A Day in the Life of Hairstylist Ona Diaz-Santin

Hairstyling is in Ona Diaz-Santin’s roots. It’s a talent and skill that traces back to her family in the Dominican Republic.

Ona Diaz-Santin
Photo Credit: Geri Torres

Hairstyling is in Ona Diaz-Santin’s roots. It’s a talent and skill that traces back to her family in the Dominican Republic, where her great-grandmother was a go-to hair stylist for the townspeople of Santiago in El Cibao. Diaz-Santin has carried on her great-grandmother’s and mother’s legacies by mastering the art of hairdressing as well. With a client roster that spans the likes of acting powerhouses Diana Maria Riva and Dascha Polanco, as well as clients loyal enough to have stayed with her since day one of her 27-year-long career, it’s no wonder she’s known as “The Hair Saint.”

“Owning a small business is a constant learning experience, but the joy of seeing our clients leave with a smile on their faces makes it all worthwhile.” – Ona Diaz-Santin

Over the past seven years, Diaz-Santin has been building up 5 Salon & Spa in Fort Lee, New Jersey. We spoke with Diaz-Santin about her journey as a hairstylist and entrepreneur, how she empowers her community, and how she keeps her skills sharp as part of our Visionaries in Belleza series in celebration of Latinx leaders in the beauty industry. 

[SEE ALSO: Step Into Brooke Devard’s Beauty Empire]

Reflect Beauty: Give us a glimpse of a day in the life as the owner of 5 Salon & Spa!

Ona Diaz-Santin: My day starts bright and early.  I review the schedule for the day, checking for any last-minute changes and scanning for opportunities to maximize the day. One of the most exciting aspects of owning a salon is the creative opportunity to host meaningful events. On the business side, a significant portion of my day includes reviewing and approving payroll, tracking expenses, inventory management, and making sure we have an adequate supply of hair products, tools, and other salon essentials. Keeping in mind that I have an outstanding team that helps me stay on track because Lord knows it takes a village! Throughout the day, I also interact with clients, ensuring they have a pleasant experience. I love hearing their feedback and suggestions, which helps me continuously improve our services. Building strong relationships with our clients is crucial for the business’s success, so I make an effort to connect with our guests on a personal level. In addition to the daily operations, I stay up-to-date on the latest trends by attending conferences, workshops, and trade shows so I can bring fresh ideas to the salon. At the end of each day, I take a moment to reflect on the successes and the challenges we faced. Owning a small business is a constant learning experience, but the joy of seeing our clients leave with a smile on their faces makes it all worthwhile.

RB: How did you develop your career as a celebrity hairstylist and entrepreneur? 

ODS: Developing my career as a celebrity hairstylist and entrepreneur was a combination of hard work, dedication, and seizing opportunities. Some of the most integral steps I took in the early stages of my career included education and training, building a portfolio, networking, and assisting established stylists. At that point, I started to build a credible reputation, allowing me to work with celebrity clients, which eventually led to my journey into entrepreneurship. Throughout my journey, I remained committed to continuous learning and improvement. I attended industry conferences, stayed updated on the latest trends, and invested in my professional development. It’s important to stay adaptable and open to new opportunities as the industry evolves. Last but not least, my secret really is God! Staying in constant prayer mode and a state of gratitude grounds me. 

RB: How do you elevate the voices of your community through your work? 

ODS: I am passionate about using my platform to elevate the voices of my community. One way I do this is by promoting and celebrating natural hair. I believe that embracing and loving our natural hair is an important form of self-expression and empowerment. To uplift the Latino community and teach people to love and embrace who they are, I collaborate with Latina influencers who have a strong presence in the curly hair and beauty community to host workshops and events at the salon. These events focus on educating individuals about hair care, styling techniques, and embracing their natural texture. These events provide a safe and inclusive space for individuals to come together, share their experiences, and learn from each other. We discuss topics such as cultural identity, self-esteem, and embracing natural beauty, like the Dove event #myhairamimodo that we hosted in October 2023.

RB: Who are some of your biggest career influences? 

ODS: As a hairstylist and salon owner, I have been fortunate to have several influential figures who have shaped my career. Here are a few of my biggest career influences: Mrs. Goodwin, Vidal Sassoon, Guido Palau, and all the mentors and peers I’ve had the pleasure of working with and learning from over the years. These influential figures have not only shaped my technical skills and artistic vision but have also influenced my mindset and approach to the industry. Their dedication, creativity, and business acumen have inspired me to continuously learn, innovate, and strive for excellence in my career.

RB: What are your favorite go-to hair products right now? 

ODS: So many to choose from but at the moment I’m loving Innersense products. Love the versatility they provide.