Mogul of the Week: Leila Noelliste
Written by Urban Mogul Life on February 5, 2010
Although there have been some changes in the media with regard to the “standard of beauty” and the inclusion of brown-skinned beauties, the issue of hair still appears to be one-note, B-flat. Mainstream media promotes long, straight or wavy hair, achieved either naturally or with some help (read: lace front wigs, faux ponytails, tracks…weave!).
There does appear, however, to be a resurgence of embracing natural hair in its kinky, curly, highly textured state! The site Black Girl with Long Hair (bglhonline.com) is a place where this resurgence is in full bloom! BGLH is, “an ever-growing community of black, Latina and multi-racial women who choose to wear their hair naturally — with minimal or no use of chemicals, heat, weave or extensions.” The site offers a cornucopia of inspiration and information, sharing not only the styling and upkeep of natural hair, but the social implications of going natural as well. There are interviews with women from all walks of life who discuss their journey to expressing their beauty through natural hair. UML had the good fortune to touch base with the creator of BGLH, the lovely Ms. Leila Noelliste, about the site and how she’s become a Natural Mogul!
UML: What inspired you to create the Black Girl with Long Hair site?
Leila Noelliste: My own natural hair experience. I cut off all my straightened hair in November 2006 and was looking for a collection of natural hair photos to keep me inspired. I couldn’t find any. I mean, different naturals had their own spots throughout the web, but there wasn’t one assembly place dedicated primarily to photos of amazing natural hair. So I decided to start one. BGLH was born in April 2008, during a lunch break at work.
UML: What, if any, obstacles have you experienced in keeping the site going since its inception?
LN: One of the main obstacles is keeping the content fresh. A lot of sites crash and burn because people get tired of their monotony, so I try really hard to think on my toes.
I am deliberate about not drawing inspiration from looking at other, similar blogs. When I’m not blogging for BGLH I’m reading the news, walking outside, observing the world. That’s when I get my best ideas.
UML: Thanks to celebrities like Chris Rock and Tyra Banks, hair is a current “hot topic” of discussion in a more mainstream way. Why do you think it is important for women of color to have a site such as yours?
LN: For one, to know that it’s possible to grow natural hair out. A lot of women just don’t think it’s possible. That was actually a recurring theme in Chris Rock’s movie “Good Hair” — that you can either have long, weaved/relaxed hair or short natural hair. No in-between. People need to know that there are a WORLD of possibilities when it comes to natural hair and also that natural hair has its own trends. We’re not all Afrocentric ladies rocking twists with cowry shells. I’ve seen naturals experiment with color, cuts and shape and it really is amazing the looks they come up with.
UML: You have advertisers on your site, how would you like to see the business of the site evolve in the future?
LN: It was through blogging that I really became aware of how unsupported black businesses in the hair/beauty industry are. From the beauty shops on the corners that are largely owned by non-blacks, to the major haircare companies we buy products that aren’t really geared towards our hair’s health.
When BGLH switched from blogger to our own web domain, I cleared the sidebar and started selling ad space. A few brave women stepped up and the results have been pretty amazing. One of our advertisers, Peace, Love and Sunshine Products, sold out her entire inventory in a matter of months. Another advertiser, AfriquelaChic, got more than 100 sales in a month. These aren’t major businesses — just talented black women selling out of their homes.
Future plans are to continue taking on advertisers, and to begin holding mixers for natural business owners in the Chicagoland area, where I’m based. Our first one is actually later this month. I’m pretty excited.
UML: What can readers/online community members expect from your site?
LN: Honest, thought-provoking discussion and dope, dope hair!
I would absolutely agree with that! We at UML wish BGLH the utmost success as it certainly offers a wonderful space for women to embrace their natural selves, be inspired and to find some great products by vendors of color. Be sure to check out www.bglhonline.com!