Mirta de Perales, The Cuban Hairdresser Who Revolutionized the Beauty Industry

 | June 18, 2024

When it comes to Latino brands, few names resonate as powerfully as Mirta de Perales. Founded by a Cuban-born hairdresser turned entrepreneur, the beauty brand has been a staple in millions of homes across Latin America and the U.S. But who is Mirta de Perales, the Cuban hairdresser who revolutionized the beauty industry? 

Mirta de Perales, The Cuban Hairdresser Who Revolutionized the Beauty Industry

Born in 1931 in the small town of Caibarién, Cuba, Mirta de Perales had a passion for beauty and hairstyling from a young age. Her family was poor, so she cut and styled hair from home to help provide for the family. As a teen hairdresser, she was so successful, that she told her mother they were “rich.” By 22, she had moved to Havana and married a pharmacist who helped her develop the beauty brand we know today. However, the 1958 Cuban Revolution, and the island’s political upheaval of the 1960s, changed everything.

“In 1962 the Cuban government intervened and took possession of her beauty salon and took Mirta as a prisoner,” the Mirta de Perales website explains. “She spent nine days in El Morro, a prison for those they considered anti-revolutionaries. That experience was what motivated her to leave Cuba.”

The couple fled to the United States, where Perales faced the challenge of rebuilding her life from scratch. And she did.

From Cuba to the U.S.

Undeterred by adversity, Perales’s entrepreneurial spirit took over. Settling in Miami, she recognized a gap in the market for hair care products that catered specifically to the needs of Latinas. In 1964, she launched her eponymous line of hair care products, Mirta de Perales, Inc. Her range included shampoos, conditioners, and styling products meticulously formulated to address the unique textures and concerns of Latina hair.

Mirta’s products quickly gained popularity, not only for their effectiveness but also for their ability to celebrate and enhance natural beauty. Her iconic slogan, “Porque tú lo vales” (Because you’re worth it), became a rallying cry for women to invest in themselves. Perales focused on the customer’s self-worth and identity.

Beyond her product line, Perales opened beauty salons and even hosted the TV show “Cinco Minutos Con Mirta de Perales.” In every episode, she offered product tips and discussed everyday issues. 

“This TV show allowed Mirta to build a relationship with her customers, explain how to use her products, and discuss day-to-day issues,” TheCubanHistory.com writes. “At the time, Mirta also created a beauty pageant that gave children the opportunity to travel to Miami and Orlando for a week-long competition to become a ‘Mirta Boy.’” 

Mirta de Perales’ Legacy

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan recognized Mirta’s inspiring journey as “The American Dream.”

“She came here with little more than faith in God and belief in the free enterprise and that system. But now she has a $5 million company selling beauty products,” President Reagan said at the event honoring the Cuban entrepreneur.  “… That’s the American dream, a dream that all of you every day are making a reality. In this time for choosing, let’s make sure that it stays that way, that the story of America continues to be the story of people like Mirta de Perales, a story of hope, faith, and freedom.”

Mirta de Perales passed away in 2011, but her legacy lives on. Her products are sold online and at major retailers like Walgreens and BJ’s.

And her daughter, Mirta C. Perales (“Mirtica”), and granddaughter, Cristina, now run the family business.

According to MirtadePerales.com, “… Mirta and Cristina are always on the quest for new products and information to help fulfill women’s hair care and skincare needs, specifically focusing on the Latin woman.” 

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Featured image is from the image Hoja Suelta, by José Guadalupe Posada, 1901.
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