THE OUTNET’S Content Editor, Jess Wood, caught up with Hair Artist, and Founder of Manketti Oil hair care Charlotte Mensah. In case you missed their live conversation, we made sure to save some of the best bits…
Jess: Hi Charlotte! We’re live! You’re live from the salon!
Charlotte: I’m in my salon now, I’ve been working in the salon today and, yeah, I think it’s the first time I’ve sat down since 10am. It’s been busy.
Jess: So, Charlotte, should we start with the obvious which is the book that you’ve got coming up? October the 29th. And it’s called Good Hair, published by Penguin. I understand it’s got hair in it, but it’s about a lot more than that…?
Charlotte: Yeah. It’s got a lot about our cultural history, it’s got a lot about my own personal life, and my own journey. I was born in London, but I left the UK at the age of 3 months and I lived in Accra, the main city in Ghana, with my grandparents. My grandfather ran a brewery, producing super malt and Ghana Guinness. My grandmother was a bit of a wonder woman. She did our hair, she grew and cooked the food, she sewed our clothes, she painted the house…She had 8 kids and all her 8 kids had 8 kids. A lot of my creativity actually comes from her and my grandfather used to take me to all his high-level business meetings, when I was, like 5 years old…
Jess: Wow. So, you were just there absorbing it. Do you think that’s where your business side started really?
Charlotte: Most definitely. When he used to take me to the banks I would just like the way the women looked and, you know, they were very kind of authoritative, I liked that.
Jess: How did the good hair start to happen then?
Charlotte: The good hair happened when I then joined my mother at the age of 11 and I had many fond memories of my mum doing my hair for me. When she passed away, I was 13, I started doing my sister’s hair. So, I became like the mother to my sister.
Jess: It’s a nurturing thing to do, isn’t it? When I play with my daughter’s hair, I feel like I’m really showing love and affection.
Charlotte: Yeah. So, in like, 1985/86, I was hairdressing at the age of 16 at the first black salon to open in the UK called Splinters, in Mayfair. It was this amazing salon that had clients like Diana Ross… There were so many great people coming in. We had news readers like Moira Stuart, Trevor McDonald, the pop star Sinitta…
Jess: I don’t know how many viewers have watched the Chris Rock documentary Good Hair, but it’s all about the cultural significance of hair in black cultures. Could you explain a little bit about that?
Charlotte: I wrote Good Hair because for so many years we’ve had this European standard of what Black hair should look like. And, for many years we abused it, we didn’t embrace it. The hair has been through so much, it’s been quite a traumatic experience.
Jess: You also have your own hair care range and there’s a very interesting story about how you found the magic ingredient, isn’t there?
Charlotte: Yeah, I had this great opportunity to do one of my client’s weddings in Kenya. I decided to go for a massage and they used this oil, manketti, in my hair. I began to research it and I found that it existed for over 6,000 years. It comes from a nut, grown on a tree called the mongongo in the southern parts of Africa. It’s got so many benefits, you can also use it on your skin, you can eat it as well. It’s got loads of Omega-3s.
Jess: Now, we also haven’t discussed fashion, and we’re on THE OUTNET! I know you love Preen — what other brands do you love?
Charlotte: Isabel Marant! Isabel Marant! One of my go-to, everyday, practical wears. If I’m going to Ghana, it’s so easy to fold, I wear it in Ghana or in the UK.
Jess: Yeah, it looks a bit like it’s vintage but it’s not vintage, it’s just perfect. And, do you like a bit of jewelry? I’m always wanting to get everyone to talk about their earrings. What’s happening, where are they?
Charlotte: I like bangles. I only usually like very little earrings — because I like a lot of print there’s always a lot going on. If you have earrings and then too many things, it just looks very messy. I like the dress to speak, you know?
Jess: Yeah, unlike me. It’s like more, more, more, pile it on. You’re more of the Coco Chanel, look in the mirror take one thing off. I’m like, look in the mirror put on more and more and more. Anyway, you’re much chicer than me.
Charlotte: It’s your personality and that’s what dressing up is about. It’s so important for your mental health, you know? You need to really enjoy getting dressed, having fun, looking good. When I wear a dress that I feel like I look really good in, I’m extra-confident. Everything comes together, you’ve got people complementing you on the street..
Jess: So, tell me, we talked about being a business woman and the confidence that fashion gives you. What’s your top tip for anyone starting a business?
Charlotte: Confidence comes from really feeling happy within your spirit, you know what I mean? So, it comes from inside. If my mind is at peace, and I feel relaxed then everything else looks beautiful because I’m not feeling negative. You’ve gotta get your mind in gear first and then everything else comes. My mind needs to be at peace and that would come from like who I surround myself with, the type of music I listen to…
Jess: OK, some quick-fire questions because I can’t help myself. Your best hair icon, who is it?
Charlotte: I think Rihanna is very good at pulling off lots and lots of styles. And… who else. There’s lots. Erykah ’s amazing. Even if she put a pot on her head, she looks amazing.
Jess: Most stylish woman ever?
Charlotte: I’ll say my mother and my grandmother because they were just both really quite effortless but always looked on-point. With their shoes, their bags, even makeup. Definitely the two most important women in my life.
Jess: Right, last one Charlotte. You’re 1 can’t-live-without hair product.
Charlotte: My original Manketti Oil. This oil is everywhere, it’s in my car, it’s in my bathroom, it’s in my kitchen. It’s everywhere. It’s on my staircase, in my sitting room…
Jess: Ok, ok. Good answer. Charlotte, I’m gonna have to let you go. I don’t want to but I’ll have to tear myself away. Everyone’s really loved hearing from such a specialist and I can’t wait for your book, Good Hair, out October the 29th. Thank you so much Charlotte and we will speak to you soon I hope.
Charlotte: Thank you! Thanks for having me, thank you!