We had the good fortune of connecting with Vanessa Van Dyke and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Vanessa, how did you come up with the idea for your business?
My mom, Sabrina Kent, came up with the idea of “Vanessa’s Essence,” in 2014 after I faced discrimination in my private school regarding my natural hair when my principal told me I would either need to cut or straighten my hair so that I would stop getting bullied when I confronted her about the bullying from my classmates. My mom chose to go to the local news about this issue, and I stated that I would rather leave the school than change my natural hair for someone who chooses to not understand that isn’t just “hair.” I went through a deep depression as a 12 year old girl, trying to figure out if who I was would be acceptable or not in society. However, my mom chose to create this haircare line in honor of me and other girls and women who are going through self-esteem issues, while possibly going through a similar discrimination issue in school or work. Since Black women and girls are often the ones who are told that their hair is “unprofessional” in the workplace, both my mom and I feel Vanessa’s Essence would help uplift these women and girls going through this kind of torment. Our products are natural and cruelty-free, with our target audience being young Black girls who need inspiration when it comes to their hair and skin since at a young age it is harder to understand one’s identity. We both want to let them know that their hair is beautiful the way it is, and they should never change their roots for anyone. Even though I am the spokesperson for this haircare line, I plan on taking over as the owner once I graduate from Spelman College! Our mission will always be to encourage and inspire these women and girls to always embrace the skin that they’re in.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I would love to tell you more about my artwork! This is usually something I often separate from my modeling, pageants, and business even though I do post most of my art on my social media! I started drawing at a very young age where I would draw things like cartoon characters, as any child would naturally. However, it began to get more serious when I realized that my skills were advancing and I was starting to draw more realistic people just by looking at a picture from my phone. My shading techniques started to advance and my details in my art were starting to get more realistic-like. When I was in high school, I won the Hispanic Heritage Month art competition where I drew a woman in a Flamenco dress with Hispanic flags gradually flowing out from the back of her dress, where the Puerto Rican flag was more pronounced due to Hurricane Maria devastating this island. I wanted to use my art as something symbolic for those in trying times. The majority of my art is focused on Black women and portraying them as royalty. I focus on real-life portraits of Black women where I draw in graphite (pencil), and some of my former pieces were of Duckie Thot, Lupita Nyong’o in the movie, “Us,” Imaan Hammam, and many more. My most recent drawing was of Zozibini Tunzi, the current reigning Miss Universe.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I love this question! If my best friend was visiting Atlanta, I would definitely take them to Cascade skating rink because roller blading is one of my passions where I can find a way to escape from society. Cascade is very well known in the Atlanta area where many people, including professional skaters go to skate, or simply just have a great night in the city! I love the night life in Atlanta, so honestly going to places like Cascade would most likely show my best friend a great time! You can never go wrong with Lenox Square Mall, either.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I want to firstly give my mother, Sabrina Kent, all the love and recognition she deserves for being someone who created a legacy. Not only for me, but for other generations of Black women and girls letting them know they are beautiful. She created this business not having a full educational background on business marketing and entrepreneurship, but she managed to push and stay up many hours throughout the night to figure out how to create a business such as this one and market our brand, and we are so excited that we have been a partner with Black Naps for almost a year. I want to say thank you so much, Black Naps, for expanding our business and reaching different Black women and girls through their Curlfriend Box, where we have been able to include many of our product samples in this box, and this helped our business so much. I would also like to say a huge thank you to Shannon Ligon, my former attorney and one of the ladies that created an annual charity event that I have been a part of since 2013 called, “Bring Out the Dolls.” This was also created in honor of my story where dolls are collected at this event from people who bring any doll that they choose, and then these dolls are donated to children in shelters every Christmas. I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for her help and encouragement to attend Spelman College while also encouraging me to continue to speak at this event every year, where I have been able to feel more comfortable speaking in front of people and gain confidence on stage. Thank you so much to all!
Demarcus Bowser (feature photo)