Beauty Biz: Delali Kpodzo of We Are Onyx

During a rare, unexpected visit to YouTube searching for information on how to properly wash her kinky, coarse natural hair, Delali Kpodzo discovered a platform for Black women that would change the face of video tutorials. A one-stop shop for everything you need to know on Black hair, beauty and even wellness, We Are Onyx is becoming a leader in anchoring Black women to understand and own their unique beauty. Read Delali’s story of how she went from a frustrated natural girl to a Black beauty CEO. 

EBONY: Your company is very unique in that you offer tutorials as well as a monthly option to sample products for women of color. Can you tell me how the company got started?

Delali Kpodzo: So the back-story came out of a hair emergency about a year ago, which was the result of realizing that I didn’t really know how to take care of my hair. I used to wear braids a lot, and it was time to get them re-done. So I made an appointment to get my hair washed and conditioned and all that jazz on Saturday, and then get it re-braided on Sunday. So I decided to take it out on Friday. Then, that Saturday morning I’m getting into the car, and I get a call from the hair salon that my stylist has a flat and she’s not coming. She was the only Black stylist at this salon.

I called all of my girlfriends like, “Where do you go, and who do you know?” Of course, Saturday morning at 10 a.m. is not the time when you think you’re going to get a hair appointment. I have very thick, coarse, kinky hair, and if it even sees water, it shrinks down to like an inch! So I decided to just do my own hair. But I felt I should at least get some kind of preparation. So I went online.

At the time it was really awkward to type in, “How to wash natural hair.” Eventually I found a video of this young woman on YouTube. Her laptop is facing the shower, her camera is on, and she’s making this video about how to wash natural hair in sections. So I watched her, and it was amazing. She was using all these terms that I had never heard of. So I stared to search those terms in YouTube and then everything opened up. I saw all the tutorials, everything that was going on. I had no idea that girls were doing this online. There are so many of us going through it, and each one of these women took it upon themselves to try and share the little information that they had. I thought that was incredible.

We Are Onyx really blossomed into a much larger concept: a one-stop beauty destination for Black women. We cover topics on hair and skin, but we also cover nutrition and self-esteem and fitness.

EBONY: So how did this inspire the birth of We Are Onyx?

DK: I had thought, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a place where Black women could go to learn how to manage hair in a quick and concise manner?” I had been telling my boyfriend about this and he was like, “Hey, why don’t you tell Myriam?,” who is my friend and had an MBA and business background. YouTube is great, but it’s almost like there’s a deluge of information. It’s too much and it’s disorganized.

So I’m driving with Myriam one day, and I just spit it out there. We get to this red light, and she slams on the brakes. She whips around and looks at me and says, “I have an amazing business idea and a model to go with this, but if I tell you about it, we have to do it together.” And that’s where Onyx came from. 

EBONY: How did it blossom to beauty and nutrition?

DK: We Are Onyx really blossomed into a much larger concept. It’s really a one-stop beauty destination for Black women, and we cover topics on hair and skin, but we also cover nutrition and self-esteem and fitness. We have so many questions about our beauty, and we’ve been trained to believe that our beauty is complicated, and it really isn’t.

EBONY: I see on the site that you can kind of create your own monthly box of goodies for a nominal payment. This is such a cool concept.

DK: Yes, so the idea is that you go to the site for the first time and you take what is called a “true beauty” profile. You tell us a little bit about your beauty: what your skin tone is, what your hair texture is. And then eventually you tell us how you’re wearing your hair: is it natural, is it pressed, is it relaxed, is it in a weave? We want to know everything about your beauty. Then, you’re directed to a host of videos by individuals who look like you. The idea is that you’re learning to