Hispanic Heritage Month: R+Co Global Educator, Robert Vasquez
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Hispanic Heritage Month: R+Co Global Educator, Robert Vasquez

To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we chat with Vasquez about his Latin roots, how he got his start in hair and how his heritage informs his hairstyling.

Born and raised in New York City, R+Co Global Educator Robert Vasquez had stars in his eyes as a young Puerto Rican teen, and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a dance career. Over the next 12 years, he thrived as a backup dancer, touring with such R&B legends as En Vogue and Toni Braxton—but he was ready for his next chapter: hairstylist to women as glamorous as those for whom he danced. To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we chat with Vasquez about his Latin roots, how he got his start in hair and how his heritage informs his hairstyling.

What does it mean to be Latino to you?

RV: Having a strong sense of pride.

How does your heritage inspire this pride?

RV: My family is Puerto Rican. I was raised very strongly in that culture and way of life. I was always taught to be very proud of who I was—where my ancestry comes from.

Who in your life taught you take pride in your heritage?

RV: My mom and dad, of course, but I think my grandparents reinforced it because they were the ones born in Puerto Rico. Especially my grandmothers; they nurtured me. Growing up in a Latin household, it helps to have female role models. The dads and grandpas teach you to be strong, whereas the grandmothers and the mothers teach you everything else that you need to survive life.

How did you get your start as a hairstylist?

RV: After wrapping up being a professional dancer, I decided to relocate back to New York in 2003; I wanted to start fresh and live in a place where nobody knew me professionally as “Robert the Dancer” anymore. I had become aware of Garren’s work when I was a dancer, just seeing all the stuff he used to do with the supermodels and fashion magazines—I knew I really wanted to work for him. So I moved back to New York, enrolled in beauty school and, literally the day my license showed up in the mail, I applied to work at Garren New York salon. And here I am, 18 years later, still working for the man!

What have you taken from professional dancing into hairstyling?

RV: I look at everything like it's a show. I'm trying to make people feel as glamorous as all the people who I've had the honor of performing onstage or in music videos with. I think that's really the beauty of it all. That’s really what drew me into hair—making somebody feel great knowing what it feels like to have that moment in the spotlight. When a client feels her best, she feels all eyes on her. That’s what dancing on stage gave me.

How does your Latin heritage inform your work as a hairstylist?

RV: I really understand textured hair. I dealt with a lot of family members who had that thick, curly and sometimes coarse Puerto Rican hair that I groomed into submission. What I realized was after I left my Latin bubble, a lot of other people have that type of hair; it wasn't just the Latin community. In New York, I interacted with a huge portion of the Jewish community that has a very similar hair texture. In my last audition interview to work for Garren and Thom [Priano], I took a Spanish girl as my model because I wanted them to see what I could bring to their salon.

Fun question: Is it true you were a Power Ranger?

RV: Yeah! Back in 1993 I auditioned for it—we had no idea what it was going to be. The show hired a bunch of dancers and gymnasts to [be the lead actors’ stunt stand-ins] because they figured it would be easier to teach us the choreographed fight scenes. I did it for two-and-a-half years, and then toured all over the world with the show as well. At the time, we had the most sold-out shows at Radio City Music Hall!