Teakisi Woman: Ngozi Ossai
It’s believed women spend countless numbers of hours researching their shampoo, conditioner, weaves, extensions, and hair care products. In 2015, the global hair care market was valued at US$81.3 billion, while Mintel valued the US market to be more than $2.5 billion. And last year, here in the UK, the market was valued at an estimated £88 million – with black women spending on average three times more than white women. These statics did not include hair accessories such as wigs or electric styling products – this means the industry is actually worth much more. For African women, finding the perfect hair care product for you in your local supermarket can be a challenge. This is why we’ve approached Ngozi Ossai, hair care entrepreneur, to tell us more on her brand Gozi, which is tailored to the needs of the Afro hair.
Teakisi: Who is Ngozi Ossai?
Ngozi: I’m a biomedical Scientist that fell in love with her natural curls, which led her to discover the deficienc (lack of representations and products) in the natural haircare industry. This inspired her passion to provide a solution, which is being realised through GOZI Haircare.
Teakisi: What’s a typical day like in your life?
Ngozi: Oh wow! That is a good question. The truth is that everyday is different and that’s what keeps my journey interesting. I spend the bulk of my day working on GOZI Haircare. Our products are all handmade (with love x) at the moment. First thing in the mornings, I make sure stock levels are adequate and then I delegate tasks based on our weekly agenda or campaign. Next, I get to emails. I try to get emails replied by morning. I spend the afternoon in meetings, then I finish up the day by reviewing daily progress which includes order fulfillment, correspondence, working on the virtual store, etc. Experience has taught me that balance is very important, and so, in the evening, I wind down, spending time with family and friends or just kick back with Netflix on.
Teakisi: What is Gozi Haircare?
Ngozi: GOZI Haircare is dedicated to providing uniquely formulated Haircare products (that work!) for the natural/afro-textured haircare industry. I take pride in the fact that GOZI Haircare products are 100% natural (oils and butters) and free from harmful chemicals! We provide specialist advice about natural haircare and products that are non-toxic, safe, paraben free and that actually work.
Teakisi: Why did you think it was important to start the haircare range?
Ngozi: When I became natural, I felt my hair texture was under represented. The adverts, blogs and other haircare brands all spoke about loosely curled hair types. There I was after I cut my hair, desperately searching for information on how to care for my hair-type. It was almost as if it did not exist or people did not want to associate with my hair-type. The truth is that my hair-type (tightly curled 4c hair) exists and I have met a lot of women with my hair texture. Type 4 hair (also called afro-textured or afro hair or kinky hair) has many variations among individuals but is the most common of those with African descent. After 8 years of being natural with this problem (lack of products for my hair-type) still persisting, I decided to be the change I wanted to see. At this time, I had researched well enough into the type of ingredients that work for the afro hair-type and created my unique homemade formula products that I was using on my own hair. These products were working, as evident with the quality and length of my own hair, and were already popular amongst my friends and family. A lot of people were impressed with my hair and there was a lot of interest into what I was using to achieve it, even with strangers who would stop and question me randomly. I was also charting my hair journey on YouTube, on how I was able to care for my hair and retain length. GOZI Haircare is my channel to share my homemade solution with others that would need it, nationally and potentially worldwide. More research has to do be done to find the right products that work for our afro hair. Unless we start moving the industry, with enough products and representation to initiate that change, we would be stuck saying natural hair is difficult to care for. Where there is a will, there is a way.
Teakisi: There are so many haircare products on the market today. What sets yours apart?
Ngozi: Our values, aims and objectives have all been as a result of my personal journey. We aim to provide natural hair products that actually work, with a focus on the most under represented hair-type at the moment, which is the afro hair (type 4). My Hair-type is 4C, which is considered the most difficult to care for, but my experiences and innovation of GOZI haircare products have proven otherwise. We educate, on this hair-type and provide the products that make caring for it easier. The aim is to promote embracing your natural curls/beauty.
Teakisi: Are your products afforadable, where can they be purchased, and do you ship outside the UK?
Ngozi: Yes, they are very affordable! Please check www.gozihaircare.com for more details. At the moment we only ship in the UK, but we are looking at expanding to other regions soon.
Teakisi: Hair in Africa seems to have become a political issue. What’s your take on this?
Ngozi: In the most general context, being political means expressing association (in one form or the other like appearance, making statements etc.) with an idea or set of ideas and it’s usually in opposition to another idea or set of ideas. The fact about hair being political comes from perception. There are a lot of factors to consider here, but I would focus on one that I feel is the most important; i.e. the history/culture of an environment that defines the perception that then labels something like how someone decides to present their hair as being political. In most African countries, colonization brought about the adoption of the western ways into Africa which has had a big influence in the definition of various standards, and the presentation of the black women’s hair is one of those standards that was influenced. It somehow became normalized and the preference to present hair in a westernized manner (straightened) and anything different, like wearing your natural kinky hair out, became the exception, i.e. perceived as different or radical. The new movement of natural hair is about embracing your natural beauty and being confident to make your own standards of beauty to uphold. The knowledge of this history (the definition of beauty standards based on the western world) is what makes the way you present your hair to be considered political by observers, that is, expressing association against/for the imposed adoption of westernized hair-beauty standards. On the other hand, a young African girl might innocently just want to rock her natural hair as a different look, the same way a woman might decide to try a different fashion style, but would be perceived as ‘political’. You see, it’s the historic storyline that judges such a young girl’s intent or association. The fact that people get an impression of you, by the way you wear your hair is what makes it political, I believe. To me, what is more important is representation! Representation makes it so that that young girl, even if she decides to rock a straight hair look for a couple of days, still embraces her natural kinky curls and knows that she is beautiful rocking that look as well.
Teakisi: How true to you is this statement; African women who wear weaves and relax their hair are un-African”.
Ngozi: I do not agree with this statement. How a woman decides to wear her hair, on any given day, is not enough to define how African she is. Is the definition of being African simple enough only to be defined by how you wear your hair? I think not. Being African is more than just about hair. I believe in the natural hair movement but at the same time I do not believe in judging people by how they choose to present themselves on any given day. What would be worrisome to me is if a black lady does not see beauty in her natural hair.
Teakisi: Is natural hair empowering?
Ngozi: Yes, it is. It’s all about embracing your natural beauty.
Name five African women who inspire you.
Ngozi: i) My Mum
ii) Kemi Adetiba
iii) Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
iv) Lupita Nyong’o
v) Funke Abimbola.
Interview conducted by Salha Kaitesi – Twitter: @SalhaKaitesi