–article by TAYLOR SCHEIBE
Beauty blogger Patrice Grell Yursik of Afrobella has been named, “Godmother of Brown Beauty Blogging.” The natural-haired, Trinidadian-born blogger has more than 11 million page views, an ad campaign with Lancôme Cosmetics and even her own lipgloss (MAC Cosmetics, “All My Purple Life”). Yursik spoke with CIRCUS about how she remains connected to her beautiful, proudly natural and ever-changing audience.
How did you come up with the name, ‘Afrobella’?
Patrice Yursik : I wanted to write about my particular kind of beauty, which, at the time, was quite underrepresented. I wanted to focus on black beauty. I wanted to celebrate natural hair. I wanted to have an inclusionist kind of angle so people knew that the name itself would mean that black beauty is real and that black is beautiful and natural hair is beautiful. We were kicking around a bunch of names. My husband was actually the one that looked at me and said, ‘Afrobella.’ I had come up with the ‘bella’ part because I wanted a universal word for beauty and he was the one that came up with the ‘afro’ part. We bought that domain name August 13, 2006.
Why start a blog?
PY : I’ve touched in many areas of professional writing. A couple of months after graduating with my MFA I got hired at the Miami New Times to be their assistant calendar editor, and during that time was when I launched Afrobella as a blog. The experience of writing for a newspaper prepared me for writing anything. You have to be able to write anything they assign you and you have to be able to write on deadline. And that also taught me that I wanted to have my own platform and my own freedom of expression.
What do you hope to do for your readers?
PY : I want to inform, entertain and celebrate. My goal is to give them the information they need in terms of hair, in terms of makeup, in terms of style, but I also share my life. It’s expanded. I used to limit myself and think it has to just be beauty and hair but no they actually want to know more about you. It’s become about being apart of this online community. I try not to do what
other people are doing.
How well do you know your audience?
PY : The largest part of the demographic of Afrobella readers would be women of color, but it’s not necessarily American women. I’m surprised all the time. I meet a lot of women who will tell me their husbands read my blog and their boyfriends read my blog and share information with them. I have, on my Facebook wall, especially; I’ve got a surprising number of men who choose to comment for a number of reasons. You know they appreciate the beauty that we are discussing and sharing. And as I said, I share other things. I do have white readers, I have Latina readers, I’ve been contacted by readers in Asian countries. I really try to provide information that celebrates my unique beauty but doesn’t limit anybody else from finding the information helpful or inspiring.
What made you decide to go all natural and stop relaxing your hair?
PY : I relaxed my hair from age six until age 23, which is when I got married. And I said to myself, ‘This is the last time I’m doing this.’ When I first decided I was not going to relax my hair anymore, there was some backlash from family. I remember going out and having people look at me funny and make little comments when I walked by. Now so much has changed. That’s not a question anymore. You can turn on the TV and see a commercial for anything form Pine-Sol to Mercedes with a woman with curly, natural hair. We have reset the definition of mainstream beauty for black women. I feel proud to have been part of that. I also think that it’s really important, when we recognize how far we’ve come, to recognize that not everyone has come along with us on the same journey and that we shouldn’t be judgmental of other people’s beauty choices.
Why do you think so many African-American women want to change their hair?
PY : It is something that is engrained in, not just the African-American community, but the global black community. Pretty much all of us can say that we have been affected by slavery or we are decedents of slaves. I really believe that the desire to assimilate to a foreign beauty culture began in that era. That’s where the seed was planted—that what you are is not good enough and therefore to look a different way. You had to change the color of your skin or the texture of your hair in order to move from the field into the main house. I think it has become part of our legacy and part of our story.
Tell me about your experience covering the Academy Awards!
PY : I’ve really had some blessings in my life. I’ve had some amazing peaks in this journey and that was definitely one of them. Who would think that starting a blog would wind you up on the red carpet at the Academy Awards? It was a very surreal experience. It was a lot of work. I didn’t really realize how much work went into red carpet hosting, red carpet interviewing—it’s a full day. You’re out in the sun for like eight hours and then the show begins. It was really exciting and a magnificent experience, definitely a career highlight. [A producer] told us that we were the first bloggers of color to work with the Academy on the red carpet.
How has covering the Academy Awards changed your career?
PY : I think the exposure of covering the Academy Awards allowed brands to realize my range of capabilities, and I think it also helped to prove the power of social media influencers at red carpet events. At the time that Luvvie [Ajayi] and I attended, we were amongst the first to cover that level of red carpet and it was huge for us as bloggers of color. It was a really special experience and sharing it with one of my closest friends made it even more special and memorable.
What's in store for the future of Afrobella? Do you fear that because the natural beauty movement is going mainstream you'll lose some of your blog's momentum?
PY : I'm not concerned about losing momentum; the momentum is up to me. My blog has transformed and expanded—I don't just cover natural hair, I cover black beauty, culture, lifestyle, music—so many things. Plus, the expansion of the natural hair scene will always deserve coverage. My future involves lots of writing and exciting new opportunities in event hosting and emceeing.
What influences your work the most?
PY : I'm influenced by what I see in the world, in street style and beauty, magazine cover headlines and store windows. I really do walk the streets of Chicago and find inspiration for my blog. My continual goal is to be the magazine I couldn't find, to provide information that uplifts, informs, and spreads beauty and awareness. Thinking of what my reader is looking for and what's missing helps to keep me going.
What are your summer beauty must-haves?
PY : Sun protection is a must, and I love a good primer with SPF. Products that help to make your makeup last are essential at this time of year. I get hot and sweaty, so I need a good primer, sun protection, a light foundation with staying power, eyeliner that lasts, and a bold, vibrant lip. Summer's my time to play with bright lips and fun nail polish. It's such a fun time for beauty!