StarWoman : Ghanaian IT Business Analyst Efua Opoku on the politics of hair, her love for beauty & fashion
The StarWoman series matters because women are so colorful in everything we do. It’s just the way we are. We bring the most arbitrary interests together and make magic with our stories. Everything about Efua, is interesting. An IT specialist by day, a fashionista, a natural hair diva and event planner, as well! Read her story in her own words as she discusses natural hair, her work ethic and how she makes it all work!
KY : Can you tell us a bit yourself and what you do?
EFUA : Hello! My name is Efua Opoku and I am a Ghanaian living in America exploring this journey called life. I’m an IT Business Analyst during the day and anytime outside of that space I’m excited when I get to bring people in the Diaspora community together in meaningful ways (whether it’s for networking, dancing, dinner/lunch, outdoor activities, fashion, etc.). I love exploring different ways to style my natural hair and enjoy modeling in natural hair shows. I get excited to connect my friends and anyone who asks to businesses (resources) that they need to connect with. I enjoy designing experiences for friends or clients with event ideas or simply help a friend decide where to take a guy she’s dating because she’s unfamiliar with what to do in town.
KY : So I see your passions gravitate towards events, natural hair and lifestyle, how do you find a balance between all three?
EFUA : All of them are connected so I find that I’m flowing between them or at times have them all in one event I’m experiencing like me coordinating a natural hair show. Every event I participate in; I get to showcase my natural hair just by being in the room/space. I tend to gravitate towards cultural events that showcase the diaspora community in different ways.
KY: What’s your general assessment of the events terrain in Accra, and what changes would you like to see?
EFUA: The events scene has changed quite a bit over the years of me visiting on an annual basis. It’s been so wonderful to see the variety from vintage films showing on a monthly basis to Afrochella happening once a year. I would love to see more original event concepts that are not a copy of events happening abroad. The check in process for events needs to improve (especially the concerts). For customers I can only imagine how overwhelming it is to enter a space and there is no order in terms of where you need to be in order to get checked in. This is something I see as well in the DMV with African events where it’s unclear how customers are supposed to get in.
KY : Any pet peeves you find when you’re organizing for clients?
EFUA :The only thing that is challenging when organizing an event for a client is when they keep canceling planning sessions. It’s an indication to me that they are not invested in the success of the event.
KY :Any tidbits you’d like to share about going into event planning ?
EFUA : Enjoy the process! Designing events for clients does get stressful but it’s important to enjoy the process of taking their ideas and bringing it to life.
Learn new ways to remain organized. This is going to be key when working with a variety of clients on their events.
KY : Can you tell us a bit about your natural hair journey? For you, do you believe hair is a political and cultural conversation that needs to be had?
EFUA : It started in a setting that I wouldn’t have expected. I was sitting in my Botany class and my mind had trailed off at some point. I began to question my hair growth as I touch that back of my relaxed her to uncover new growth. I asked myself why would I suppress something that is naturally growing and has been given to me by my creator?
As I pondered this question and not having a clear reason why I needed the relaxer, as though on cue, my classmate Shy Johnson came over to my section and I saw her long hair. I assumed it was relaxed and when I asked her about it she said it’s all natural but she just had it pressed! I was shocked because at this point in my journey with my hair, I assumed relaxing the hair was the only way to long hair. Coming from living in Ghana to Texas changed my lens on the definition of beautiful hair. I’d entered a space where the solution for black women was to relax their hair to make it manageable. Now don’t get me wrong, if I had stayed in Ghana I would have ultimately transition to relaxed hair as well when I become a grown woman because that was my environment as well. I knew a relaxer was in my future and possible wigs/weaves based on how most of the Auntie’s and mama’s styled their hair. My mother at this time in my life also had relaxed hair, she and my sister both went natural because of me years later.
My interaction with Shy brought up another question for me: Why am I hiding behind long relaxed hair? Is my beauty defined by the length of my relaxed hair?
As class came to a close I made a deal with myself that I would cut my hair by the following year or when I was married and pregnant with my first child. I rationalized that I could deal with my hair being in transition in one of those two scenarios in my life. I could share more about my decision and journey but I’ll stop here for now ☺
For me I think hair is conversation that should definitely be discussed culturally. There is so much to learn about the ways we cared for our hair in its natural state (both men and women). Natural hair styles (like an Afro) have been used as political statements and there is so much about our natural hair that we are yet to uncover.
KY : How do you wind down after all the chaos is over and what does self-care mean to you?
EFUA : Self-care for me means taking time out to do something that will help my body and mind reset. I’ve built in morning routines and monthly routines to help with that so that it’s not something I’m only doing in response to extreme stress or chaos but proactively so that it’s part of my lifestyle. I love to just sit and read or sit and do nothing but catch up on shows from ages ago that I never got to watch. I schedule monthly massage appointments as part of my wind down in a given month because sometimes it can get crazy schedule wise and then I have that standing appointment which is such a treat! Sleep is part of my wind down because one thing I know for sure is the body needs rest.
KY: Are you considering working in Ghana at some point and if so, any plans you’d like to share with us?
EFUA : Yes I would love to do something great in Ghana and I’m constantly thinking of ideas I could try out in my motherland. One of the things I’ve been working on with two other partners is in the tourism space. I also want to bring great events to Ghana.