No two days are the same for Sinead Bovell. She’s equally likely to visit an economic summit, star in a photo shoot or oversee the development of her app as a partner in a start-up. The Canadian entrepreneur and model has her hands full with fashion, tech and the non-profit world, growing her own career and also dispensing advice to burgeoning entrepreneurs on her website. We met up with Bovell to get both business and beauty advice, as well as learn about her unique career path.
Job: Entrepreneur and Model
Heritage: Guyanese and Irish
You recently did an interview with Allure about the challenges you had with your hair growing up. Can you tell me more about that?
Sinead Bovell: I grew up in a predominantly white community outside of Toronto. My mom is Irish and my dad is Guyanese. Where I lived there was no mixed hair representation. I didn’t have any professional or unprofessional (as in a mom or relative) resources to learn about my hair. Naturally, you conform to your surroundings — everyone had straight hair because that’s what was seen as aspirational or beautiful, so I really struggled with my hair. Then I got into the modeling industry. You would expect that there would be an increased knowledge of hair, but it’s still somewhat segregated — white hair, black hair, Asian hair, etc. With my mixed hair I still had some of the same issues as when I was growing up. I had a chance to speak to Allure and speak out for some of the mixed chicks out there that struggle with their hair.
What would you say is unique about mixed hair?
It’s extremely fragile. It looks really voluminous, but it breaks really easily. In the article I talked about how my sister was told by a black woman to relax her hair. She did, and because of it her hair basically fell out at about 12 years old. I’ve had blowdryers stuck in my hair, brushes broken in my hair, and had my hair teased off on shoots. It’s important to have know-how of mixed hair in order to take care of it.
Did you have any other challenges growing up Guyanese and Irish?
When people say “I don’t see color” — I don’t like that as a statement because I think we should see color. It helps us recognize the problems going on in the world. Growing up though until I was about seven or eight, I truly didn’t see color because I had two parents that were different colors. It was only when I learned about racism in school, that I realized that I had a different skin tone. Other kids would comment because they realized race and color were a thing. From then on I struggled to see myself in my natural self as attractive or as desirable. I wanted to conform, so I straightened my hair. I was shy growing up but then when I moved to Toronto, London and then New York, I started to look at the people around me, and really embraced both sides.
Most people know you as a model, but you have an interesting academic and career background. What were you studying and doing before you started modeling?
Before I was scouted I was getting my MBA, I was headed to be a management consultant. Before that I was working in logistics. I have a bachelor’s degree in finance and chemistry. I was on a very academic and corporate path.
How were you discovered for modeling?
I was at an event that I wasn’t even supposed to attend. An agent came up to me and asked “do you model?” I was so shy and also entertainment isn’t even a factor in my house — everyone is doing something corporate or medical. I said “absolutely not!” Nevertheless it coincided with a feeling that I was in the wrong lane in life. I thought maybe I’ll go in [to the agency] it can’t hurt. I went in and signed the next day and never looked back.
What do you like the most about modeling? What do you like the least?
I really like that modeling gives you the chance to equate yourself as a brand. So in the creative capacity, you are your own company. As a model you are your own business model. You have full control of your marketing and how the world sees you. I find that really exciting.
I dislike the lack of control you have in your ability to succeed. You can be in control of your appearance and what you want to be a part of, but at the end of the day your look is your look. I was used to a world where it was your resume and accomplishments that got you where you needed. You could get a masters or fix your grades but in modeling your look is your look. If you don’t land a modeling job it’s initially easy to take personally, but you have to treat it as if you were a company and you weren’t the right fit for the business. But you will be a fit for something else.
You’re a partner in a tech start-up, what do you do there and what do you love about tech?
There’s only three of us, so we basically do everything. The only thing that I don’t really do is code, but I do everything from strategy to finance to market testing, we do all of it. We’re working on something in the social media sphere so it’s super exciting. I love that tech is a limitless industry at the moment. There are no real boundaries and every day we see something new developing. It really is a blue sky industry, anything is possible. You can make a device or app and really change the world.
What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs, particularly ones that are interested in multiple things?
In terms of actually going down an entrepreneurial route – really be honest with yourself and what you’re interested in. If there wasn’t a salary or job title, what you want to wake up in the morning to do? That’s where your passion lies. That’s why you’ll wake up at six or seven in the morning. You’ll be excited to take the risk to go down that path of entrepreneurship. It’s really scary, it’s uncomfortable, you feel super alone but it’s so worth being the person that you want to be. I say go for it!
We spoke about your challenges with hair products, what beauty products do you like most?
My top hair products are Innersense, especially their shampoo conditioner and Quiet Calm Curl Control. I love Revive because mixed hair grows really slowly. As a model my hair gets a lot of heat and teased, so my hair is breaking off every day. Revive helps stimulate growth. I also love Mixed Chicks. And then I also love coconut oil masks, or I make an avocado, egg white and olive oil hair mask. It’s really good.
You have a packed schedule. What’s your favorite way to unwind?
I love reading the news and Bloomberg. I know for some people that would drive them crazy but I love seeing what’s new, where the world is going, and what the economy is up to. I also love pop culture so I’ll be on Bloomberg but then also on TMZ and World Star.