Antonia Opiah is the founder of UN-RULY.com, a space created to celebrate the versatility of Black hair. We talked with her about entrepreneurship, her move to France, and the state of Black hair today. Get into the interview below and keep up with all things UN-RULY on Twitter.
Tell us a little bit about your background: Who are you and where are you headed?
Hi! My name is Antonia. Five years ago I quit my job at an ad agency in New York and started my own beauty platform, Un-ruly.com, and also moved to Paris. I’m working on making Un-ruly.com be a real resource and source of inspiration for Black Women.
How did you get your start in business, particularly around Black hair? Who or what inspired you?
I founded Un-ruly because I wanted a site like it to exist. Back in the day, there wasn’t a website dedicated to Black hair so given that I had the expertise to create one, I did.
Founder of Un-ruly, a space “created to celebrate and inspire the versatility and beauty of Black hair and women,” talk to us about what Black hair in all its forms means to you. Why did you found Un-ruly? What’s behind the name Un-ruly? How do you feel Black women’s hair contributes to their versatility?
I think Black hair is a great representation of Black culture. It’s diverse. It’s versatile, taking on many different shapes, forms, colors. It’s a source of innovation and a reflection of our history. It’s something that can divide us (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing) but it also unites us. There’s a shared experience that we all have when it comes to our hair. I’ve struck conversations with different women in various parts of the world through hair.
The name Un-ruly actually comes from a poem I wrote when I was in school that basically described how no matter what you do, your hair and the culture it represents won’t be suppressed by another person’s idea of beauty.
You left a job in advertising to pursue your life and business in Paris. Tell us how you came to the decision to move to France and what it’s like to run a business abroad. How, if at all, have French culture and customs around beauty impacted Un-ruly?
The decision to run my own business came first. I’ve always known I’ve wanted to build something. At the time I was working in digital advertising so I knew, that whatever I did would be online, which can be done from anywhere. So, given that I always wanted to learn another language, I decided to launch my company from France. I think during my first year here I made things harder for myself. I had to tackle being alone in a foreign country and navigating all the hurdles that come with that in addition to creating something new. But once I got settled in France, things got easier. I’m very much a digital nomad. All I need to get things done is a good wifi connection and my computer.
I don’t know if I can honestly say that French culture has impacted me and Un-ruly. Most Black women here are doing the same things American women are doing to their hair. The world really has become a global community.
Explain the #BlackHairIs series to us. What story were you trying to tell or shed light on? How did you come up with the concept?
Just yesterday a friend of mine complained on Facebook saying, women in some natural hair groups on Facebook can be really mean. After writing about hair for five years, I see this come up over and over and over again. There’s a segment of us that says “do you” when it comes to other women and their hair choices and there’s another segment that overtly or covertly judges other women. To be honest, I sometimes second guess my own hair choices out of fear for how a style might be received. So Black Hair Is… is my way of diving into all that, diving into the judgment, whether existing or projected and understanding where it comes from and what we can do to get rid of it.
What opportunities do you see for women of color and girls like you in entrepreneurship, particularly as it pertains to hair and beauty? How do you intend to positively influence the space?
My goal has always been to stir productive conversations and I’ve done so with several of my video projects i.e. You Can Touch My Hair, Pretty, Hairties and now Black Hair Is… I’ve also done focusing on creating content that’s useful, like some of our in-depth style guides as well as our career column.
What can we expect from Un-ruly moving forward and how can we be of support?
Hmmm… you’ve caught me at an interesting time regarding the future of Un-ruly. But if you’d like our content and want to see more of it, please share it!
In the end, how do you want your story depicted? What legacy do you hope to leave behind?
Just for kicks:
Protective style: braids or weave? Braids
A Seat at the Table or Lemonade? Lemonade
Blog or podcast? Podcast in theory. Blog in practice.