Daughter Of Angolan War Refugees Battles Stereotypes With Successful Natural Hair Care Business In Europe
Myriam Taylor took her own personal journey from relaxed hair to natural and turned it into a profitable business based in Portugal.
After years of relaxing her hair Taylor decided to go chemical free during her pregnancy. Of course, at the time she found it difficult to find the products she needed for her hair. This led Taylor, who is of Angolan descent, to start her own natural hair products company, Muxima, in June 2016. Muxima means “heart’ in Kimbundu, an Angolan language.
With the support of her husband, Paulo, a technology expert, Muxima created products that would work well with textured hair without containing any harmful sulphates, parabens, or synthetics. By December 2016, Muxima officially launched with ﬁve products worldwide in its online store. Now, Muxima’s line of products are also sold at stores in Lisbon, Paris, Amsterdam, London, and Luanda. This year, the line will be introduced to the American market.
Taylor’s parents fled Angola as war refugees in 1976. They came to Portugal where Taylor was born and raised before graduating from the Rose Bruford School of Drama in London.
Taylor told MadameNoire the hurdles she faced being the child of Angola war refugees in Portugal and how she built her new company.
MadameNoire (MN): Tell us about life before to starting your own company
Myriam Taylor (MT): Being a minority has made me very conscious of all the under-represented voices across the world, and that propelled me to be involved; I first started volunteering at age 15. Years later, I graduated from the Rose Buford School of Drama in London, where I specialized in Theatre of the Oppressed. This led me to work with a variety of different people, including victims of domestic violence in Paris, war orphans in Angola, and Marias, the well-known project fighting for the rights of housemaids in Brazil.
My creative output has always been connected to social and humanitarian causes. So when I established Muxima, I could only do so by upholding my beliefs and making in line with my value system.
MN: Is the natural hair trend strong or still developing in the Afro-European community?
MT: Yes, the natural hair movement is growing worldwide, more and more of our sisters and brothers are accepting their roots, becoming more aware and choosing to go natural. The more informed we become, the better.
MN: How is the Black hair market different in the U.S. than in Europe?
MT: I do not know how different, in terms of needs and wants the two markets are pretty much the same, even the weather conditions can be very similar. Obviously, in terms of demographics then it becomes very different; we (women of color) are a lot less in Europe than we are in North America.
MN: Why did you want to introduce your products to the U.S. market?
MT: I would love to share with all Africans and Afro-descents around the world to know that we exist! We are the sole luxury hair care line from textured for textured made in Europe.
MN: How do these products work on kinky and coarse hair, as those are the hair types often left out of the natural hair product consideration?
MT: Eunice is one of our colleagues, and her hair type is 4c, (a very tightly coiled hair type) and it works just in perfection on her’s. We have also recorded a video with her hair routine.
MN: You are of Angolan heritage, have you traveled back often? What are your thoughts on the natural hair community in Angola?
MT: I have not been in Angola since 2006. However, I am in permanent contact with my friends and family; therefore I can certainly talk about this matter. Unfortunately, Angola has pretty much assimilated the Portuguese/European culture–Mostly wigs and hair extensions. However, the natural hair movement is slowly getting more supporters.
MN: What are your thoughts on colorism and hair politics in Portugal?
MT: Although we have evolved we are still a very provincial country, many times people are judged according to their appearance. Curly hair is usually more easily accepted within the artistic spheres.
Although we have a government with an Indian Prime Minister (António Costa), and a Black Minister of Justice (Francisca Van Dunem), just as you had Obama, that does not mean that the country has overcome its intrinsic racial problems. Problems that cannot and will not be washed away, until we solve them.
I believe that we are in a moment in history where for the first time we have conquered the opportunity to start studying, investigating, debating, and writing ourselves our angle of the story. We do need to solve the problems which are rooted in the Black history, issues like slavery, colonialism, arbitrary arrests, oppression and together we need to find the answers and the means to change our realities. We all know that we cannot change the past, that is not the issue anyway, what we can for sure do is to acknowledge our history and find ways to challenge the status quo to a point of real social balance.
MN: Your parents were war refugees, how did that affect your childhood?
MT: What affected negatively my childhood was not the fact that they were refugees, but the fact that Portugal was even more provincial then is now.
My parents had difficulties in everything, in finding a house to rent or buy, and when they finally did buy, we used to receive anonymous phone calls, asking us to leave the building.
People would change places on the bus to avoid sitting next to us. I was permanently bullied at school, and they have used the color to discriminate me. Finding a job for my mother was extremely hard, although she had already finished all her College studies when she arrived in Portugal in 1976, knowing that the average citizen couldn’t write their own names at the time.
MN: Did you face a lot of challenges in Portugal being of Angolan descent?
MT: It seems Black women aren’t as valuable as other women. There are all these assumptions about us and we are immediately categorized in little boxes: Sex: female; Ethnicity: Black; Parents: Refugee; Social status: Low income.
And then society helps it even more by triggering what they expect from each individual according to all the above aspects.
We don’t make good partners, we are too loud, too much to handle, not feminine enough, too aggressive, not mannered enough…
We still haven’t broken the stigma; people still get astonished by the fact that we are CEOs, doctors, scientists, presidents, and not maids or factory workers.
I feel like the standards for Black women are higher than for other women. It seems like we constantly have to prove our worth.
MN: Why did you want to be an entrepreneur?
MT: I was always very socially engaged and active and as a theater director you cannot have a lack of initiative…to have become an entrepreneur I see it as a contingency.
MN: Why do you call yourself Dreamer-in-Chief?
MT: Aren’t you your own dreamer in Chief? You should, who is controlling your dreams? Remember, Create your own story! Everyone should be the dreamer in chief of their own lives. And I also like more than CEO, CTO, COO, or UFO (laugh).