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Talking Hair Around the World. Literally.

June 23, 2010

Perhaps you’ve noticed, but I am really into chatting about hair.  From products, to styles, to science, to accessories, to your hair, to my hair, all of it fascinates me and I love engaging in dialogue about it.  That’s why I’m dedicated to continuing to organize meet ups as well as why I woke up early last Sunday morning to do an interview for this blog.

Not your average interview either.   I’m here in San Francisco, California, and the interviee, Nibi Lawson, fellow natural blogger and founder of The Kinky Apothecary, lives a cool 7994 miles around the planet in Lagos, Nigeria, splitting her between there and London.  “The Natural Hair Revolution Has Hit Nigeria” proudly states The Kinky Apothecary’s facebook page; and after reading her blog, which exalts my shared values of product ingredients and bringing together naturals through meet ups, I knew that I wanted to somehow coordinate a Natural Selection interview with Nibi, because essentially we’re part of the same movement on opposite sides of the globe!

So a date was arranged for a gchat interview and over the course of our hour long electronic conversation we chatted about the Kinky Apothocary, geeked out on products,  and discussed quite surprising perceptions of natural hair in Nigeria.  Nibi even dished up a recipe for Shealoe mix, a moisturizer that I’ve heard works wonders!

Read on for the full gchat transcript to learn more about this moving and shaking Nigerian natural (who rocks a fierce twist out)!

Nibi Lawson

me: gooood morning Nibi!

Nibi: Hi Cassidy! How’s it going?

me: wonderful

just getting the morning started here

and you must be winding down your day…

Nibi: To be honest I’ve had a really lazy day. Moved from bed to couch and that’s about all I’ve done today

me: haha

got it

well I’m still in bed

gotta love the internet 🙂

Nibi: Lol!

me: so shall we dive into our little g-interview?

Nibi: Sure!

me: great!  tell me what inspired you to start the Kinky Apothecary.

Nibi: Well basically I’ve been natural for ages, but for about the first 7 years I had no clue what to do. Used all the same products I did when I was relaxed, and when it grew it got really frustrating, so I relaxed again about 4 years ago- around the time I moved to Nigeria. Didn’t like it and transitioned back straight away, but during that time I started reading all the hair forums, and doing loads of research, but couldn’t find any of the recommended products here and I’d get them whenever I went to London. So when people started asking me about my hair and I couldn’t recommend anything here that they could use, I decided to start bringing them in

me: I love that you are able to find the best products and bring them back to Nigeria. How has the reception been to your store?

Nibi: Its been great so far. There isn’t an actually store for the Kinky Apothecary yet- I sell directly to people, and also the products are stocked at a boutique, which was also where I held the first workshop to kick things off

But the reception has actually been quite overwhelming. I only started in May, and basically sold out totally at the first event

Nibi selling Aubrey Organics and other products at the recent Kinky Apothocary 'Cupcakes and Champagne' event

me: oh my gosh, thats amazing!

people are really wanting these products!

frankly, even here in San Francisco its hard to get all of the things you stock on the ground…

how do you reach out to potential customers?

Nibi: Yeah, I think people are just desperate to find ways to manage their natural hair. I’m not sure if you ever used all the mineral-laden crap out there, but there is a huge difference between the manageability of MY hair now, and 4 years ago. And I think when people realised it was as simple as cutting out sulfate shampoos, etc, they were sold.

I mainly reach out to people through facebook- lol

And word of mouth- word travels really fast in Lagos

Attendees at the Cupcakes and Champage event

me: ha– well thats what FB is there for!

I bet.  I mean whenever I see another natural head, I always want to stop and chat with them—- do you ever do that?

Nibi: There was a feature on The Kinky Apothecary on, and I was able to reach out to a lot of Nigerians all over the world through that

I actually stop naturals and strike up random conversations all the time. Especially in Nigeria where there are not that many. Well, a lot of people keep their hair natural under weaves and braids, but hardly any will rock a fro, or a twistout. Hopefully that will change soon

me: hopefully because I am a HUGE fan of HUGE hair!

So where do you get your ideas for products to keep in stock?

Speaking at the Cupcakes and Champagne event

Nibi: I started off just stocking stuff I had tried and had worked for me- I am a HUGE pj, so I had loads of options. I figured that although some of the people I was targeting were already natural, had been for a while and knew about the products, the majority are people who are totally new to the whole natural thing. For most people even the concept of cowashing is alien. So I thought I would start with the basics, the most popular lines like Aubreys and Giovanni. I’m slowly going to add new lines, and also teaching people how to use stuff we can get really easily here, like aloe vera, shea butter, coconut oil, etc

Also trying to develop my own line so there is a cheaper option, so watch this space

me: you’re making your own line! that’s exciting…. I guess that’s where the “apothecary” comes into play 🙂

what’s on your personal product wish list right now?

Nibi: I want to see what all the fuss is about with Darcy’s Botanicals and Afroveda, but because they have to be ordered online, and shipping to the UK is so expensive, let alone to Nigeria, I’m going to have to wait until the next time I’m in the states. I really want to try Henna as well, but am a bit scared as I’ve got really dry hair.

me: haha— there definitely is a lot of fuss about DB and Afroveda. In my first product buying binge I bought a bunch of stuff from both. I’m really impressed with the conditioners in both of their lines.

Nibi: Can’t wait to try them out

me: but I’m also very interested in and terrified to try henna too!

I also see that you’re a fan of Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose

Nibi: Yeah, pretty huge

me: I love that stuff too!

Have you ever tried their GPB conditioner? [edited: GBP = Aubrey Organics Glycogen Protein Balancing Conditioner]

Nibi: Although I recently tried Elucence MBC [edited: MBC= Elucence Moisture Balancing Conditioner] and love it- though not sure if it was just because I’d done an amla treatment first

Omg, I tried the gpb on monday, and I love it!!

me: ooh, I’ve always wanted to try the Elucence!

! yes! I think the GBP is fantastic

Nibi: I used the gpb, and then after a bit used the hsr over it (thought I might need the moisture boost after the protein). My hair literally felt like silk as I rinsed

me: yep! its absolutely amazing stuff. I got it in a product swap at my last meet up and have been in love since! 🙂

so I read somewhere on your blog that you encourage the use of products/ingredients that are found locally.

can you give me some examples of what you have available locally?

Nibi and friend (see what I'm saying about the fierce twist out??)

Nibi: Just the ingredients I mentioned earlier- shea, coconut oil, aloe vera gel- the plant grows in most people’s gardens, and I’ve learned how to make aloe gel, also avocado, and finally cocoa butter from ghana

me: cool— ive never seen/used raw shea before. only its processed form into a butter.

Nibi: My main problem with shea is the smell, so I’m always looking for ways to try and disguise that

me: got it.  have you ever made a shealoe mix?

Nibi: Yes I have. I mainly use that as a moisturiser as moisturisers are the hardest things to get my hands on- the really good ones, like qhemets, oyin whipped pudding, etc are only available online and made to order, so I just use my shealoe mix after my leave-in

me: I’ve never tried it, but thats one of the things that people are always talking about on forums, so I’ve been wanting to try it out.

speaking of forums, which one is your favorite?

Nibi: Its very easy to make and the aloe makes it really moisturising

me: care to share your recipe for it?

Nibi: My favourite forum, and definitely the one I’m addicted to, is naturally curly. I don’t post much, but I go on to read about 2ce a day

me: I’m all about naturallycurly too! that place is the reason I went natural …annnnnd yes, it IS highly addictive

Nibi: Yup, very simple. You just need 2 parts shea butter and one part aloe vera gel, and a dash of coconut oil- if I use a cup of shea, I normally use a tablespoon of coconut oil. Soften the shea butter (I just do it in the microwave. Doesn’t matter if it melts cos it will reset), add the coconut oil, and then whip the aloe vera gel in. Then leave it to cool/set (I chuck it in the fridge as it would probably stay liquid in these tropical temperatures) and that’s it

me: awesome! sounds super easy…I definitely want to try it out

me: you’re lucky to be able to be a part of the natural communities in two countries, the UK and Nigeria. What are similarities and differences between them?

Nibi: They are very different. In london, everyone does their own thing fashion-wise, and everything goes. I was in London last week, and I remember thinking ‘wow, it feels like everyone’s natural!’ In Lagos, people conform more. I’ve had negative comments for being natural (an experience shared by a lot of the ladies who came to the workshop), I’m often the only natural in most settings. Naturals are few and far between here, but I do think that’s changing, and pretty quickly too

me: i have to say that I find it very interesting that there are a lot more negative comments in Nigeria…and I think that the work you’re doing there will definitely help to change peoples’ misconceptions of what natural is

Nibi: Yeah, its quite sad. People tend to conform to more ‘western’ ideals. I’ve had people say I’m really ‘afrocentric’ in a negative way, which is weird as well, what’s more afrocentric than actually being african, which all of us here are. But yeah, I hope I am able to change people’s misconceptions

me: I really cannot wrap my head around being “too afrocentric” in africa!

Cupcakes and Champagne attendee

Nibi: I also think people are ready to change. I got a message from an editor of one of the local papers the other day. She wants me to do a regular feature on natural hair in the sunday style section, and she actually apologized for not focusing more on natural hair in the past.

I think that highlights how things are changing

me: that is so exciting!

Nibi: I know! Lol

me: well I think exposure like that and on our blogs are really doing a lot to change peoples perceptions of natural

…but a regular feature in the paper will do wonders!

Nibi: I think so too. The feature will focus mainly on basics, as most people here don’t even know where to start with natural hair. But yeah, I am excited. And also it means I can reach a wider audience for The Kinky Apothecary

me: for sure,  but I agree that I think that getting the basics for caring for natural hair is key…its all about education and learning how to do it properly…. and teaching people that its just all about water and moisture—with those two things, anything is possible  🙂

Nibi: I agree!

me: well, Nibi, I want to thank you for chatting with me!  I love talking hair and its really amazing that we can do that around the world from one and other

Nibi: Its been great chatting to you too! And I will let you know when I think of what I’d like to ask you for my blog. Thanks so much!

me: of course!  cheers and have a good evening!

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Lakeisha permalink
    June 23, 2010 9:09 am

    Great interview! I’m still stuck on that “too afrocentric” comment though…

  2. June 23, 2010 9:50 am

    That is so cool, gotta love the internet for allowing something like this to happen.

    I think that it’s great she’s spearding such a positive outlook on being natural and that people are open to the idea(for the most part). As for those who have negative things to say, it’s only because they are uneducated about natural hair.

    I’ve come in contact with people who asked me why, why do you wear your hair like that? My favorite line, “It’s not normal to have hair like that, people don’t like it”…yes, someone said that to me. I smiled and told them why I were my hair the way I do and gave them a brief, natural hair 101 and by the end of the conversation; they had a different outlook on the idea.

    Education is the best thing we can for ourselves and for others.

    Great post!

    • July 8, 2010 9:36 am

      “Education is the best thing we can for ourselves and for others.” I totally agree!

  3. Regina permalink
    July 8, 2010 9:44 am

    Wonderful interview. And yes Nibi is rocking that twist out.

  4. La Shon permalink
    August 1, 2010 3:55 pm

    I see the recipe with Shea Butter, Aloe Vera, and Coconut oil, but I didn’t get a good idea about when it is used and for what purpose – a conditioner? a styler?

    I am also concerned about being “too afrocentric” in Africa. Wow. The work we have to do as a people, is just that “as a people” and is not centralized in one country or locale. We must have a worldwide wellness agenda.

    • August 1, 2010 7:24 pm

      I would use the Shealoe as a sealer or a styler for twists (it may be too heavy for a wash’n’go styler).

      And I agree, it really makes an impression that the issues of going natural are able to transcend cultures and geographic boundaries. How to move forward? Well that’s why its important that we continue to come together as a natural community and support one and other in the process!

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