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United States (U.S) CNBC reports the black hair industry is valued more than US$2.5 billion, based on a report from MINTEL (global market research agency). This figure is based on a 2018 report but does not include hair accessories, wigs or electric styling products. Some have estimated the industry is now valued at a trillion-dollar. Black women are serious about hair care, their crown of glory, and it helps when making choices they get the best value for their dollar.
Enters 22-year-old Asha Christian, whose parents are Guyanese and she Guyanese by descent. What Madame C.J Walker in the U.S did in the 20th century for black women beauty with the creation of a line of skin and hair products and improving the hot comb with wider teeth, in the 21st century Asha is taking this science to a new level with the creation of an app using artificial intelligence (AI). International Business Machine (IBM) defines AI as the leveraging of “computers and machines to mimic the problem-solving and decision-making capabilities of the human mind.”
Black women are not monolithic in personality, physique, hair type, style, preference and values. Asha’s creation of the Coily app, which was launched in Guyana in 2019, allows them an opportunity to visit a one-stop (virtual) place and interact with their sisters as they navigate their hair experience. This includes what hair products to purchase, and how to capitalise on style and techniques best suited to the individual as they build out their beauty and grooming profile. Undoubtedly the interactive app would save time and ensure money is well spent.
How Coily app works
In an AFROTECH Shanique Yates’ story (August 10, 2021) Asha said, “When users first create their profiles, they are met with a hair quiz which assesses 40 different factors that impact or influence [their] hair.” In creating a profile “Factors like the different styles you wear, which can either thin out your hair or help it grow or how often you wash your hair, as well as if you’re on birth control, the quiz helps [Coily] to generate a unique hair ID for each …user.”
After this users would receive an 80-something character hair ID which takes into account all of the various factors that were assessed in the quiz. The data then matches users to others with similar hair types and profiles which in turn helps the platform to figure out the products that work best for you.” According to Asha the system is “…more heavily based on the data that we collect on our users rather than just research.” In further explaining, she said “So if six women all have a 90 percent match to your hair type review product, you’re likely to like it as well.”
REVOLT.tv (August 13, 2021) noted it is Asha’s mission to have the app be a huge marketplace and giant catalog for Black hair products, tools, wigs, weaves and extensions, and essentially anything that you can purchase for Black hair.
Her hair experience
In the interview with REVOLT she admitted to having an obsession with hair from growing up. She also found that she “wasted so much money on wigs that didn’t look good, and curl creams” but realised the problem was not unique to her. Other women were having similar experiences. Thus birthed the idea of developing an app that would use AI to help Black people to positively navigate their hair experience.
Her (back) story
On the Five-O webpage, Asha is described as being passionate about using technology to innovate for social good and people of colour in every field of technology. She is the daughter of Karen Abrams Christian, the originator of teaching STEM (Science Technical, Engineer and Mathematics) in Guyana to school age children using robotics. She, siblings and father (Leon Christian) provided significant support to this project, spending extended time in Guyana, preparing children from all walks of life to learn the techniques, compete and win in global competitions.
At age 15, Asha and her siblings developed Five-O, a mobile police interactive app that promotes community-policing partnership to problem solve. According to the named website she is Co-Founder of Pinetart Inc. and the technical influence behind the app. Business Insider (August 2014) noted the development of Five-O was prompted following the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, which created a hailstorm of questions about law enforcement and the militarisation of the police.
At 22 years Asha sure knows what she wants. She told Yates her ambition is to be “the largest Black hair care marketplace in the world.” It is opportune to note Madame Walker was the first woman and first Black woman in America to become a self-made millionaire. Village Voice wishes Asha similar ground breaking fortunes. To learn more about Coily and how to personalise your hair experience visit, https://coily.us/