Ganohon Ansansame wants hair salons to be centers of information—and affirmation—for black women. Hailing from a village in the Ivory Coast where her grandmother had the honor of braiding new mothers’ hair, Ansansame remembers with fondness her days learning the art.
“It was a time to come together and talk about women’s issues,” she says, recalling tutorials on the beaches of Mbokaou as she and her grandmother took turns braiding each other’s hair. “My grandmother used to take time and tell me stories about my culture.”
Ansansame, who now lives in Los Angeles supporting her 12 siblings with part of her earnings, wants to continue the African and African-American tradition of empowerment unique to the salon experience by promoting natural and Afrocentric styles. “Just wear your hair and be proud of it,” she says. “That’s your crown… your beauty. If you lose it, you lose, really, a part of you. So this is it. God doesn’t make any mistakes; God gave us this hair for a reason.”
Madame Noire: When did you know you wanted to pursue hair braiding as a business?
Ganohan Ansansame: After I graduated [from high school] in Africa, we came to the United States for college. A friend of my mother lived in North Carolina [had] transformed her basement to a salon, so after school I used to come and ask to help. [She] taught me how to take [braiding] to the next level.
MN: How so?
GA: She made so much money that she was able to buy her first house [in] cash, and when I moved in [with her], she was on her second house. Actually, she was almost done paying the second house, and she was moving. That’s how I found out I could actually make money in this business, and I love to do it.