Mushiya, how did growing up in the Congo and Zimbabwe fortify and factor into your identity?
Growing up in Congo and Zimbabwe I was exposed to people who looked just like me. I grew up looking at other dark women with kinky hair and I grew up appreciating that. That (dark skin and natural hair) was my definition of beauty. And so when I came to America my perception on the definition of beauty was very strong. So no one could re-alter that to make me believe that beauty came only in light skin and straight hair. As I was so confident in my dark, dark, blue skin with my wild kinky hair, I realized it was my responsibility and duty to teach other women who were not exposed to this motivational thinking that I was exposed to.
Who and what inspired you to embrace your natural beauty, especially your natural hair?
Eh, my mother. I also never really liked perm. I never felt that it was necessary to do all that to processing your hair for it to be beautiful. I love a woman with big wild hair and I realize that now everyone does as well too, but I loved it way before it was cool. It is the sexiest thing growing up with.
God doesn’t make mistakes he knew what He was doing for Him to give us wild hair. It is just stunning so I have always loved it.
Holistic health is key to living a balanced life tell us more about your wellness routines:
What is your daily beauty regimen?
My daily beauty regimen is I wake up.
How do you pamper your natural hair?
It is an expectation that you wash it and moisturize it it everyday because that is really what you should do, but I tend not to have the time. So some days I just get up, and kind of shake my hair, put some blush on, my pumps, and if I am happy with how my hair looks, that is what’s gonna be the new style for the day.
Mushiya do you have an exercise routine?
Goodness gracious! So I am very active in my daily life but I’m not like a gym rat or anything as such. I do move a lot so I kind of stay healthy because I don’t really stay still. As I am not a religious gym-lover I occasionally do jumping-jacks, sit ups, and booty-ups. I prefer engaging activities such as playing ball.
How do your entrepreneurial endeavors link to your African routes?
It is a large question, and I probably have 92 answers for it but the first that comes to my heart is the wonderful experiences which clients go through at our salon (owned with my husband). These experiences have set us apart from our competitors for years. When people come to The Damn Salon we pamper them with customer service that is unlike any other salon. This directly comes from my culture and roots because when people come to your home in Africa you are really supposed to service them. So the type of service our clients get when they come to our salon which is akin to our home, is indeed unmatched. We serve them food, wine, and by food I don’t mean nachos and chips or like a Hershey chocolate; we serve rice, we may serve steak, we may serve scallops, and hors d’oeuvres. We do this because once again straight from my culture we believe that food is what truly really connects people together; food is what brings peace within people and so that’s one of the factors about myself and my African heritage that I incorporated as a part of the business. As a result, people have given outstanding feedback on our service as being one of a kind. I mean people have traveled from everywhere just to get The Damn Salon’s experience in Atlanta.
What are the sources of your drive and ambition?
My consistent answer is just life. I think we take life for granted -many times we forget that waking up everyday is both a blessing and opportunity to change the world. For every 24 hours we are given it is our duty to make an impact. So I don’t like to waste an hour, I don’t like to waste a day, and I don’t want to waste any time given to me because I wanna give out of myself and whatever talents I have been blessed with. I wanna give all this to the world so that I can leave mark for the the benefit of my children as well.
What does Keleshe mean?
Keleshe is actually a name that has been in my family for years. It is my maternal grandfather’s name and I just loved the name. I almost named all my children Keleshe but finally named my 3rd kid as Keleshe.
Where and how can parents in Africa shop for your dolls?
Have you received any feedback from parents and young girls about the wonderful dolls?
Oh! Absolutely. The feedback has been so amazing besides the hundreds of magazines that have written about us, parents and mothers have also thanked me for creating the dolls and for solving a problem that they have had for years. I had the same issue while trying to find a doll that really looked like my child. What has been super amazing is that it is not just about black women being my clients, it is about Latina, Asian, and women all over the world who have also been inspired to purchase these natural haired dolls for their children.
How do you manage to keep up with the inventory demands given the sudden explosion of fame which My Natural Doll received?
We just keep working. We anticipated this kind of bombardment because it is something that is very much needed in our world and as we are are business-people, we are always ready with backups! Remaining prepared is how you become and stay successful.
The Damn Salon is truly a space for artistic expression and confidence. Building it is not just a Salon but an experience. What inspired the name?
As you described it is an experience. As a place to get a full body experience, it is just not like any other salon. Not only is it about an experience but also the work that we do. We just don’t do “whatever” on your head; we custom-contour and tailor the hairstyle to who you are, your lifestyle, and to the true beauty inside you. Sometimes people come to the salon and want a particular style and I give them feedback on what suits them. At times my suggestions fall outside of their (clients’) comfort zone but you know what, we know what we are doing as we are artists who do things according to the canvas on which we are working.
Tell us more about the inception of The Damn Salon’s vision and it’s eventual realization
Your questions are intense ha! ha!. Afro-Logue, you think you got me? I wanted a haven for women to be able to come and be exposed to artists who can truly bring out the beauty within themselves (clients’) that they never knew existed. I wanted our salon to be a place where we could prescribe styles to you; unlike typical salons where whatever a client wants they just oblige without adding valuable feedback and guidance. You don’t go to a doctor and say that this is what I want nor do you go to a doctor to suggest where should be chopped and sewn up, No. You tell them your issues and wait for feedback or eventual prescription. So that is what we do and it is the difference between us and competitors.
My vision for The Damn Salon was and is that we can truly change the world by instilling confidence in women through making them realize their beauty and who they are -by making them love being natural. Because once we bring out the beauty and make them discover just how great they are it changes their lives, their walk, and the way that they deal with people at work because of their new-found confidence. We are in the process of living the final realization for The Damn Salon. We now have Runway Curls which is a natural hair extensions line, we also have My Natural Doll and our continuos goal remains in instilling self-love to our beautiful dark-skinned women.
As a creative director, how do you empower your business partners and employees?
Well I empower my partners and employees by first and foremost working hard. I work very hard and I believe that with my tireless spirit one has no choice but to emulate that hard work. Notwithstanding that I am the founder and director of The Damn Salon, I empower our employees to make decisions and to take their platform as their own, such that they can use their own creativity to continue building The Damn Salon and themselves.
Mushiya we know that all of your brands i.e The Damn Salon, My Natural Doll, and Runway Curls have music behind them. How have you taken your gift of hair and fortified it through music to spread the word about who you are and what your business is?
Music is one of my passions. I have been singing music to be able to continue to build my brands’ awareness. I do that because and it’s just not been about the hair but also changing lives through messages in my music. So it is important that when you are doing anything in life to send a message, ensure to touch more than one of the five senses.
What does the first verse of my natural doll mean? What does it mean to you?
She walks through streets like the world is her own. And because she believes it, the world just follows. Breaking rules with her seductive charm, changing the world one girl at a time.
That first line is what everyone (black women) should do. Your mantra should be that; this world that I live in is my world so I’m going to own it. But I believe that everyone should feel that it is their world and they should own it. When you assertively believe that it is your right to be successful, that it is your right to be to be beautiful, that it is your right to achieve, that it is your right to get that house, if you believe that it is your right -the world will follow. And that’s what the world will give you. Everybody knows I’m unruly, I don’t follow all the rules, as long as they don’t hurt someone I don’t have to follow the rules. Rules are made by people and I can re-make the rules because certain kinds are created to keep us in a box and to hold us down.
Who made the rule that pretty girls only come in light skin? Who made the rule that you have to comb your hair to go through corporate-world? who made those rules? Who made the rule that you have to see what a job is offering you? because every time I got a job with corporations I gave them the offer letter with what I needed them to pay me. So when I say breaking rules with her seductive charm, I mean that when breaking rules you should always espouse the good intent of changing the world and blessing the people around you.
As a melanated goddess what words of encouragement and inspiration do you have for young girls and women about self awareness and brand building
What I have to say on self awareness is that everyone needs to understand that they are actually perfect. Whichever way God made them is exactly the way they are supposed to be. Once we know how perfect and beautiful we are, we begin to believe in ourselves and people everywhere begin to believe in us.
For brand building, everytime I walk, with whatever I wear, or when open my mouth to speak, I am ever aware that I’m branding. So what I remain consistent with is to be who I am because it is just easy to do that (being myself).
I also just want to say to Lheritier Skincare/Afro-Logue: I am excited that you offered me a platform for this interview because it is important that we stick and get together as black people because we are powerful people. I am very thankful for all these interviews from Lheritier Skincare/Afrologue and other African media houses!