Naturals in Business: Lulu Kitololo, Designer & Afrilove Founder
TN: Tell us about your work.
Lulu: I’m an advocate of each one of us celebrating who we are.
As an artist, I create lifestyle products, such as notebooks, phone cases, and art prints, inspired by Africa and nature. I also run a graphic design studio and our main clients have some sort of Africa-focus and want to present themselves in a fresh, contemporary, thoughtful way.
I also run a blog, Afri-love, sharing my journey as an African creative, trying to be true to myself, in work and in life.
Most recently, I started running online Soulful Branding courses, out of my belief that your branding should make your heart sing! That starts with being true to who you are.
TN: When did you return to natural?
Lulu: “Return to natural” – I love that way of putting it. It’s accurate! I returned when I realised how futile it was, trying to make my hair do things it couldn’t. I was around 19 years old and 1 year into university. It was a complete big chop. I remember being late for class the next day because I was so self-conscious about going outside practically bald.
After a few years and a few false starts, I locked my hair and that lasted for 5 years. I cut the locks off (big chop number 2), because I had gained a lot of weight and I felt that I was hiding behind my hair. Cutting them forced me to take charge of my health again. I’ve been wearing my hair “loose” again for about 6 years now and, this time around I’m so much better educated about how to take good care of it.
TN: As your hair grew, which style did you feel perfectly represented you?
Lulu: I love this question. I’d say it’s a few days after a twist out, when my hair has been stretched by a few nights of sleeping in matutas, and has then shrunk a little due to a little bit of water. It’s a little wild: full and with a mind of its own.
TN: How does this complement your lifestyle?
Lulu: I’m really lazy when it comes to styling my hair. Wash day takes time enough! I create two-strand twists after washing and wear those for a week or two, and then wear the twist-out for another week (or two – don’t judge me!). There are so many things I want to do, so many things I want to create and so many projects I want to bring to life. Add to the fact that taking care of my health has become a high priority for me in the past few years – it’s a non-negotiable. My go-to hair style is low maintenance enough for me to focus on these other things. It’s funny though – it’s very difficult to use the term “low maintenance” when referring to maintaining 4c hair!
TN: What is your typical hair care regimen, and what products can’t you live without?
Lulu: Detangle – with water and conditioner (although recently I’ve been experimenting with Naptural85’s oil and aloe vera tip to pre-poo. I make sure to be very thorough to minimise breakage later on – fingers first, then comb, then brush.
I then wash each section with shampoo. Sometimes I’ll condition again.
I dry with a tshirt and begin working on one section at a time: leave in conditioner, hair butter, two strand twists.
For the longest time I’ve been using Giovanni Organics shampoos and conditioners and Kinky Curly leave-in-conditioner. Hair butter varies (sometimes I make my own) but, Oyin Handmade is a favourite and what I’m currently using.
TN: How has your regimen changed since becoming a new mum?
Lulu: Oh my! And I thought I didn’t have time for wash day before! These days I’m not even trying to wash my hair more than once a month (before I would try but I wouldn’t always succeed :). I’ve also found that I do wash day in chunks. I might detangle one day, wash on another and twist on yet another.
TN: What is the biggest lesson motherhood has taught you so far?
Lulu: How to really be present; how to be assertive without fear; how to prioritize and to be much more efficient – my procrastination has decreased dramatically!
To sum it up, I’d say motherhood has made me appreciate that I am worthy and I have been forced/inspired to act in alignment with that knowledge.
TN: What do you find most fulfilling about being a Diaspora creative and ambassador?
Lulu: I don’t think I’ve ever explicitly thought of myself in these terms. What I have loved about my experience is all the inspiring like-minded people I’ve met and had the opportunity to exchange and collaborate with. It’s always self-affirming to see people, who look like you and come from places and cultures like yours, who are dedicated to excellence, proud of their heritage and also happen to be nice.
I hope that my presence and my story can offer the same encouragement to somebody else.
TN: Tell us about Afri-love women and the recent #selfcare challenge.
Lulu: Afri-love Women is a safe space for real talk, for African women creatives striving to balance self-care with professional excellence. It’s an offshoot of my blog and currently lives as a private group on Facebook.
I started the community late in my pregnancy – in part a product of insomniac inspiration and also, the culmination of intentions I’d held for years.
Currently there are over 400 members, living around the world and, they give me so much life! Huge thanks to the interwebs for facilitating such meaningful connections and sisterhood, with ladies I otherwise may have never come across.
In August, I ran a self-care challenge which I dubbed the #justformechallenge. The idea was to list more than 31 things you love to do and then, do one of them, each day, for the whole month. I then encouraged people to share pictures of their me-time, on the group and on Instagram. For me personally, being accountable this way made such a big difference. I managed to achieve 97% success :).
TN: What 5 self-care activities are you absolutely loving since beginning the challenge?
Lulu: The challenge did remind me of acts of self-care which bring me much joy, satisfaction and sanity, some of which are super simple! If I had to pick some of my top ones:
– Taking time to dig into a good magazine – Essence is my guilty pleasure of choice
– Learning new creative techniques – I took a modern calligraphy workshop which, was so much fun
– Making lists – crazy, I know! It keeps the ideas flowing and also, gives me confidence in a sense of control. I think it’s a bit of an obsession actually but, shhhhh…
– Getting dolled up – you may have gathered how lazy I can be in this department. It’s a delight though, to sometimes make an effort
– Lying on the grass, in the sunshine – it doesn’t get simpler or sweeter than that
TN: Anything else? 🙂
Lulu: It’s funny how motherhood has brought so much clarity to my life as a whole. The last couple months of my pregnancy were some of the most productive I’ve ever had, when it comes to my projects. So, not work commissioned by others but, self-directed work that will make a significant movement towards the achievement of my longer-term dreams and goals.
My son Laoleko is helping me to stop letting fear getting in the way of action; to truly appreciate the gifts that I have and not be afraid to share them with the world. Hence the whole Soulful Branding series of courses I’m working on. With the pilot I ran in May, I chose a date and put it out there which, forced me to be ready. The amazing response I received was great validation that I was on to something. I challenged myself to step things up and the next version of the course is going to be even better (if I may say so myself). Again, I picked a date and put it out there – it began this October.
My baby inspires me to seize today.
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