Instagram Star Aysha Sow Talks Natural Hair and Finding Her Niche in NYC
Within a short span of time Guinean-Belgian beauty Aysha Sow a.k.a. Africanmelaninnn has amassed a die-hard following on Instagram who turn to her for hair and style advice. Living in NYC just over two years, she’s taken advantage of the city’s vast creative landscape collaborating with photographers and influencers, and working with brands like Almay, Carol’s Daughter and Rimmel London. She always keeps it interesting — one day she’s shooting a vlog of her getting ready, the next day she’s speaking on a beauty panel and the following she’s on location for a stylish shoot. Find out how she juggles her 9 to 5 (yes, she still has a full-time job on top of her personal brand) and her goals for 2018.
Tell me about your experience on social media, when did you first realize that you were building an audience for yourself?
Aysha Sow: About a year ago. At first, I was just posting cute pictures and people liked them mainly because of my hair. After a while brands started reaching out to me, so I was like “you guys want to work with me?” That’s when I realized that they also look at me as a brand also. I took it more seriously, found out my strengths, improved and in the process more brands reached out to me.
The natural hair community is very active in the U.S. How does it differ from the community in Europe?
It’s definitely not as active [in Europe], I think it’s growing because of what people see over here in the U.S. When I was still living in Europe I would see things I liked but didn’t have access to – products, tools and people. I didn’t even wear my hair in its natural state. It wasn’t until I got here that I realized people are so into natural hair and love sharing ideas about it. That’s when I joined in too.
Would you say there’s been an evolution in how you perceive your hair?
I never thought much of it, but there’ so much power in hair, especially with women of color. If you look back at history, we’ve always been taught that our hair is nappy and not beautiful, that we should tame it and straighten it over such a long period of time it’s almost impossible to reverse. We’re finally reaching a time when we can actually reverse that thought process, women are standing up and saying “no I love my hair, this is how it grows out of my scalp.” I think that on its own is a revolution. I grew up not even knowing I had afro hair because it was always straightened. Then I saw an other women wearing it naturally and thought to myself “could that be me?” You just start experimenting, embracing it and loving yourself more. You become so much more confident.
What’s the biggest difference for you living in the U.S. versus Europe?
So many! I feel like people live a lot louder in NYC than in Belgium. Belgium is a lot more static, people don’t really do things out of the box there. You go to school, then you go to your job and that’s it. There wasn’t really a creative field out there. The only photographers were in their 40s and worked for magazines, there wasn’t a youthful creative field. Because of social media people are realizing that there are young people who do photography and other people who do creative things coming up in the field.
You recently went to Mexico with Carol’s Daughter. Can you tell me about your experience?
It was an amazing experience! They invited nine girls all from different cities in the U.S. We were there to witness the launch of their new product line which is specifically meant for women with coarser hair. We really just got to see how beautiful Mexico is and I got to know these other great women. I had never been outside of the country, outside of New York when it comes to the States. That was actually one of my goals in 2018 — to travel with a brand and then I got the call in March. We did lots of spa treatments, explored Mexico, had food at the beach, learned how they made the products for their new line, what was in the products and the reason they made them.
I saw that you like to collaborate with other women, tell me about some of your experiences.
I love to collaborate with women because, to be honest, women are everything! In my whole journey of social media, it’s always been women who are there giving me opportunities, cheering me on, supporting me. My following is almost 80 percent women. I’m in awe and humbled at how amazing women can be. We tend to hear that women bicker and fight but that’s so not true – we’re actually here for each other. Any chance I get to work with another woman I take it, especially if it’s a woman of color because we’re at the bottom of the totem pole in terms of popularity and I’m like “let’s create some magic.”
What are your other plans for 2018?
I want to travel more. I want to get signed by an agency or talent management company because I’m at a point where I am getting so much work and I work a 9 to 6 job. Then when I get off of work I have a 6-12 job working on my own projects. I only have weekends to create content and sometimes I’ll have to do something for three different brands. I would love to have an agency back me up and help me with my collaborations. I think it’s going to be a really good year.
How do you manage having a 9 to 5 and your social media life?
You just do it! You have to sacrifice free time – I don’t have much to just hang out or chill. Sometimes I have to pass on events because I have to prepare for things I am working on the next day. You have to prioritize.
How to brands work with you?
They find me! I do more than hair now, also street style and lifestyle. I rarely work with hair brands now — I do makeup, jewelry, clothing, basically anything in beauty and lifestyle.