Ottawa

Bantu app connects black women with stylists specializing in kinky, curly, coily hair

An app created in Ottawa is hoping to connect more black women with hairstylists who know how to work with curly, coily and kinky hair types.

'You shouldn't have to feel different because your hair is different,' app founder John Eke

It can be difficult for black folks to find hairstylists who specialize in curly, coily and kinky hair types. But an app created in Ottawa called Bantu is hoping to change that. (bantuapp.com)

It can be hard to find hairstylists who know how to properly work with kinky, curly and coily hair types, but an app created in Ottawa is hoping to make that process a little easier.

A new version of the Bantu app launched earlier this summer. It focuses on the black community, which is particularly under-served in the beauty industry, but anyone in Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and France can use it.

The app — currently only available on Apple products, though an Android version is in the works — allows hairstylists to create and manage their own studio listings, and also allows customers to search for and rate those studios and stylists.

Meron Berhe joined developer and founder John Eke's team after she heard of the first version of the app, which catered mainly to international students who were asking Eke for advice on where to get their hair done.

Experience different for women of colour

Because many stylists don't know how to properly cut and style curly, kinky and coily hair types, women of colour and black women typically use informal networks to share information about the few stylists who specialize in those hair types.

Berhe hopes the app will help to change this.

"I don't believe that somebody necessarily needs to look like you in order to be able to handle your hair, and it shouldn't even be considered 'handling' it," she told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning. "The experiences are different for women of colour versus other women who can just go into places and automatically be catered to.

"I think in beauty schools, in cosmetology schools, they don't necessarily spend a lot of time — if any — dealing with different textures. ... There's nothing stopping the beauty industry from taking notice and potentially making changes."

Eke said that considering the demand, he was surprised no one had come up with a solution sooner.

"Hair is something that's intimate ... You shouldn't have to feel different because your hair is different. You shouldn't have to have special clauses or special cases to deal with your hair ... so that's the bigger problem Bantu is trying to solve," he said.

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