Making Sense of Statistics

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Both this month's cover story and our "Southwest Flavor" feature make me think affectionately of my friend Maritza. She's a huge fan of Latin music and dance, and she possesses a very unique sense of personal style, which I attribute to her Dominican roots and her 20-plus-year career as an international flight attendant. In the intensely conservative Connecticut town in which she lives, Maritza is an exotic breath of fresh air. I've never known any woman who is as comfortable in her own skin as she is.

 Mary Novitsky
Mary Novitsky

For years she's had only marginal success finding a local stylist who knows how to handle her unruly, heavily textured hair. So when I saw her last month, sporting a gorgeous layered cut and reddish-gold highlights, I instinctively asked her where she'd had her hair done. Her answer: in Brazil! During a recent flight layover, she'd wandered into a salon in Rio, paid a ridiculously low price and walked out looking absolutely spectacular. Smart woman that she is, Maritza's already planning her January flight bids around a touchup visit.

Is something wrong with this picture? Can it possibly be that difficult to find someone in Fairfield County, CT, who knows how to work on multicultural hair? I'm not sure what the answers are, but here are a few statistics I've become aware of recently: According to a 2004 U.S. Census Bureau report, Hispanics, African Americans and Asians account for 29 percent of the U.S. population, and this number is growing faster than any other segment of the population. Another statistic: According to Latino Fashion Group director Carlos Valenzuela, Hispanic women annually spend over $17 billion—billion—on beauty products. And yet another statistic, from People en Español: Over 51 percent of Hispanic women color their hair, and 59 percent shampoo their hair every day.

Latina and lovely. (Photography: Tom Spitz)
Latina and lovely. (Photography: Tom Spitz)

I'm no demographics expert, but if these numbers are correct, this growing market is one you might not want to overlook. These women are evidently into beauty, they obviously like haircolor, and they take care of their hair, yet Valenzuela believes they're underserved in the American beauty market. "Latina consumers don't have choices," he says. "They don't want to look like an American model. They want to look beautiful and 'today,' in a Latina way." (I think Maritza would agree.) The bottom line for savvy salon owners? Knowing how to cut, color and style multicultural hair shouldn't be an add-on service, but an essential one. It looks like now's a great time to expand your knowledge in this area.

Mary Novitsky, editor-in-chief

E-mail Mary at
mnovitsky@questex.com