Natural hair is a polarising wonderland. Some live in, others never understand it, others roam the edges, observing. It made #30daysnaturally campaign particularly intriguing.
I asked Maureen Murunga, owner of three salons: Amadiva Beauty and Urembo, and visionary behind the campaign what on earth possessed her to do bold, unusual and distinct styles.
“For a lot of people natural hair is unkempt hair even though that’s the style. People also say natural hair is not for everybody. What does that even mean? A lot of this has to do with messages saying sleek straight hair is acceptable.”
She adds, “I have two types of clients: high powered high flying executives telling me to ‘tame their hair’ and self aware women fine with wearing their natural hair openly. I’ll be
honest. I struggle too. I have my moments when I miss my straight weaves and that feeling of looking cute, whatever cute is. Every time I want to do that I remember my daughters.
I see a lot of women struggling, bringing kids to the salon. Our youngest client is 3 years old. She has glorious hair. But the mother says she can’t manage it and would rather relax it.”
CHEMICAL VS NATURAL
Seventy per cent of her clients chemically process their hair. In an attempt to grow her client base, and reach out to more women who relax their hair, she redesigned the space and
approached a PR firm to help reposition her brand. But all this changed after she became a mother. Now 18 months, her twins, Lulu and Freya came, of course, with hair.
“In their first year I had no idea what to do. Should I shampoo? What about conditioner? Luckily they had that really soft baby hair. Over time I noticed they had different textures.
Lulu’s Z curl has very tight curls that tangle, forming dreadlocks at the back of her head. It meant locking her hair and giving her no choice. Her dad went – No uh, fix it.” She went
into natural hair forums. An entirely unknown world cracked open.
“There is a lot of information. I learnt. I did pre poos, used shampoo bars and made conditioners. I made conditioner from honey and bananas. It makes their hair so soft they don’t
even notice something happening. Lulu now loves hair wash day.”
“It is always an adventure, an enjoyable experience for my girls. They want to do it every day. That’s when I knew I had done something right. Then I thought, why aren’t we doing
this in the salon?”
Naturalistas are legendary at DIY because their salon experiences are documented as traumatising. Proven, when Maureen discovered the Millennials were fluent in Naturalista
language as older women trying to go natural in their 30s and 40s struggled.
“They have had 10 to 20 years of using chemicals then reached self-awareness after damaging their hair follicles and can’t stick to the natural look because it brings up all kinds of
emotions. Their children talk what we are now learning. They come to the salon and tell us how they would like us to handle their hair.
The bizarre thing is they did not choose the Naturalista lifestyle. Their mothers insisted on it, never giving them an opportunity to be anything but natural.”
The #30daysnaturally campaign roped in Naturalista Wachu Macharia. Wachu has a spatial gift. A DIYer who translates creative ideas into practical ones. She replicated a complex
Lupita red carpet do within hours of release, posted on Instagram where it was promptly liked by Vernon Francois, Lupita’s hair stylist.
It isn’t seamless. It takes training staff, drawing influencers like blogger Sharon Mundia, plummeting into the deep end of social media.
“That has been very rewarding, getting to know what people want, engaging with them and seeing the results,” to dealing with overwhelmed emotional outbursts from happy women
who told me they had never felt so beautiful in their lives.”
Maureen had to review her business. “There is a huge Naturalista market in the world, let alone Kenya. I am constantly surprised how little this opportunity is recognised by traditional
media because if you are in the arts you have an obligation to be a trendsetter. It is your job, And big corporates like L’Oreal have resources to tap into this market. I get responses
from Uganda, Rwanda and South Africa. I have never gone wrong with this mantra: change your mind, change your money.”