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Kaya on natural hair, accountability and the importance of safe spaces

Kaya on natural hair, accountability and the importance of safe spaces

Though she’s now an advocate for natural hair, Vancouver-based entrepreneur Kaya didn’t always love her curls. Now a hair specialist, she told us about her journey to accepting her hair, how conversations, self-empowerment and reflection led her to where she is, and how she views accountability in the beauty industry. To read more of Kaya’s words of wisdom on hair positivity and female empowerment, make sure to follow her right here.

Janice Liu (JL): You have a beautiful career in fashion and lifestyle in Vancouver, how do you juggle everything? What does your average day look like?

Kaya (K): Thank you! That’s a good question I’m still trying to work out. Blogging / influencing is actually my side hustle, so I fit it around my Mon-Fri day job, and it’s definitely something I struggle to balance. I try to fit content creation in almost every day after work, and most of the weekends. That looks like anything from taking photos, filming videos, to writing out blog posts. I definitely could be a lot more organized than I am, but I do try to keep lists. 

JL: With the pandemic, I’m sure your life has changed, what’s been your guide in finding time for everything while taking care of yourself?

K: My day job is essential, so from that perspective, life carried on as normal. That being said, because I wasn’t seeing friends and family for a few months, I had a lot of extra time to create content. But in terms of taking care of myself too, I’ve been having lots of Zoom chats, and trying not to force anything. I’ve found that not pushing anything I’m not super excited about to be a good guiding principle during the pandemic. The world already feels heavy. I don’t think it’s a time to be forcing ourselves to be hyper-productive.

JL: The world is also going through an awakening, what conversations have you had with your friends, family and community about change for the good? How do you think sustainable change will come?

K: As a Black woman born and raised in Vancouver, and as a content creator connected to people all over the world, I’ve been having different levels of conversations with different people. With the friends I’ve grown up with, and my non-Black peers I’ve been sharing my lived experiences when it comes up, helping them gain insight into my personal experiences with racism in a city (or country) that thinks it’s much more inclusive than it often is.

With my family, conversations have been more cathartic. Similar to conversations I have with fellow Black-women. There’s something to be said about having a “safe-space” so to say, where you can let it all out, share how you’re handling the weight of everything going on, and even vent a little. 

Community conversations for me have focused more on the influencer and beauty/fashion industry. Where has the industry been missing the mark this whole time? What are brands doing with their platform? What are they committing to do better? Black creators (and creators of colour in general) just aren’t getting the same collaboration opportunities as white creators. We aren’t getting paid the same (or at all), and we aren’t getting featured on social media pages the same way. I think sustainable change will come from everyone doing the work in the spaces where they have a voice. While we can all sign petitions and write emails to governing bodies, it’s easy for a single person to lose momentum or lose faith when they are only fighting on such a large scale. It’s important to keep the focus on the big movement, but for sustainable change, we need to also look at how racial inequality affects the spaces we occupy, the places where we have a louder voice.

I am by no means a big influencer, but I do have a platform in the sphere of lifestyle, beauty, and fashion. I can help bring awareness to the issues in the industry, and make recommendations for change. For every person, that sphere will be different, which is good, because I can bet you that every sphere has a racial issue that needs unpacking. It may be the corporate world, it could be the film industry, wellness industry, anything really. If you don’t know where to start, Google “Racism in *insert the industry you work in, or are interested in*”. Making a difference will feel a lot less daunting. 

JL: Tell us about your journey. Any big catalyst moments in your life that have shaped who you are today?

K: I feel like there are so many layers to “my journey” that I’m not sure where to start. Short version, I have always loved writing, and that’s actually why I got into blogging just over 4 years ago. My goal was to document my journey learning how to properly care for my hair, and was mostly supposed to be a text-based platform. I knew of course, that as a hair blogger, I’d have to share photos of myself, but that was the part I was least-excited about. Looking at my Instagram feed plastered with photos of myself, you likely would never have guessed that though. 

Two catalyst moments come to mind. The first is when I started to accept my natural hair texture, and made the conscious decision to “go natural”. That was the moment where I started to gain a new sort of confidence, not just in my appearance, but in my ability to take care of myself. For most of my life, I had relied on my mom to do my hair. When I went natural, it was really the first time I learned how to do something other than put my hair up in a bun. I learned how to listen to my body (or my hair), and figure out what was and wasn’t working.

The second is when I had been working in retail, and a man came in with his little daughter. He complimented my hair, and asked to touch it. I struggle with saying no to people in general, and that was especially the case in customer service industry. I said yes, and he went all in. His fingers touched my scalp… and I have a lot of hair, so he had to go in deep for that to happen. I felt so violated, and a lot like an animal at the petting zoo. I still get grossed out when I think back to that moment, but that was the final straw for me. I walked away from that situation vowing to never let a stranger touch my hair if I didn’t want them to, and for the most part, I have stuck to that commitment. That decision to stand up for myself felt like a sort of level-up. I’m still very much a ‘yes’ person, but it helped me set boundaries with people.

JL: Any favourite beauty and lifestyle brands that you can’t live without? What do you support? As someone with curly hair as well, I know how difficult it is to not succumb to marketing where beauty is prescribed. What has that been like for you?

K: For someone who tries a lot of beauty brands, I’m not sure I have one I can’t live without. I would maybe say The Ordinary, simply because it was the first company that really helped get my skin in a place that I was happy with. The fact that you have to rely on ingredient knowledge to successfully build your own routine with them forced me to stop, educate myself, and really spend the time listening to my skin. That being said, I try my best to support small businesses, and Black-owned business where I can.

I am an absolute sucker for marketing. There are so many different brands out there, and honestly not enough days in the week to wash my hair with them all! Part of the difficulty for me is that with my blog, I feel it necessary to try lots of different products, and share my thoughts. I also am fortunate enough to have been sent products by lots of different beauty brands… so my collection is very large. But I have to remind myself that trying a bunch of different products on my hair is not really in my hair’s best interest. And that goes the same for my skin!

So I would say I’ve really begun scaling back on new purchases, and only really testing out new things when the opportunity arises to work with a new brand. This helps curb my desire to purchase something simply due to their fantastic marketing.

JL: If you could experience the ultimate wellness day, what would that look like?

K: It would involve a good amount of time spent on my skincare routine, as well as a fantastic hot yoga class, a walk by the water, and hours upon hours spent curled up reading and writing. I’d probably need to fit in some physical touch somewhere in there, so I’d cuddle my husband and cats for a bit. The adult in me also says I’d have to drink of lots of water, but even in my wellness fantasy, I’d probably forget to do that…

JL: Any favourite quotes?

K: It’s funny: for a writer and lover of words, I’m not much of a quote person. Maybe it’s because I have an awful memory.  That being said, the only (very random) quote that has stuck with me for years is: “Leave it to a Viking to disarm you with eloquence when you least expect it.” from the book The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. I haven’t re-read it in a long time, and it may be problematic.. so forgive me if it is. 

**Cover picture by @jadethesage