In Miss Universe land, women sell hair as another way to get by

Some Venezuelan women are washing their hair with dishwashing liquid because they can't afford to buy shampoo that costs more than the minimum monthly salary, now equivalent to just a few dollars.

Published: 24th April 2019 02:07 PM  |   Last Updated: 24th April 2019 02:07 PM   |  A+A-

Valery Díaz

Valery Díaz holds the hair she had cut off to earn $100 in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, April 5, 2019. After a drastic cut of 60 centimeters that was reduced to less than two, Díaz looked silently into the mirror at what hair remained, as her mother encouraged her that the cut was hardly noticeable. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

By Associated Press

CARACAS: Valery Díaz covered her eyes and held her breath before looking in a hair salon mirror to see herself without much of the long dark hair that used to frame her face.

The 16-year-old student was paid $100 (almost Rs 7000) for the shorn hair, money she'll use to help her family and buy a cellphone at a time when Venezuela's sharp economic decline has led to shortages of food and medicine, and hyperinflation has made salaries nearly worthless.

Increasing numbers of women in poor neighborhoods are selling their hair for use in wigs and extensions as the demands of daily survival force them to abandon the kind of self-care long an obsession with a country known globally for its success in beauty pageants. Seven Miss Universe winners have been Venezuelans, as have six Miss Worlds.

Some women are washing their hair with dishwashing liquid because they can't afford to buy shampoo that costs more than the minimum monthly salary, now equivalent to just a few dollars. Many have to adapt to make personal care products last longer, with no sign of an end to a crisis that has pushed more than 3 million Venezuelans - one-tenth of the population - to leave the country in recent years.

Díaz gazed silently at the mirror and attempted a positive spin on the loss of locks that she had worn since she was a young child. She described herself as feeling "light" and said it had been hard to maintain her flowing hair in the past.

"There are times when you go two or three weeks without washing your hair," she said, alluding to frequent water shortages in past weeks, caused by nationwide blackouts that shut off water pumps.

Her mother, Yeny Gómez, laughed nervously and tried to buoy her daughter's spirits.

"You don't notice it," Gómez, a 43-year-old teacher, said of the drastic haircut.

Despite sacrificing her hair, Díaz said she still tries to buy cosmetics, using money she earns from making and selling bracelets.

But Gómez said she hasn't bought lipstick or any other cosmetics for more than a year because she's saving whatever money she earns to get food for her and her two daughters. Beauty care has become secondary for most Venezuelans, she said.

Carmen Merchani, a 49-year-old hairdresser, knows that well. After decades of cutting and styling hair, she said things have never been worse and she's had to adapt to maintain her salon on one of the steep hills of Catia, a Caracas district. About a year ago, Merchani said, she started to do barter deals with her clients, getting food in exchange for hair stylings, manicures and pedicures.

Local shops that sell beauty products are also reinventing themselves to stay afloat. International cosmetics brands have disappeared from storefronts, replaced by cheaper goods from China as well as locally made products that use honey and other ingredients.

Díaz said she still dreams of becoming a Miss Venezuela someday, when "my hair grows again."

Stay up to date on all the latest Business news with The New Indian Express App. Download now
(Get the news that matters from New Indian Express on WhatsApp. Click this link and hit 'Click to Subscribe'. Follow the instructions after that.)

Comments

Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the newindianexpress.com editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on newindianexpress.com are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of newindianexpress.com or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. newindianexpress.com reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

flipboard facebook twitter whatsapp