MERRILLVILLE, Ind. — The culture of natural hair in the U.S. is rooted in conformity. Seven years ago, Monique Rodriguez decided it was time to own the crown on her head and inspire others to do the same.
“I think there is an issue when you feel like you have to do it to fit in," said Rodriguez. "Seven years later, we are in every major retailer in America, we are a global beauty brand.”
Rodriguez is the CEO of Mielle Organics, which is one of the fastest-growing natural hair care companies in the country.
“Mielle is definitely a disrupter in this industry," Rodriguez said.
She noticed a prominent void in the Black hair care industry and is working to fill it.
“My hair was always frizzy. I would mix things together because I couldn’t find the right mix. And I said, "Well, if I can make a great product with great ingredients, and then educate my consumers on how to use the products and then also be myself and be relatable and be authentic, I feel like that’s a win-win situation," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez started on a different path, working as a nurse for more than eight years.
She decided to make a change in 2013.
"My husband and I, we suffered a loss of my son when I was eight months pregnant because I had a high-risk pregnancy," Rodriquez said. “It really left me feeling very lost and confused and asking a lot of questions.”
She knew it was time to take a risk and follow her heart. It all began with homemade concoctions, natural items from her kitchen and experiments in her garage, paired with social media videos to show the world the hair secrets she had discovered. Those videos are still a major part of her brand.
“I try to use my platform that I can be in a professional setting and still have my natural hair, I can go to a board meeting and still wear my natural hair and still look presentable," Rodriguez said.
Time would prove her products were more than hair care. They are a source of confidence for women.
Jatina Nixon is the lead stylist at Mielle Organics and has years of experience working with different hair types. It wasn’t until she started using Mielle Organics that she saw a shift in the attitude of her clients.
“A lot of Black women don’t, or in the past, have not had people to look up to or people to look at and say, "Hey, I like her hair, her hair is healthy, I want my hair to be like that,' We always wanted something different than we had just to fit in," Nixon said. “You now know that, "Hey, this is me and it’s a part of me, I can go out like this, I can go in public. I am accepted. I look beautiful. This is me, this is what I have, this is Black girl magic.'"
"The more and more we see it, the more we believe it. I always say there is a saying that you can’t be what you don’t see. So we need to see more women that are on the red carpet, in Hollywood, business owners, people that have noble platforms that are rocking their natural hair so young girls that are growing up looking at us can see oh this was the hair I was born with and I don’t have to change it I don’t have to conform," Rodriguez said.
This company has continued to break barriers, signing a $100 million investment deal.
“It was something that was historic, it was groundbreaking, especially a female-owned Black company does not get funding to that magnitude," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez says it’s about showing the world what Black women are more than capable of— all while embracing their roots.
“We can build great businesses, we just need the same support, the access and the expertise our counterparts have," Rodriguez said.