Curly-haired ladies don't always have it easy.
From being seen as messy or even being told it's unprofessional, women with curly hair sometimes struggle to appreciate their natural texture. But one hairstylist has made it her mission to change that perception and help those with curly hair embrace their loops and spirals.
Meet Mona Baltazar, a hairstylist at Davide Hair Studio in New York City, who has dedicated her career to helping women love their curls. She's started a movement on her Instagram account — The Mona Cut — where she features gorgeous curly cuts to inspire women around the globe.
"Women should be able to feel confident to wear their hair as natural as it is," Baltazar told TODAY Style. "It's your hair; rock it the way you want to rock it."
Baltazar, who has been a stylist for 16 years and spent the past two years specializing in curly hair, uses the dry-cutting method to chop each spiral individually. Each time she take on a new client, she considers their curl pattern, texture and lifestyle to individualize the style and help them recognize their hair's natural beauty.
Four of her clients have shared their stories with us at TODAY Style.
For Stephanie Fabian, Baltazar is the first stylist who made her realize here curly hair has been gorgeous all along.
Fabian had straightened and relaxed her hair since she was 5 years old. She recalls her mother not being able to manage it and that always being the easiest solution.
"It was a job," said Fabian who spent eight hours in the salon every Sunday growing up.
It wasn't until recently, when she met her little sister in the Dominican Republic for the first time, that her mindset changed. Fabian heard her sister say how she also wanted straight hair and something clicked.
"It kind of reminded me of when I was kid and how much I hated my hair," said Fabian. "If it wasn't straight, I felt ugly. I was sad. I would cry about it and I didn't want her to feel the same way."
She decided to take the plunge and start wearing her hair curly. Fabian went to Baltazar for her first haircut as she was beginning to transition her natural style and has continued on her journey ever since, with Baltazar cheering her on along the way.
"I have very hard days. Some days I really want to go back and straighten it. Some days I love it and I feel confident. I feel sexy," said Fabian. "Every day is a different feeling."
Lakesha Charles' hair was relaxed as a child, just like her mother's. But once she got pregnant with her daughter, everything changed. Charles says she always knew she didn't want to relax her daughter's hair, but realized it didn't make sense unless she also embraced her own natural texture.
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Seven years ago, she completely cut her hair off and started the journey of wearing her hair natural. She never looked back.
When she first went to Baltazar two years ago for a haircut, the stylist was honest in explaining that she didn't have experience with Charles' texture. Even then, Charles was game. The pair have spent the past two years creating a style that really works for Charles.
"I hate myself with straight hair now. I hate it. Every time I see it, I'm like, 'Ew!' It's just uninteresting to me now," she said.
For Charles' daughter, it hasn't been as easy accepting her natural curls. When they lived in Phoenix, Arizona, her daughter would cry about her hair since she looked different from her friends. Now that they live in New York City, however, that's all changed.
"There are more people that look like her," said Charles. "And now it's like, 'Mom, I want it bigger. I want it bigger' and so she's completely embraced it and she loves it.
"As women when we are young, we think the world of our mothers," she added. "We want to be like them, look like them, so it makes me feel good that she feels that way about me."
Sarah Baron didn't have curly hair until she was in teens. But once she did, Baron spent the good part of her teenage years and young adult life struggling to find a curly style that worked for her. She tried everything, from layers to round haircuts to triangle haircuts and everything in between.
"I spent most of my life with it just long because I was too terrified for anyone to touch it," Baron said.
Before going to Baltazar, Baron had been growing out her hair for years after what she calls, "easily the worst haircut of my entire life."
Baron recalls coming into the salon six months earlier and telling Baltazar that she could do absolutely anything she wanted. She immediately said, "pixie cut."
"There was actually nothing more liberating than her pulling my hair back into a ponytail and chopping it off. I wasn't scared, nothing. I was so excited," said Baron. "It felt so good to finally let go of all of that and embrace it.
"I've never felt more like myself," she added. "It definitely felt like this is what my hair should have been forever."
Baltazar's big influence on social media and in the curly hair community is all thanks to her client of two years, Edgy, who is a social media influencer. The two have since teamed up to share her journey on social media and start The Mona Cut community.
"You never know what your hair is going to be like. You just have to take it for what it is and love it," said Edgy. "You can't compare yourself to anyone else."
Edgy recalls spending every Friday as a child at the hair salon getting her hair blown out straight. She would then wear it in a bun every single day, so no one would ask her any questions, especially since all of her friends had straight hair.
When she turned 16, she decided to try wearing it curly. But at that point she couldn't figure out how to control the volume and frizz, so she reverted back to the straight-and-sleek look.
It wasn't until Edgy's former hairstylist introduced her to Baltazar as someone who was beginning to cut curly hair that her perception really changed.
With her first haircut, Edgy got the bangs she had always dreamed of that every other stylist told her was impossible with her texture. For the first time, she had a haircut she loved and a style that made her feel confident with curls.
"Mona has showed me a light," said Edgy.
Get the look:
If these stories have inspired you to embrace your curls, Baltazar has lots of tips.
1. Get a haircut at least three times a year to maintain the ends.
"Remember your ends have an expiration date," Baltazar explained.
2. Frizz isn't necessarily a bad thing, so embrace it! It's actually part of the texture.
3. You don't necessarily need oils.
4. Always look for products with moisture.
Baltazar says it doesn't necessarily have to be a product for curly hair, but anything that is going to give moisture or hydration will be your friend.
5. Use your fingers to detangle.
Before you pick up a wide tooth comb, use your fingers to separate the hair. When you use a comb, always work from the bottom up.
6. Always air dry.
Even if you're going to use a diffuser, let it air dry a little because if it's too wet, that will add to the frizz, explained Baltazar.
7. Leave-in conditioner is a must.
This is the secret to helping you maintain your style longer.
8. Try using a silk pillow case.
"Silk is softer on the hair. It prevents frizz and too much friction on the hair itself," Baltazar said.
9. Don't forget to scrunch.
"Put your upside head down and scrunch and hold onto it for a bit. Get the root off of your scalp, so you can get the volume," instructed Baltazar. "This will enhance your texture."
This story was originally published on Jan. 5, 2018.