As a Black woman, I can understand what Black women want or need because of my own experiences.”
How does your background influence the mission of Ustawi and your journey as an Entrepreneur?
It's not easy to juggle being a wife, a mother, and an entrepreneur. Fortunately, I have a great husband who strongly encourages me and helps me. To be a woman with a mission like this was very difficult and to be a Black woman in this industry is not easy. Here in France, when to comes to running such a big business, Black women are not taken seriously as entrepreneurs. The first person who trusted and believed in my idea was my husband. I started working in the pharmacy industry after my modeling career, but I didn't feel fulfilled in what I was doing. That's why I kept going back to Africa to see my mum. She gave me natural skincare remedies that worked so I wrote down some of the recipes so I could try making my own products at home. I showed it to my husband and friends and said I wanted to expand on this and take it to a larger scale and my husband encouraged me. I am lucky to have someone who trusts me to encourages me and stands by me.
The fact that I wanted to create a product specifically for Black women made it even more difficult. But I had my plans and I kept writing down my ideas. There is the misconception that Black people don't buy. That is very wrong. Black women love to buy products for their skin and their hair, and we spend a lot of money in the skincare industry. We buy even more products than other women because we have to test different products to find the right ones for us. Now they are realizing this and that’s why you see these big brands like now trying to make products for Black women. Thanks to Rihanna who made Fenty Beauty for all skin colors and now all the brands want to jump on board. It's time for Black people to support each other and band together. This is just the beginning.
What is the inspiration behind Ustawi? What inspired you to start this brand?
My inspiration comes from my parents. Especially my mother. She always had an eye for medicinal plants and herbs. At the same time, the idea came from a need to create a community space to exchange ideas, about our skin problems and to promote wellbeing. I'm very passionate about that. I started Ustawi to show that an African woman can succeed in creating a large product that she knows and that solves a problem that she experiences in her daily life. It seriously inspired me.
During the years I was suffering from hyperpigmentation and acne, I used a lot of products that were aggressive, irritating, and made my skin discolored and more prone to breakouts. During one of my trips to Africa, the airline lost my luggage with all my skincare products and I was freaking out because I didn't know what I would do without them. My mum laughed at how I was freaking out. She took some plant leaves and mixed them for me to use instead and a few days later, they had great effects on my skin. When I got back to Europe, I went back to using my previous products. A few weeks after I resumed my usual skincare routine, my skin problems resurfaced. I kept buying new products I thought would work better but none did. So, I returned to using my mother's skincare recipes that used medicinal plants and natural ingredients. Soon after, I started to notice improvements and I could clearly see the before and after difference on my skin. I also started to learn more about these ingredients and what they could do for the skin.
I decided to fully follow the natural way my mum recommended. In the past, my bathroom was packed with products from high-end brand names. Now, I don't need those expensive skincare products. I use products that are healthy for my skin. Some people buy brands because they aesthetically pleasing, Instagramable, and look great on bathroom stalls. What you need are products that can actually be helpful for your skin. Today my skin is my best accessory. When I go out, I only put on moisturizer and sunscreen and I still feel confident in my skin.
What role do you think Ustawi will play in the skincare and beauty industry?
You know, as a consumer in this industry, I’ve used a lot of products from big brands to smaller brands and in every price range. But I was never able to find the one product that could understand my skin and give it what it needed. As a Black woman, I can understand what Black women want or need because of my own experiences. So, I’ve started this brand of natural products with ingredients that I know their source. I can say this product has this ingredient and this is where this ingredient comes from. There are many products where we don't know what ingredients they contain and where they come from. However, I think today people want to know what kind of ingredients are in the products they use on their skin and Ustawi fills this gap in the industry. We use natural products, and we go to the source to find our ingredients and to find out what people need and what my community needs. Ustawi has a place and an important role to play in the skincare and beauty industry.
“My skin is my best accessory.”
What advice would you give women who are still struggling with embracing their skin and feeling comfortable in it?
When your skin is beautiful and healthy, it has positive effects on your self-confidence. In the past I tried to cover my skin problems and insecurities with makeup. Now I use makeup less often because I take good care of my skin which makes my skin my best accessory. So, my advice is to know your skin and treat it properly and it’s going to make you feel more confident.
What are the three most important tips that you would share for keeping healthy skin?
First, you must understand your skin. Secondly, avoid aggressive and irritating products. And thirdly, you need to treat and take care of your skin from the inside.
"It's time for Black people to support each other and band together. This is just the beginning."
Can you elaborate on treating your skin from the inside, how do you do that?
You need to detoxify. Every morning before I take anything, I drink warm water with half a lemon, vinegar, and ginger. I love ginger because it is very anti-inflammatory, and it is very good for the skin. It’s also a good antioxidant. Another thing you can take is celery or cucumber juice and it's very beneficial for glowing skin. It's not just using products or cremes. Detoxifying juices are beneficial for healthy and glowing skin. After this, when you apply skincare cremes and products, it's very easy to have glowing skin.
In addition to detoxifying, what else is in your daily skincare routine?
In the morning, after detoxifying, I use Micellar water to cleanse my face, then I apply Vitamin C serum. After that, tap on my face very slightly. I have combination skin, so I like to use dark spot correctors to prevent acne. I also use my moisturizer for combination skin. It's in powdered form and it's really good for people with oily and combination skin. And then lastly, I always use sunscreen. No matter the weather, even if it's winter, and even if I’m indoors, I use sunscreen. There’s a common misconception that Black people don't need sunscreen because we have melanin, but we need it. It's really important.
One of the main focuses of Ustawi is Anti-pollution, why is that?
Pollution affects our skin. Your face, just like your hands, gets dirty. Even when you wear makeup your face still gathers dirt and pollution and none of this is good for our skin. That's why all Ustawi products are anti-pollution. It's important to protect the skin.
Why should we use Ustawi products?
I want people to trust natural products and I want people to trust the products they use. Ustawi has the philosophy of going back to the source. People know and understand that natural ingredients are healthy. Ustawi is natural, it won't irritate your skin or be aggressive on your skin but rather will make your skin healthy.
We have beautiful skin, and we need to heal it and protect it. As they say, "Black don't crack". We are lucky and we shouldn't ruin our skin with the wrong products and harsh chemicals made by people who don't care for our skin. I believe in this mission and I think this message will resonate.
Interviewed by Jiji Ugboma for Ustawi Blog.