastern and it takes him 45 minutes of tugging and pulling BUT it looks amazing when the blow dry is done - no heated straighteners in sight, he works just with a few bristle brushes.
Anyhow I'm from Canada and Im coming to Rome next month (May) with a young good looking guy I casually date, he's younger than me and has only seen me on days I've had my hair done, or the next day and I dont want to look like crap by the end of the vacation.
I'll be in Rome for 8 days, I'm sure I could squeak by till the end if there is no rain, dampness, humidity etc but I'd rather get a blow dry on the 4th day.
So while this all sounds vain its my one issue that I fight with and I desperately need to find a hairdresser that can get my hair straight, someone thats been working with coarse, curly, frizzy hair for a few decades in Rome. I speak Italian, lived there as a kid, dont care what the salon looks like just that the person is qualified.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

I would try NOI salon right off Piazza del Popolo. Italian and American stylists own it.

They do blowouts. I don't think they can do it for 4c hair but for yours it should be a okay. It might be a good idea to stop by for a consultation and then make your appointment.

Enjoy your trip!

Signature By Bertha said...

I am also in the same dilemma. I am a girl with 4c kinky natural hair and I live in Italy. My hair is breaking seriously and I need help with the contact of some one who can treat and handle my type of hair
Can you give me the contact if Elena at Contessa Rock? I have surfed the internet but couldn't find much information. Is the salon located in Milan?
Can anyone suggest a hairdresser who can handle natural kinky 4c hair?
Please ladies, I need help

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...


Check out Tamu McPherson's (aka All the Pretty Birds) Instagram feed or blog. She lives in Milan, has a natural (used to relax it in the past) and has a hairdresser she really like in Milan. I don't remember the name of the salon but walked past it with her one day. It's in the Brera district. Not sure if where her hairdresser from but he's a person of color.

No, Elena is in Rome.

Thunder Thighs said...

Are you still in Italy? I am moving to Florence for 3 years and I am desperately trying to find a Dominican Hairdresser.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

TT, I do live in Italy but not in Florence. I know nothing about stylists there.

You would have a better chance of finding a Dominican hairdresser in Milan and maybe Rome. Good luck.

Nia Hampton said...

Hey! I am studying abroad in Rome for the next few months and would love suggestions on places to get my hair flat ironed (once the heat lets up). I am a natural who wears my hair straight so even a blowout or roller set would do. This blog post really helped me not feel alone in my hair journey especially because my white roommates think I'm exaggerating when I talk about the amount of care, time, and product my hair needs to stay long and healthy. Thank you!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Hi Nia,

I've asked a friend who wears her long natural hair straight as the guy I used to go to for blow outs moved back to Puglia. She used to go to him too.

She goes to Letizia at 1Hairlab, Circonvallazione Ostiense 301, +39 06 51607656

She suggested that you bring your own product as one time they used something that actually straighten her hair and she's still growing it out.

I don't know if anyone there speaks English (my friend speaks Italian fluently). It's in a non touristy part of the city, so write down what you want/need in Italian before making your appointment/going.

Good luck!