I’m Vanessa Mbamarah, single mother of 1 living in Cotonou, the Republic of Benin. Originally from Nigeria, but relocated to Cotonou after the death of my mum to start life afresh. I’m the CEO of Ztallion – a multi-functional organization with 3 major arms – the Ztallion for Business – a social media marketing agency, Ztallion Academy and the LAC Foundation focusing o less privileged kids.
I am passionate about building, not just alone but with others. Today I tell my story to help encourage people going through challenges I had been through as a young orphaned girl.
2. If you could describe your Chapter in I BARED MY CHEST in one phrase what would it be. What major lesson would you say your chapter will teach a woman out there.
In my chapter, I got NAKED…. ***hahahahah.
Well, for the first time I’m going all out, stripping myself of all the past hurt and mistakes I made. Voicing out and telling other women that we get hurt and broken sometimes, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop dreaming about something better and building towards it.
My chapter is focused on my philosophy, which is to “Build Regardless” of where you are at today, what you are facing, your status, your pain and challenges. Through that I hope to inspire women out there who have felt my kind of pain to never give up, no matter what.
3. What does your hair mean to you.
Apart from my face, my hair is the next big thing for me…. Really it is…*smiles. It is a part of me that compliments my beauty, smile and me as a whole. Apart from it being a covering – I just can’t picture myself all bald…*smiles, I’m sexiest when I have it all out, styled or tied back.
4. Reminisce about your growing up hair, how was it like, who made your first hair, mention some hairstyles you rocked while growing up. Who was your biggest influence in the hair department?
While I was younger, I didn’t know much about styling my hair or going all pretty. I was a tomboy but with style…*smiles! I had thick stubborn hair so most of the time I would rather tie them, strand by strand with thread (popular style in Nigeria). It was believed to grow the hair faster … and it really did work for me.
Mum always made my hair …until I grew up, got all girly and started to rock the saloon. I had afro for a while before I went on low cut, rocking the “Anita baker hair cut” for as long as I could remember…*hahah! I always wore whatever I was comfortable with and went well with my present mood.
5. Is there any way that hair has influenced who you have become. Is there any lifelong lesson that hair has taught you?
When you are at peace with your hair, you have one less thing to worry about. Regardless of its length, texture and color, I've learnt to love my hair the way it is. You see, I always wanted to have long silky hair, forgetting I am African, which came with black thick hair. Today I’m going all natural, learnt to accept its thickness and the beauty of nature, bold and beautiful. Regardless of how much we try to change who we are, into something we are not, deep down we still remain who we are.
6. On a scale of 1-10, how much of a hair person are you? What is the biggest sacrifice you've ever made for your hair/to get your hair done?
I would say 8. I love my hair in place, well taken cared of and properly represented the way they would want them. I like to think my hair has a mind of its own. If they don’t like what I make on them, they would all gang up against me, face and all till I get the hair-do changed…. *hahaha, call it crazy but I always feel that way.
I remember once, I made kinky braids, got about 3 packs and spent way over 4 hours braiding…. things we make for our hair. *smiles. It hurt, o yes it did but I endured. When it was all finished, I looked up and I just hated it – call it silly but I just didn’t see ME in the new hairstyle. A week after, I took them off and then did something crazy: I travelled all the way to Nigeria to make new ones. It took me time and more money, but I got what I wanted.
I’m not an extremist when it comes to my hair, but I love to feel whole and at peace with all of us…..*smiles again.
7. What is the worst thing you've ever done to your hair? Share your moments of hair mishap.
One time i put in extensions, that was during the era of the “invisible parting” …*smiles. I was wowed by the beauty and kept the hair for a while. Showing off my new style and grove, little did I know I was in for a shock. When I decided to change styles, I went back to the same saloon to take off the extensions. It hurt more and I wondered if the pain came with that kind of style. It got to a point where I had to ask the lady to pause for a while as I couldn’t bear the pain. It took the intervention of another worker to take them off…. when she finally did – the damage was done. My hair was OFF. The girl had cut off my hair because she couldn’t pull it off. I was furious, yet there was nothing I could do…my precious hair was destroyed and I eventually drew the courage to cut the whole hair, sad!
8. How regularly do you visit the salon, what's your haircare routine like? who makes your hair?
I totally love the feel of having water run down from head to toes… Unfortunately I can’t have that all the time…. extensions and all, but I never give up a chance to have a massage once I take them off.
My haircare routine starts from eating and staying healthy. Secondly I like to treat my hair on my own, mixing natural products and oils ... I’m not a fan of using different hair products. Recently I started using Mizani, and I’m loving it on my hair.
9. What are your preferences: Long/Short; Straight/Curls; Natural/Extensions, Human Hair/Synthetic; Colors/Not? What's your favorite hairstyle presently? Which celebrity hair are you feeling right now?
O I love it long, always have. Until recently, my love for natural has taken over and I’m currently on a transitional process. It’s not really easy, might give up *hahaha, but for now, I’m loving the mixture of dangerous and sexy. Although she has cut hers - Dakore Egbuson’s style of dreadlocks represents the style I plan to eventually grow mine into.
10. Finally, stranded on an island what hair product or accessory would you never do without?
Well my new craze for natural hair just makes it easy to answer this. If I was going to be stranded, I bet I would have on dreadlocks or kinky braids…. knowing how easy it would be for me to just pack them all up into a knot. For me, I would say elastic bands… *smiles