First Beauty Box for Black Women
Delali Kpodzo had traveled the world, earned an MBA and worked for a Hollywood film producer. But she didn't know how to wash her hair. "It's thick and grows quicky. I never learned how to manage it," says Kpodzo (pronounced "Pode-zo"), who was born in Ghana and lives in Los Angeles. "Even as a kid, my mom took me to the salon." When she told a friend last year she had stayed up all night looking for a YouTube tutorial on shampooing and combing out kinky hair, We Are Onyx was born.
That is how Kpodzo and Myriam Bocobza launched the first beauty subscription service for black women. Each month, subscribers select four hair and makeup samples, and are treated to a fifth as a surprise, for $20. Among the products Onyx carries on its site and periodically send to subscribers are Hairveda hair care products, Herban organic body products and Lamik cosmetics, which are paraben- and fragrance-free. Never heard of them? Exactly, says Kpodzo. "In our community there's a desert of information," she says. "I never see anyone in makeup or hair commercials with skin or hair like mine. And if you ever do hear about a great product, you have no idea where to buy it."
The We Are Onyx site offers tutorials on using the products and the option to buy full sizes. Many of the potions are exclusive to the site. Felicia Leatherwood, the hairstylist to Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, is on board as an expert.
You could look at We Are Onyx as part of a trend. The past few months have seen the debut of SquareHue, for three nail colors per month; Nail Art Society (pictured below), which sends kits of polish and accessories 12 times a year; and even Le Parcel, a monthly menstrual missive.
But We Are Onyx is the only one that's also a revolution. Beauty products for black women are often more toxic and less customized than those for whites. Part of the reason is simple supply and demand; under 8% of the US population, black women are not numerous enough for big beauty companies to better serve them. On a more sinister note, society's persistent messaging that straight hair and light skin are the ideals for black women have caused negatives attitudes about natural beauty. "Black women have trusted their hair and beauty to third parties for too long," says Bocobza, who came up with the the idea and brought it to American Entertainment Investors, which is backing the venture. "We want to bring that power back to them to make their own choices."
We Are Onyx has no political or social agenda. It aims only to give black women access to products and information for healthy skin and hair. Woman with relaxed hair can find products alongside those for natural hair. Still, the need for We Are Onyx—and its potential growth—could catch fire. In a good way.