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Styling for success

By Yang Guang (China Daily)

11:01, June 12, 2012

Above and below: Congolese fashion designer and hairstylist Martha Makuena is busy working at her hair salon in Beijing. Photos by Cao Huan / China Daily

China is indeed a land of opportunity, as Martha Makuena found out when she opened a hair salon for people of African origin, and she's now more comfortable here than at home. She shares her story with Yang Guang.

When Martha Makuena from the Congo first arrived in China, she was bored and listless. In 1999, her husband Paul Luyeye arrived in Wuhan to work, and she had followed him. In their community, they were the only foreigners, and Makuena spoke no Chinese and had no friends.

At the time, the Chinese made a clear distinction between laonei (Chinese) and laowai (foreigners), says Makuena, a fashion designer and hairstylist by training in her hometown Kinshasa.

"I felt completely like a laowai," the mother of three recalls.

Her two sons and a daughter were all born here. She certainly did not expect that, 13 years later, she would be the proud proprietor of a hair salon in Beijing that caters to people of African origin.

The shop in the Central Business District is the only of its kind in Beijing.

The road to success was long and hard. In 2003, Makuena had moved to Beijing with her husband and children because Luyeye changed jobs. To keep herself occupied, Makuena finished a year of studying Chinese and took another two years to finish a bachelor's degree in business administration.

She was surfing an online expatriate community chatroom when she saw an African woman asking about where to do her hair.

"African hair culture is a personal issue with a long and complex history," Makuena explains.

"I would say it is difficult for a Chinese hairdresser to meet the needs of an African or person of African descent insofar as hair is concerned."

For instance, haircare products used by Africans, such as creams, oils and other kinds of treatment are different from those used by other people.

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Jacks at 2012-06-12117.82.220.*
This is really great. Thanks for sharing it. This is what I was looking for. Thanks alot

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