‘So­cial me­dia helped me to con­nect with like-minded women’

Essentials (South Africa) - - YOUR LIFE - ✱ See Aisha’s blog at aishaan­dlife.com or fol­low her on In­sta­gram @aishaan­dlife

Aisha O’Reilly, 33, lives in Joburg with her hus­band Kevin, 32, son Kai, two, and dogs Cin­na­mon and Wasabi. She is a nat­u­ral hair am­bas­sador and she shares her hair­care tips and par­ent­ing jour­ney on her blog, so­cial me­dia and YouTube chan­nel, all called Aisha&Life.

One day, af­ter a visit to a hair salon,

I had a rev­e­la­tion. I’d gone against my con­sul­tant’s ad­vice and had re­laxed my hair like I’d done many times be­fore. It be­came brit­tle and started break­ing al­most im­me­di­ately – it was a turn­ing point for me. I told my hus­band, Kevin, I was done with chem­i­cal re­lax­ing –

I was go­ing to em­brace my nat­u­ral hair.

I had started my blog – a pass­word­pro­tected on­line diary of my life that only three of my friends had ac­cess to read – be­cause this de­ci­sion felt like a big deal, and I be­gan to chron­i­cle my nat­u­ral hair jour­ney. Three months af­ter stop­ping re­lax­ing my hair I went back to the salon for the big chop, leav­ing only my nat­u­ral re­growth be­hind. Kevin ab­so­lutely loved it and my friends were very com­pli­men­tary when they saw me.

A week later one of my friends cut her hair too. There was a big move­ment to­wards go­ing nat­u­ral in Amer­ica at the time, but not many SA women were fol­low­ing suit just yet. There was a per­cep­tion that show­ing off your nat­u­ral hair meant you couldn’t af­ford to main­tain a style – or that you had adopted a bo­hemian life­style. I just wanted to know what my nat­u­ral hair felt like and had fi­nally found the courage to stop sub­ject­ing it to chem­i­cals.

Soc ial Me­dia Jour ney

A friend en­cour­aged me to make my blog pub­lic – she said that she’d been in­spired by my new change, and that other women would be too. So I opened it up to the pub­lic and re­named it MyFroandI. I at­tracted read­ers when I posted a 30- day chal­lenge in which I styled my short hair dif­fer­ently for 30 days with the help of ac­ces­sories. I also started a YouTube chan­nel soon af­ter, giv­ing step-by-step tu­to­ri­als on how to style short Afros. My fol­low­ers loved the con­tent I was cre­at­ing and I think it had to do with how can­did I was about my ex­pe­ri­ences – the good and the bad.

As my hair grew longer, I kept shar­ing what I was do­ing to style it. I worked on the blog and up­dated my so­cial me­dia chan­nels over week­ends and at night to fit in around my job in ad­ver­tis­ing and mar­ket­ing. Mostly I put the videos to­gether my­self, but when I needed an ex­tra pair of hands Kevin would help.

When I fell preg­nant with Kai in 2016, I be­gan writ­ing about my new jour­ney into moth­er­hood. It wasn’t what I ex­pected and I couldn’t be­lieve that more women didn’t talk about how tough preg­nancy, and the first few months with your baby, can be. Friends told me it was ta­boo to talk neg­a­tively about preg­nancy but I knew there were moms who would ap­pre­ci­ate my hon­esty.

So I changed the ti­tle of my blog to Aisha&Life and posted about both my hair and ad­just­ing to moth­er­hood. I lost a few fol­low­ers who couldn’t re­late to the change in topic, but I gained far more than I lost. I now have fol­low­ers in the tens of thou­sands across all my me­dia plat­forms.

How my life has ch anged

I re­signed from my ad­ver­tis­ing and mar­ket­ing job last year to de­vote more at­ten­tion to my blog, YouTube chan­nel, and to build­ing my brand – so­cial me­dia has been in­stru­men­tal in help­ing me ac­com­plish this. Now I can earn a liv­ing and ex­er­cise my cre­ative free­dom while do­ing it – it has also given me a chance to con­nect with like-minded women.

I was stopped by a woman who fol­lows me on­line at a Gau­train sta­tion a while ago. We chat­ted about her ex­pe­ri­ence with nat­u­ral hair – we lost track of time and even missed our bus! I was blown away by the fact that we didn’t know each other per­son­ally, but be­cause we had some­thing in com­mon we could be girl­friends for those few min­utes, and it’s so­cial me­dia that made it pos­si­ble.

A friend said other women would be in­spired too

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