So the homepage is quite the high-reel.
This below is more like a mini autobiography given the length..
I’m a storyteller, we said!
But that high-reel, it’s far too polished. Which I’m not!
I'm an explorer. I don't have many stamps on my passport though, but there's no another way to describe my journey than by calling it exploring.
It took a lot of switches…
I started my career in banking in Paris, because, you know, I figured that's how you showed them you're as smart as they are. They didn't like my purple shoes, and I'm not sure I liked them back in the first place.
Not them, but tracing all these figures all day in these huge towers.
We opt for therapy, and we start a blog too. All these Freddies pouring out in feelings, I stop beating them up and I give them the benefit of the doubt.
In therapy, in my piles of journals, and on this blog. It's 2013 and we air them out with all these clothes I get with my staff discount. Just a way to let the feelings flow whilst finding a way around that pension plan track. So what to do?
Well that blog, it gives me permission to face my creativity. It’s so much fun. And it gets me an opportunity to go back to ASOS as a personal stylist, it's 2014.
Turns out I can't do big companies politics, plus I don't want to just sell clothes. This exploration, it's getting me somewhere you know. Peace, self-love, trust in my birthright to happiness, to having big dreams and ambitions, I’m daring just a little more, it’s exhilarating, and that’s all I want to talk about on my platform.
SHE Unleashed, the confidence workshops
I launch my SHE Unleashed workshops in 2016, yes another switch, I know.
After ASOS I studied wellbeing coaching and wanted to work with women, misfits in their own heads just like me, aware that they deserved to feel confident and happy, but not quite sure how to thread towards it. Yep, that's me, so let's hang.
That's how the workshops started, and that's how I started public speaking.
For a chatter box like me, this exploration is definitely making more and more sense and I'm enjoying the journey and all the nonsense it's stripping off of me, even when it's painful.
So on top of fashion, I talk a lot about this on my blog and social media, and we become this growing gang.
She's keen, and she doesn't care for minimum orders so I drop her an email every other month, PayPal her some cash, and she cooks my special order: the hair that everyone thinks is mine on social media. So I say it's not mine but I can't really tell them,
"well there's this woman in China you can email and PayPal.
Tell her Freddie sent you”.
So I'm that annoying blogger that keeps the gold stash to herself. Until the Universe is not having any of it anymore either. In 2016, my husband Tom gets an amazing job offer in Geneva, that's a huge career step for him so we're jumping in grins on! But Switzerland doesn't help my new workshops switch, with so little time I decide I need to do something else whilst in Geneva.
First, let's get pregnant. The biggest of blessings stormed into our lives on the 24th of November 2016.
Hugo Jean-Claude Harrel, a gift from the Universe to Tom and I, and to the whole wide world too if I'm honest.
Blessings aside, Geneva is sipping on my soul gradually, I don't like being at home, I'm lonely and I can't do my workshops or even fly back often to London - I'm either pregnant or with a newborn.
Then I realise I could quickly set up a little online shop for my hair extensions. Right?
Big Hair No Care.
This whole time I thought I was too clueless about hair to bring anything to the table, but turns out there's a lot of us pretty clueless too. Who want the big hair, but don't have the skills or the time or patience for the maintenance, so who don't see the point of forking out for an expensive investment they can't maintain, and/or for hair whose sources we don't know about.
No Care, just the Big Hair, please.
And as an exploration-obsessed, I want to bring our stories forward, introduce each others, to each others.
The easiest of protective styles, ready to rock natural-looking styles so you get to play, take space, and save money and time for your own natural hair and world domination plans.
Oh and we build it together, we take these things in hands. The market needs it.
So we create this community, we create the ranges together, we throw pop-ups in towns near you, and who knows where we go from there?
That kind of mismatch couldn't be ignored so I went back to school and came back as a digital strategist.
First, media side, the speed, the social life you welcome as a keen fresh new Londoner hailing with a thick accent, but then the politics, so off we are client side, and we make it fashion. ASOS, Topshop, Vestiaire Collective.
I'm their performance marketing plug, but they might as well pay me in clothes because I'm obsessed and have always been but I was just never enabled like this.
Uh oh, feels like we need to make a switch again. It's starting to weigh in at this time, 26 and still not steady on that pension plan track.
Then there's this whole obsessiveness about me, but we're not going to go there because you'll find out as you find more about me on these internet streets, but let's say the exploration has always been an inside job too, I was born with that weak flap that holds feelings in, mine just force their way out, and up until recently, it used to drive me sick.
So back to that last switch again, and the weight of it. It's weakening the aforementioned weak flap even more, so all the feelings come out.
Big Hair No Care.
Now the following is not a switch but rather a hyphen, but it's quite a big deal now so it has to figure in this “About me” section, I reckon.
So this whole time I'm hanging out online, I'm wearing this big afro. You can align the road to my afro hair to the rest of my journey, just this wonky line towards myself and a sense of truth. I've had all the hair in the past, and until then I had pretty much always used it to do just like with the rest, prove I'm smart and just as worthy (the story of many of us growing up as minorities).
The journey to the afro is one in itself, but people online would often ask, what's your routine? Is it all yours? Nope. No way, where from? ....
I had no decent answer to give, I'm so clueless when it comes to hair extensions, surely I can't help. But I want it my way, matching mine but allowing me to play with it and extend what I do with my clothes to my hair really: exploring and expressing myself. I want it to look flawless, but I don't want to spend time or money on it, it's not worth the expense on me because I'm not there for all the maintenance of hair extensions. I've tried it all. But I find out human hair is an exploitative and unregulated trade, and I try the synthetic they sell on the high streets but it doesn't do it for me.
Poor match to my afro hair, smelly, itchy, super cheap indeed, but where's the option for ease, comfort, and match? I don't mind spending more..
So I find that supplier on a forum back in 2013. She's in China and has a factory, I send her photos, we swap samples, that's the hair I want. Make it clip-ins, comfortable and natural-looking lace-front wigs, please.
Well that little online shop wasn't little for too long. I started slow, from Geneva and with a 3-month old, a full-time snuggler who wouldn't be put down. We moved back to London shortly after, summer 2017, Big Hair No Care was 3-month old but we got a pop-up in London for 3-month.
2018 is when we ramped up, held a pop-up in Paris, exactly where I used to love hanging out growing up! Then NYC in June, followed by a US site and this was it, we couldn’t keep up, our supplier couldn’t follow. Remember I was setting up a little online shop, plus we only had one product and it was designed with me in mind.
But these pop-ups, London, Paris, Brooklyn, just like when I started on social media, I found my tribe.
The global diaspora, we know so little about each others, the US, Europe, all of us black women from around the globe, different cultures and native languages, yet perceived as this one thing by the rest of the world.
But our hair stories, everywhere we are, they all depict our journeys of exploration.
Daring to dream all whilst trying to fit in, be seen as just as worthy as everyone else, and exploring our blackness without ever knowing how much of it we can rock proudly to the world. BHNC hit a stop for a reason, it was bigger than this.
This fierce exploration I’ve seen in the black women I met through our BHNC tour, the determination to dare despite the stack of odds at our feet, we’re these rad swans. All carrying early memories of times when we’ve been meant to feel like the ugly ducklings. But this whole time, we were the raddest swans out there.
The exploration is FULL ON. The feelings are still dripping, and we’re grateful for them. So grateful. See this whole zig zag of a journey? That’s because of that weak flap, I’ve had no choice but to commit to explore and follow everything that comes out of me.
But I look at this journey (this long monologue..), and I can’t help but notice the obvious: it was all that I was ever meant to do. Following the feelings.
I’m hoping to take you with me along the way, you can mostly find me on Instagram. I’m lucky as I constantly feel encouraged to keep exploring by my online gang, so I’m hoping to give that back so see you on these squares for some more babbling.
As for RadSwan, we’re coming soon.