Black hair is more than just hair. It is a cultural expression. And in 2013 Antonia Opiah created an online platform to give others a space to discuss hair, to find Black hair products, and to learn about Black hair care.
Opiah spent six years in advertising before creating Un-ruly, which she launched out of her hair frustrations and journey to find easy ways to care for and style her own hair. Now based in Paris, France, Opiah wanted to make Un-ruly a one-stop-shop, offering content, product reviews, products for purchase, and a community.
TNJ.com: Can you explain the concept behind Un-ruly?
Antonia Opiah: Simply put, Un-ruly is a place for Black hair and women. We’re a media platform aimed at inspiring and celebrating the beauty of Black hair and women. One of the things that sets us apart is the fact that we take an in-and-out approach to beauty, meaning that in addition to seeing hair tutorials and style round-ups, you’ll also see think pieces exploring cultural identity, or videos that dissect the layers and politics of Black hair.
TNJ.com: What do you want people to get from Un-ruly?
A.O.: On one level, I want our readers to be equipped with the knowledge they may need to take care of their hair. I personally love immersing myself in everything there is to know about a topic and then sharing that info with other people. So we really go into detail. With our hair 101s for example, we did a post on crochet braids, and put everything a reader might want to know in one spot so they don’t have to read five different articles for the same information.
On a deeper level, I want Un-ruly to make people think and question the status quo. I don’t necessarily want them to adopt my opinions or the opinions of our contributors but I want Un-ruly to help get their minds turning a bit and perhaps maybe help them decide what they think about issues they might be facing. We try to do this simply by approaching topics from different angles as well as by sharing stories of a diverse range of women.
TNJ.com: What is Un-ruly/pretty?
A.O.: Pretty is our docu-series that takes a look at global beauty, but through the experiences of Black women. So far, we’ve interviewed women in Paris, Milan, London and Tel Aviv and we have two more countries coming soon. The women in the series share their perspectives on beauty standards in their country/city and then go into their own personal relationship with beauty. We’ve gotten a lot of great feedback on the series so far, with women saying it’s helping them.
TNJ.com: How do you select the products to sell?
A.O.: We sell products on Un-ruly as an affiliate. The products we select are products that we, Team Un-ruly, have an interest in buying but also see that the community at large has had good experiences with.
In order to not be reductive, we approach our product reviews differently from other beauty sites. We’re sort of the Rotten Tomatoes of hair product reviews and we aggregate opinions (manually) on a product and assess its overall effectiveness. From there, we may choose to sell the product in our boutique.
TNJ.com: Why did you think there was a need for Un-ruly?
A.O.: Because I needed it. I wanted a place I could go to to get hair inspiration and at the time didn’t find what I was looking for online. Then I researched the market in depth. Most people know the Black hair industry is a pretty large market. And so I saw a lot of potential there, especially in the online space, where there weren’t many social-commerce players.
TNJ.com: What are your goals for 2016?
A.O.: We’ve hit a traffic plateau that I’m trying to break through this year. So that’s a major goal. I also want to continue to put out really great content and bring more brands into the fold of that content.
TNJ.com: What are your long term goals?
A.O.: Ultimately, I want Un-ruly to be a media platform that changes the way people think and does so by simply opening them up to things, ideas and people they might not have encountered yet.
TNJ.com: What has been your biggest business lesson?
A.O.: This whole process has been an exercise in patience and resilience. I think I’m immune to rejection at this point. However, the biggest lesson so far, is probably the simplest one, and that is that what you get really is a product of the effort of what you put in. For example, the amount of interest I get on a pitch (sales or press) is directly related to how many people I reach out to and how much thinking I put into the story. I see this in other non-business aspects of my life too.
TNJ.com: What do you like the most about what you do?
A.O.: What I’m doing now, is the unexpected intersection of all the skills I’ve nurtured over the years—writing, art, marketing, working with numbers, even coding. And it’s also inline with much larger personal goals I have for myself.