UI natural hair community expresses frustration with Mielle Organics

By Cecilia Milmoe and Ashleigh Kendrick

Within the natural hair community, finding the right hair product that works with one’s hair can be a difficult and time-consuming process. With the risk of damaging one’s hair by using the wrong product, the stakes are high.

For many Black people, Mielle Organics has been that right product. Founded by Monique Rodriguez, the CEO of the company, the product in the past has been dubbed “FUBU” — for us, by us — by the Black community. However, recent developments have changed this.

On Dec. 27, TikTok influencer @alixearle, a white woman, released a sponsored TikTok where she promoted Mielle’s rosemary oil — a product very popular within the natural hair community. The video was flooded with comments like “IF YALL SELL OUT THE MIELLE OIL I WILL RIOT.”

Following this TikTok, Mielle announced on Jan. 11 that the company had been sold to P&G Beauty.

Many within the natural hair community were upset at this turn of events. Jada Powell, junior in LAS, expressed her disappointment.

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“This is a product that usually African American people use. Of course, other people can use it,” Powell said. “But now, since it got brought mainstream, a lot of us in the Black community knew, ‘Oh, it’s gonna be gone.’ It’s gonna be off the shelves because somebody else who is mainstream to a different community has now put this product in the forefront.”

Kayla Henry, senior in Media, expressed similar disappointment.

“I’m disappointed for a lot of Black women because a lot of us, we found out about the product first. We were using it, and then it feels like it’s all gone now,” Henry said. “When I went to the store, I couldn’t find any of those products because people have been buying them up. It’s frustrating because their products really work for my hair.”

Arianna Williams, senior in Media, said this is something that has become common.

“I just feel like it’s just another situation of people coming in and taking over something that belongs to another group of people, which is something that commonly happens,” Williams said. “I feel every time we can never have something of our own.”

Powell said she was frustrated that Mielle reached out to a white influencer to get more success.

“This is one of our staple products,” Powell said. “(There’s) nothing wrong with sharing it, but a lot of times, we’ll have different products that we’ll have, and then a company will reach out to white influencers or just get the backing of a white company. We know as soon as they start reaching out to other people for consumer purposes that they don’t really necessarily care about us, and that it’s not really for us anymore.”

Powell, Williams and Henry all said they like using Mielle’s products and that the products really work for their hair. However, Powell and Henry both expressed concerns about changes in the ingredients that could be used now that the company has been sold. Henry said she is worried the product won’t work for her hair anymore.

“It’d be very disappointing to buy a product for my hair that doesn’t work because it’s like, ‘Oh, well, we didn’t put those ingredients that we originally put in the original product,’” Henry said.

A similar situation happened before. In 2017, Sundial Brands, which sold the natural hair care product Shea Moisture, was sold to Unilever. Following this, the formula was changed, leaving many saying that the product didn’t work for them anymore.

Powell explained the dangers of using faulty hair products.

“(It can cause) extreme damage, which is not fun at all, especially for Black women,” Powell said. “It’s something that we carry very near to our hearts — our hair. Using faulty products could ruin our hair completely and can change its texture, and for a lot of us that can be embarrassing. A lot of us don’t want to wear our hair if it’s damaged or if it has heat damage.”

Williams said that products made by Black companies know what works for Black hair.

“People within our culture know what is needed to go in our hair to help me grow or to make our hair stronger,” Williams said.

While Powell and Henry both said they were happy that a Black-owned business has achieved success, they expressed frustration with what this success means for Black women. Powell said that she is upset that this means it will be less accessible.

“Although you’re kind of happy for the company that started from the ground up and a Black-owned business reaching success, it’s like you hate that the success point has to be reaching a wider audience to where we are no longer necessarily accessible to these things,” Powell said.

Powell also said that while there may be other available products to use, it is frustrating to have to search for them.

“It’s just so hard to find a brand that you really trust,” Powell said. “I feel like that’s a hard thing for our community because it’s like once we finally establish trust with a brand, it’s hurtful when you can no longer trust them. Because then you have to go on the hunt for what brand is not necessarily just out trying to take your money.”

Henry said that while Mielle’s products will no longer be as accessible, there are still several to choose from, specifically pointing out the brands Curls and tgin.

“There are some other brands that are still Black … It’s not the end of the world for Black-owned products,” Henry said. “There are still some, and I really hope that people go out and support these products because they need all the support they can get because they’re really good at products, and they really help our hair. I really hope that in the future, we do not see that all of the products have been sold away.”


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