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Driving Forces: Hair by Susy is Building Community in Brooklyn | Presented by Uber

We catch up to the hairstylist to the stars in East New York and talk about what it means to be inspired by other women.

Sponsored content from Uber

Driving Forces is a video series profiling young creative people who are empowering their communities. We've partnered with Uber to highlight the stories of influential women whose work brings underrepresented voices to the front. Read more about how Uber is supporting women this in the workplace here.

Bronx-born Susy Oludele used to be bullied in school for being different. Her vibrant hairstyles made her stand out. That's when she came up with the name "African Creature," to describe herself, a larger than life persona that she is still known by on social media.

Susy's Nigerian parents wanted her to be a lawyer or a doctor but her dream was to open her own salon. It took years of struggle, including a dip into homelessness, before she could realize that vision. Susy never lost that dream, teaching herself how to braid and eventually getting that beauty license.

Today her Hair by Susy salon is an East New York go-to for incredible multi-colored box braids and locs. Her many celebrity clientele, among them world famous performers and musicians, know to go there for unique hairstyles putting Susy's designs at the forefront of global culture. In just three years, the salon has created a community of women, both clients and hairdressers, who credit Susy with inspiring them to be themselves.

Susy's designs have gone far past East New York and reached places she never expected. Nigeria, Aruba, Brazil—wherever black women are in the world, they're using Susy's styles as jumping off points to create new versions. This inspires her once again. It's this magical cycle of mutual inspiration that's at the heart of what community is for Susy.

"People can be inspired by what you do." she says. "When you do good work, and take care of your clients people talk about you."

Like Susy, Uber is building communities for women within its company. "Women of Uber" is the name of an initiative that promotes the advancement of women, accelerating professional development, and partnering across the company to attract & retain top talent—all important building blocks in the goal to increase the representation of women in leadership roles at Uber globally.

"Women have done so much for me," says Susy. For her, women supporting other women is a kind of magic born out of the creative process. "Keep creating," she says, "because if you stop creating then you stop your magic—your light."


VIDEO CREDITS

Director: Brittany "B.Monét" Fennell

Producer: Ayana Barber

Producer: Oyinkan Olojede

Editor: Morgan Riles

Director of Photography: April Maxey

Sound Mixer: Rob Albrecht

Production Assistant: Ross Mayfield

Production Company: Keep Productions Inc

Popular
Photo: Courtesy of Radswan

Freddie Harrel Is Building Conscious Beauty For and With the African Diaspora

Formerly known as "Big Hair Don't Care", creator Freddie Harrel and her team have released 3 new wig shapes called the "RadShapes" available now.


Photo: Courtesy of Radswan


The normalising of Black and brown women in wigs of various styles has certainly been welcomed by the community, as it has opened up so many creative avenues for Black women to take on leadership roles and make room for themselves in the industry.

Radswan (formerly known as Big Hair Don't Care), is a lifestyle brand "bringing a new perspective on Blackness through hair, by disrupting the synthetic market with innovative and sustainable products." Through their rebrand, Radswan aims to, "upscale the direct-to-consumer experience holistically, by having connected conversations around culture and identity, in order to remove the roots of stigma."

The latest from French-Cameroonian founder and creator Freddie Harrel - who was featured on our list of 100 women of 2020 - has built her career in digital marketing and reputation as an outspoken advocate for women's empowerment. On top of her business ventures, the 2018 'Cosmopolitan Influencer of the Year' uses her platform to advocate for women's empowerment with 'SHE Unleashed,' a workshop series where women of all ages come together to discuss the issues that impact the female experience, including the feeling of otherness, identity politics, unconscious bias, racism and sexism.

And hair is clearly one of her many passions, as Freddie says, "Hair embodies my freest and earliest form of self expression, and as a shapeshifter, I'm never done. I get to forever reintroduce my various angles, tell all my stories to this world that often feels constrained and biased."

Armed with a committee of Black women, Freddie has cultivated Radswan and the aesthetic that comes with the synthetic but luxurious wigs. The wigs are designed to look like as though the hair is growing out of her own head, with matching lace that compliments your own skin colour.

By being the first brand to use recycled fibres, Radswan is truly here to change the game. The team has somehow figured out how to make their products look and feel like the real thing, while using 0% human hair and not negotiating on the price, quality or persona.

In 2019, the company secured £1.5m of investment led by BBG Ventures with Female Founders Fund and Pritzker Private Capital participating, along with angelic contributions from Hannah Bronfman, Nashilu Mouen Makoua, and Sonja Perkins.

On the importance of representation and telling Black stories through the products we create, Freddie says, "Hair to me is Sundays kneeling between your mothers or aunties legs, it's your cousin or newly made friend combing lovingly through your hair, whilst you detangle your life out loud. Our constant shapeshifting teaches us to see ourselves in each other, the hands braiding always intimately touching our head more often than not laying someone's lap."

"Big Hair No Care took off in ways we couldn't keep up with," she continues, "RadSwan is our comeback.It's a lifestyle brand, it's the hair game getting an upgrade, becoming fairer and cleaner. It's the platform that recognises and celebrates your identity as a shapeshifter, your individuality and your right to be black like you."


Check out your next hairstyle from Radswan here.

Radswan's RadShape 01Photo: Courtesy of Radswan


Radswan's RadShape 02Photo: Courtesy of Radswan


Radswan's RadShape 03Photo: Courtesy of Radswan

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