International brown girls, rejoice! Beijing has finally gotten it’s first Black hair salon.
If you’re ever in Beijing and have a hair emergency, Martha Makuena and her husband Paul Luyeye have got you covered! BBC reports that Martha and Luyeye opened the Paulma Afro Hair Salon to help a severely under-served market in China’s beauty industry.
The pair, who originally hail from the Congo, moved to Beijing in 1999 because of Luyeye’s job. Initially, they didn’t think they would be staying for that long, but their family wound up putting roots down.
In their time in China, Martha has had to find ways to overcome different challenges, but the biggest problem was that she couldn’t find a beautician with experience working on Black hair. With three kids this was a huge a problem, despite the fact that Martha is a licensed beautician. Even finding the right products was a struggle as many stores did not carry the things that she would need.
“When we go to a local salon, they can’t do our hair. Local people’s hair is oily, but our hair is dry,” she told China Daily.
Eventually, Martha and Luyeye saw an opportunity to open their own business catering to other Black people in the area. Bonus: Marta got to put hr education to good use while working for herself.
“The idea came to us because my wife has a diploma in hair dressing. She also has a diploma in fashion design,” Luyeye said. “So the idea came. Why not set up something like this official in Beijing so that we can help the African and African descendant?”
Even though the company is aimed at a Black clientele, Martha revealed that they get a lot of business from Chinese locals!
“One time we had [a customer] who saw a Chinese artist that braided her hair, and she also wanted her hair braided the same way,” Martha told BBC. “Most of them just say ‘I want to look cool.’”
At first, Martha only had a staff of three, but from the video below, it appears as if she’s been able to expand. She credits that to the fact that she made it a point to learn the language, and establish that her business isn’t some fly by night operation.
“Doing business in China the most important thing just to understand is the language,” she explained. “They don’t look at me as African, but just they look at me as a person doing businesses.”