People Issue

From Her Oak Cliff Salon, Miriam Ortega Primps and Protects Her Adopted Home

In this week's Dallas Observer we profile 30 of the metro area's most interesting characters, with new portraits of each from local photographer Stanton Stephens. See the entire Dallas Observer People Issue here .

Miriam Ortega is posted at the bar of Oak Cliff barbecue staple Lockhart Smokehouse, staring down a smorgasbord of ribs and turkey and deviled eggs and, stealing the spotlight from all of that, Ortega's signature cocktail, The Misfit. It's a grapefruit vodka and grapefruit juice concoction that on a good day also includes some grapefruit, and it is fucking refreshing.

Which is a good way to describe Ortega, come to think of it.

"A misfit is an outsider," she says of the drink's moniker. "Someone who doesn't care about the rules. Someone who moves in their own lane. Who creates their own lane." Studio 410, Ortega's beauty and barber shop in the Bishop Arts District, is her new lane, a place where a Cinco de Mayo party means Cumbia-ing, sweating and beautiful women simultaneously passing out drinks and keeping the party in line. On the surface it's contemporary in every way: a street-inspired beauty shop complete with barber and nail artist, Dallas-made jewelry and clothing collections lining the front window, Sade and Erykah Badu scoring cuts and colors and blowouts. When you start to poke under the surface, though, it's clear that Ortega and her pack of stylists have actually created something almost old-fashioned.

Ortega sought out a space in Oak Cliff because she is from Oak Cliff. She lives there still with her children. Her family, originally from California, also lives there. So do all but one of her stylists, which means Ortega owns a small business in a community that employs, almost exclusively, its own community members. So it makes sense that in her salon they do not seem like a staff. They seem like a family, complete with greaser gang name, The Lady Misfits.

"There is always a reason to come get your hair done," says Ortega, who's hoping to open a new salon near her other family, in California. "You're meeting someone, or a break-up, or maybe you need a reason to take yourself out. We get to be there for those moments. ... The clients are our therapists as much as the other way around. We get to live through them too."