Here at Brimah and John, we have numerous inspirations! One of which are fabulous women, with a passion and a drive to do what they love and what makes them happy. These women are forging a path for themselves in their chosen fields and are an inspiration to us all. So what we like to do, is sit them down in the hot seat, shine a spot light on them... and get to know them a little better!
We got to talking with the founder of bespoke cosmetology company Belle Afrique. Belle Afrique is a safe haven for the kinky and not so kinky curled hair beauties. A quick run through their instagram and you'll find a variety of curl types and products to suit all your hair and skin needs. With the rise of the natural hair movement, there has never been a greater need for quality hair and skincare products. We definitely welcome the arrival of Belle Afrique.
Where did the name Belle Afrique come from?
Every time I go back home to Africa, I’m overwhelmed by the rich tapestry of beautiful, accessible, and natural skincare ingredients. It is this wealth of African plants and oils, the way they have adapted to the sub-Saharan climate, and the way in which their unique properties protect and nourish skin and hair that got my creative juices flowing.
I took this concept and after much deliberation came to Belle Afrique, which translates to "Beautiful Africa". I chose a French translation to help make the brand more distinctive.
Tell us about the concept behind Belle Afrique.
I wanted people to understand and appreciate the many beneficial ingredients that nature provided. I hoped that people would fall in love again with the Continent. I yearned for my contemporaries to break free from the chains of conventional models of beauty and to develop a realisation for self appreciation, love, and acceptance. I felt that this came from returning to our natural selves and our natural environment.
This wasn't just a hair and beauty ideal, this was a way of life. It came from eating well, taking care of mental wellbeing, taking care of our bodies, and finding our spiritual peace.
Specifically in relation to our products, I wanted to remove the difficulty for people trying to find their way through a marketplace saturated by toxic products. I wanted to create simple and effective skin and body care products which would be natural alternatives to traditional skin, body, hair care and home cleaning products.
Tell us about your cosmetics journey.
Our journey started over ten years ago and was guided by an increased awareness of the damage that can be caused to skin, hair and health, when exposed to chemical ingredients and their by-products. The type of ingredients that you find in most commercial beauty goods.
I was encouraged by the pains of sitting in a salon where I paid someone else handsomely to be the master of the mane I had been blessed with...sitting for what seemed like hours to get my hair in a "manageable state." I was never truly convinced by this, especially because my European friends didn't seem to have to go through these troubles.
I decided that I could no longer deal with the expense and lost time, that in fact (for me) there was little appeal in this longwinded process. From there, I started to learn more about the needs of my hair, I would read the few blogs on natural hair that were around at the time, I would read about the scientific make up of our hair, I would see how my hair responded to not going through chemical processes, and I would seek out alternatives to the standardised harsh sounding products that littered the ingredient list of the products in the conventional "urban" and otherwise mismatched hair and skincare product lines.
As my family regularly travelled back home, I also started to become more exposed to the beautiful oils and butters that people used for almost everything! To take care of babies, to deal with minor medical complaints, to moisturise and heal skin, to cook…everything…and this just seemed more appropriate. If you've ever travelled to the Continent, you will notice that most people's skin is clear, bright and blemish free. To me, this obviously meant they were doing something right.
I continued on with the learning, the mixing, the trailing, and the self loving, until I was relaxer free and content with the direction I was headed in. I sought out natural beauty and haircare products that truly were in a niche market. This meant I would pay international transaction fees, drive across London to collect products from unknown boutiques, and also spend part of my food shopping budget on skin and hair goodies.
I spoke about my hair journey with whoever was interested and encouraged them to take the jump. To be free.
I later decided I had to share the lifestyle that I loved with those around me. Belle Afrique was launched. We held a small event in a quaint premises and truly have never looked back.
Describe your daily skin scare routine
I shower with castile soap or one of our soon to launch soap bars. I use our rosewater as a moisturising skin toner and for its lovely cooling effect. Whilst my face is still moist I then apply our Nourish oil and use our beloved Shea Love as my body moisturiser.
For my hair, I use our trigger spray bottle, filled with water to add moisture to my hair and then apply Nourish, Revive or Shea Love. My hair is protected under my hijab during the day, so I’m usually rocking twists or a bantu knot out underneath.
What inspires you over at Belle Afrique?
I’m inspired by peace and contentment. This might sound abstract, but just being at ease, soul-full and mind fed, brings me happiness. I have to practice this feeling everyday.
I also love to see the success of my contemporaries and people who are not afraid to come to the market with something new that they love. It's something I did, and I know you have to believe in yourself to be brave enough and committed enough to take the leap.
What's your favourite quote?
This will be hard to choose as there are so many. These quotes and mantras are part of everyday life at Belle Afrique. Check out our social media to see what I mean.
The current fav however is “Gratitude, on every condition”. Whether things are tough, easy going, whether I am stressed or feeling fabulous, I always aim to take myself back to the One who made it all possible and give Him thanks.
If you weren't in cosmetology, what would you be doing?
Travelling the world, experiencing culture, great food and diversity.
What's next for Belle Afrique?
Bringing our products to an even greater audience and growing our product offer in response to our customer and industry needs.
What goes on in a Belle Afrique day?
Once I’m up, I’m up, at whatever hour that is, so I will first spend some time in prayer, meditation and giving thanks to God, maybe hit the gym, maybe relax whilst awake. Then, as I work full time, I schedule the tasks for that day to keep me on track. I process customer orders, respond to emails, travel to work, update my social media, conquer my work day and then enjoy a range of evening activities, be that yoga, dinner with friends or family, reading a self development book, planning a holiday, sorting out the home etc…
What's your go-to everyday look?
I lurve a pleated flowy skirt. I have a number and generally rock this with a fitted blazer…matched or colour blocking with a hijab of choice.
If you could only keep three things from your wardrobe what would you pick?
I store my Shea Love in my wardrobe as it keeps it cool, so that would be first…of course…gotta keep my hair and skin glowing. Then I would say my Vivenne Westwood clutch….and though I love a great fit, I don’t think I have a favourite item of clothing, but I am loving my Blue Mango maxi dress at the moment…
You walk into a room with 5 accessories you've been eyeing, what are they?
Pastel pink Michael Kors statement handbag, I love a pretty handbag.
Beats or Bose noise cancelling earphones…I’ve recently noticed that the commute is a mind field of nonsense noise…need to block that out…
Leather bound note book… I love to write down inspiring quotes or prayers as they come to mind, or as I come across them in my day.
Purple lipstick…have been looking for a great shade for the longest time…
Not quite an accessory…but I really want a hair steamer…so that would be last…
You can only keep 1 out of the 5 which would it be?
Note book…happy mind, happy life…
If you could only shop in one store for the rest of your life (okay let's be more realistic), or the rest of the year where would it be?
Food over fashion…so would have to say Wholefoods : )
Sunglasses at the beach, or Wellies on an adventure trail?
Sunglasses at the beach…defo…
We know you love to travel, where have you been and which place was your favourite?
So the list doesn’t get too long, I will say extensively throughout Europe and to North America, East and South East Asia, the Emirates and Africa.
My favourite places have to be Dubai and Kuala Lumpur…take me back…
What was the last book you read?
I’m currently reading Reclaim Your Heart by Yasmin Mogahed.
What's your biggest pet peeve?
Forced conversation. Cut it out…
If you were guaranteed one wish, what would you wish for?
Paradise without the trials of the hereafter.
If you could go shopping in anyone's wardrobe, who's would it be?
What's in the wardrobe? Food or clothes? Hmm, would probably say Kim Kardashian... but I would just sell the items to get money for food.
And our fave question here at Brimah and John. You've got £250 to spend at www.brimahandjohn.com what pieces do you buy?
Lace grey skirt £165. Green Ankara print shirt £50. Safari wrap jacket £55…and that is exactly why I have to stop myself clothes shopping lol…always over budget!
What's your "on fleek" outfit, you know that outfit you own that never fails to have you looking 10/10?
As long as the occasion calls for it, my fro and red lipstick. Always on fleek!
Describe your personal style?
I love to be comfortable in what I wear, so generally I go for the basics to pull an outfit together…fitted blazer, plain blouse or t shirt and a juicy handbag.
If I’m travelling I love the bohemian look, so flowy skirts and ethnic prints.
All in all, I think I dress how I feel, so don’t be surprised if you see me in bright patterns or a statement t-shirt if that’s how I’m feeling that day. As long as it is modest chic, I’m there…
Who's your style crush?
A mix between the sophistication of Audrey Hepburn and the cool, colour craze of Solange Knowles.
You've gone a week without your phone, laptop, or any other interpersonal contact, who do you miss talking to?
My ‘Familiar’ whatsapp group always keeps a cheeky smirk on my face during the day, my mum minus the daily insult, Iyanla Vanzant’s social media feeds and my morning dose from the merciful servant.
Any last remarks?
Follow us on Instagram and Twitter @Belle__Afrique
We look forward to hearing from you 😊