NaturallyCurly is partnering with Curly Essence on their upcoming Pop Up Store in Lisbon, so we wanted to chat with founders Ana and Denise about what the natural hair movement likes like in their part of the world, and what they are doing their part to shift the conversation around natural hair where they live.
What was it like growing up curly in Portugal?
Denise: It was a mix, like me ;). I from a mixed family, so I had situations when my hair was straight people assume I was Portuguese, and with curly hair everything switched and I was Angolan in a flash (Yes, I was born in Angola hihihi). All my friends growing up had straight silky hair and off course I wanted the same, and me being an introvert, standing out from the crowd was not ideal. I only met Ana 4 years ago, and when Curly Essence started, I started my transition, physically and mentally #bestthingever.Ana: I'm not gonna lie, was difficult! Society gave me the side eye just because I decided to embrace my natural hair and, especially in this country when you look different from everyone else you have to be strong mentally! Since, I started to embrace my fro I have noticed how powerful I am, how strong I become and how society can dictates who I am and what I want to be.
How do your friends and family feel about natural hair?
Denise: My mum and my sister, had their wishes came true when I decided to go natural. They love it and always wanted me to wear my curls all the time. My friends the same, I was the only one who thought that straight was better. So I had all the support, but zero confidence.
Ana: Today everyone loves my hair but wasn't like that all the time. My mother at beginning of my journey was completely against to my decision (she was just jealous and I know that one day she'll admit) but nowadays she's totally fine.
Have you noticed a shift in the last 5 years in the view towards curly hair?
Denise: Definitely, don't know if it is because I'm now constantly searching and being more aware of the movement, but I for sure can see the idea that, natural is better, and healthier and is so beautiful to see young girls just rocking their curls in the street.
Ana: Yasss!! 5 year ago everyone though natural hair was just "another" trend when it wasn't. Natural hair in 2016 is love, pure love without labels.
How easy or hard is it to find products and information about your hair? What about salons?
Denise: We as a brand, want to change that exact concept in Portugal. Even though we see girls being more interested in the matter, it is still a challenge for us to find the right products and most important, information about curly hair and how to take care of it. The big labels are still very strong in the market, but we're ready to change that :)
Ana: We live in a Wi-Fi world, so today there's no excuses for the lack of information I think! Thankfully I live in a city (London), where I can find almost every product. Every brand that I want to give a try and a couple of salons with hair stylists specialize for my hair type. In another hand, if I was living in Lisbon I would probably be lost and a Ebay freak.
Did you feel isolated or alone in your curly hair journey? Or do you see other women with curls in your daily life?
Denise: I was very lucky to have Ana with me through the process. Is definitely easier having someone by your side going through the same challenges. But we did learn a lot, and was the best thing we did in our lives. During the process I was more aware of other girls in the street with gorgeous curls. Is really a fun thing because curly girls always have that secret stare to each other like "yaass sister" ahaha is amazing.
Ana: Not at all! I already had Denise in my life when I started my curly hair journey but since I've moved to another country, UK totally changed the way I feel when someone approach me to say something about my hair ("Hi girl, I love your hair! Oh, thanks!!") and, I really appreciate the love.
What trends have you seen in Europe when it comes to natural hair?
Denise: Big and voluminous curly hair. I think curly girls have acknowledge that frizz free is not always the best and you can still rock and feel fabulous with big loose curls.
Ana: No matter the length, they keep rocking their fro like no one else. But, when you walk around the city there's no way you can't see a beautiful woman with bantu knots, long braids, colorful turban and a big smile upon her face.
Do you think there's generally a negative or a positive view towards natural hair right now?
Denise: I think, that in a more professional and corporate environment, the idea of curly hair is still consider as careless. Many companies today don't allow women wearing their natural hair at work unless it's in some kind of protective styling. But, I'm definitely optimistic about the change.
Ana: Definitely a positive view. I feel like internet gave us the chance to learn how to love ourselves and appreciate who we are as a human. And, today when we log in on tumblr all we can see is love for natural hair and words of encouragement.
How is it different from the natural hair movement in other parts of the world?
Denise: Lisbon is very small, comparing to other big cities, we have the feeling we still live in a place where everyone knows each other and have something to say. One thing I still notice is the eye staring, where you can totally read the other person positive or negative reaction toward's you. People say they don't care, but they do, and definitely have an opinion about it. Curly hair, Afro hair, Kinky hair, is just hair, and people still need to get that #Iamnotmyhair.Ana: Maybe because I'm always online, I don't see that difference but when it comes to compare US with Portugal, well that's a new conversion. In Portugal there's such a big lack of products/education for natural hair and when I tell to someone in the US that in Portugal we don't even have Tresemme Naturals they get shocked. There's a lot to do in Portugal a huge market to explore and, we are totally ready to change the game!
Tell us about Curly Essence and what you're doing to influence the natural hair movement in Portugal and beyond?
Denise & Ana: We as Curly Essence Founders, we are determined to shift things around for the Afro community in Portugal. We want to bring the right products for our hair and most important, educate how we can treat and love ourselves being natural. We truly aim to inspire other women to join us on our journey. Because of Curly Essence, we meet so many wonderful people. Bigger the family, better the love! :)
If you'd like to join Denise and Ana on their mission to shift the natural hair movement in in Portugal, you can attend their Curly Essence Pop Up Store at Espelho d'água in Lisbon on May 19th, 6pm. The aim of Curly Essence Pop Up store is to expose their favorite brands that unfortunately are not sold in Portugal YET to their favorite people.