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