Work. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. These are the four words when I think of Mireille Liong, one of the hardest working women I know. Ms Liong, owner of a number of sites Americas Next Natural Model.com, going-natural.com, badhairuprooted.com and kroeshaar.com to name a few, a hair care line and hopefully soon the marketplace WhatNaturalsLove.com. She is a woman on a mission. Time for an interview!
Mireille LIong is the author of Going Natural, How to Fall in Love with Nappy Hair. Available everywhere books are sold and online in the WhatNaturalsLove.com Bookstore.
Tea or coffee?
Tea please! I love tea and drink tea all day, every day. Never really thought about it until my dad looked at me one day and said that his dad had the same habit; drinking tea all day long keeping it warm in a tea cozy. So I guess it’s the Chinese ancestry.
What projects are you currently working on?
Right now I am working on two things: Distribution of the Going Natural Hair products. There is a container on the way to Suriname that has my products in them and this week the Going Natural products will be in the Super Food Town in Bedstuy in Brooklyn. That is just the start. Lots of more work to do and I am also working on WhatNaturalsLove.com; a social cyber marketplace that will give Black people all over the world access to the largest sophisticated selection of Black Hair Care products on the planet.
Mireille Liong is the founder of America's Next Natural Modell. In the picture the winners of the online pageant.
This is a huge project because the idea started with hair products but all kinds of vendors are interested in offering their goods. So now the goal is to allow small businesses from the Diaspora, from the fashion designers from Guadeloupe to the creative souls in Suriname, to expand their market by opening a store on WhatNaturalsLove.com. This is an easy way for entrepreneurs to expand their market so they can cater to the growing following of going-natural.com. We have over 80,000 members, followers and fans and the following is only growing.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
I guess leaving Amsterdam, Holland at the height of my career and moving to New York to start from zero.
What Naturals Love Hair & Fashion Show 2019, the show that officially launched the marketplace.
What is a typical day like for you?
Although I do plan my days they are not always going as planned. Besides a morning walk, checking mail, reading headlines and listening to WNYC there is nothing really typical or predictable on a workday for me.
It depends on what needs my attention and it gets really crazy sometimes but I always remember that the goal of what I am doing is: changing the perception of natural hair.
Right now I am traveling to San Francisco where I will be pitching WhatNaturalsLove.com for an Angels investing network.
It was such a surprise that my idea and then my business plan were accepted. So the last couple of weeks I have been working on a prototype, business plan, presentation and pitch.
A tribute to the hairstylists
A lot of women see you as their role model. What is your message to them?
You know I am beginning to realize this. First it was Roy Ristie who told me that I was the first Surinamese person with a website, something I didn’t even know! I was so baffled that I looked it up and yes my first site was in 1996 when I started my first Internet business named Netview, LOL.
Creating pages for Surflandria and Robby Alberga. I totally forgot about that. And then Raul Neijhorst selected me for his book Suriname bekend(t) with 75 prominent Surinamese people. Now Henry McDonald from the Suriname UN Mission nominated me for a presidential award. All of these things are just so humbling and wonderful because when I started everybody was asking “What the hack is she doing?”
You got a Master Degree in Information Technology why don’t you just get a good job earn good money and forget about that nappy hair thing that you are doing.
Now with all of this going on I think people start to understand what I was trying to do all along: Changing the perception of natural African hair. I am saying all this because I am not sure if I am a role model. I am quite unconventional, kind of a rebel if you will that is without even being aware of it but somehow I would always go against the grain and it got me into trouble. So I don’t know if that is what role models do.
What were some of the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome to get where you are today?
Finding my way in and through New York with almost no budget. New York is a great city but I moved here with no network, no connections, starting from zero. I literally had to figure it all out myself from opening a bank account to registering a business then finding a way to make my passion a business and making that business profitable. It was all quite challenging.
WhatNaturalsLove.com, for example, is a new challenge but I really want to make it work. It’s important to me because more than anything I want to see Black women becoming the face of the Black hair industry. We are the driving force behind this 500 million dollar industry.
We are the innovators, the inventors, the entrepreneurs but you hardly see us represented on a larger scale. That is beyond social injustice if you ask me.
The companies that wouldn’t even hire people with dreadlocks are making money on selling hair products for dreadlocks while keeping the Black businesses who invented these products and are the innovators of this industry, out.
What was your most embarrassing moment?
Not sure if there is a most embarrassing moment. I know that there are more than I care for, LOL.
What is your favorite thing to spend money on?
I would spend money on a good massage, a health retreat with lots and lots of healthy foods, drinks and massages or a great faraway trip walking the streets in an African country.
How would your friends describe you?
You really have to ask them but from what I remember they used to say that I am “alternatief” (still cracks me up) I guess that is the unconventional me.
How many hours do you sleep at night?
Six hours. No matter what time I go to bed, in general I wake up 6 hours later.
A cat or a dog?
Dog, hands down. Love dogs. Used to have dogs in Suriname.
If your life is your message, what would your message be?
Do you and if you believe in your core that you are doing the right thing; you should not wave. Think with your heart, allow it to guide you when it comes to core decisions and look for people who are smarter than you. No matter what you choose there are going to be hard times and for that my life’s motto is: Life doesn’t happen to you, life happens for you. It’s the same as: The blessing is in the pain.
Interview by Doreen Sprengers founder of Bebe Rose. It was updated.