Ariane Roberts is the digital media entrepreneur behind ARIDEONNE, a company that aims to create online spaces for women of color. She started blogging in 2010 to document her natural hair journey that eventually led to the birth of the popular natural hair website BlackNaps.org.
Here, Roberts speaks with Face2Face Africa about her company, career pursuits, and latest book, “Jamie Loves Her Natural Hair,” which aims to encourage young girls to love their hair despite the political radicalness linked to it.
Face2Face Africa: You have quite an impressive resume on LinkedIn. Seriously, what is it you haven’t done? What professional titles do you give yourself?
Ariane Roberts: I am flattered, thank you! At times, I use to find it hard to find a title that encompasses everything that I do being that I do code, design, market, and write for all of my websites. However, I feel the best title would be digital media entrepreneur.
AR: ARIDEONNE is dedicated to creating platforms for women of color that educate, empower, and build online communities. Wherever there is an undermet need, ARIDEONNE is there to fill that gap. ShortNaturalHairstyle.com is a good example of what I mean by this.
It is another ARIDEONNE property that is relatively new but successful because many women need the encouragement to do the big chop, and it’s uplifting to see naturals with fly short cuts, because mostly longer tresses are praised and put on a pedestal.
I launched Adelphee because I wanted to have a space that shared all the great things Black women contribute and I wanted to create a positive online community. With all the negativity that goes on and with this not being the best of times politically for many of us, I wanted a space that celebrates all the awesomeness of Black womanhood with tons of feel-good content.
Smoovve was developed from my own struggle with acne and hyperpigmentation as I saw no skin care resource that specifically catered to skin issues for Black women.
F2FA: What is your educational background and did it ever have an influence in your choice to pursue a digitally focused career?
AR: Even though I never had any formal training with coding and design, I had always been tech savvy because I grew up around it.
My mother is a computer technician who used to build the throwback tower desktop computers. Growing up I experimented with using basic HTML back when things like Myspace and Blackplanet were hot. (God I am so old!)
With my spare time in college, I would customize web pages like this for fun when I should have been doing school work. When I went to school for undergrad, I must say I wasn’t necessarily focused on what I should have been focused on and I never really thought about what would make me happy career wise.
Honestly, I never thought work would ever be fun or fulfilling because I just thought of it as work. So without much research, I picked Criminal Justice as my major. I thought I would be a highly paid lawyer and my day-to-day would be like a good episode of “Law & Order SVU” (sad but true).
By the time I had gotten the real experience of what it was like to work in the field through internships in my junior year, I knew it wasn’t my cup of tea. However, I didn’t feel like staying in school for another two years to figure out what I wanted to do. I graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Criminal Justice and a Business Minor.
Once I graduated, the job market in my area was slim pickings, but I did land part-time work. This gave me extra time to really find myself. The Internet had always been my form of leisure and enjoyment, especially YouTube.
When I was watching YouTube one day, I stumbled across a video by Lisa Irby of “2 Create a Website.” She offered very real sound advice about starting a website. I knew going in thanks to her guidance that it would be hard, but still something in me just wanted to do it as I always had a very entrepreneurial spirit.
When I started BlackNaps, I finally found something that was enjoyable to me and didn’t feel like work, work. I decided to change the direction of my career, and I went back to school for my Master’s of Business Administration.
After building up a freelance writing portfolio, I was able to use that to gain entry level work as a digital content writer and then eventually project management for a social media agency.
In 2015, I took the leap and pursued my entrepreneurial ventures full-time and haven’t looked back since.
F2FA: The digital world is often said to be male-dominated. Do you think this is accurate? And has it ever proven to be a challenge working in a male-dominated field?
AR: For the most part, yes, it is very male-dominated. It also…lacks in diversity. I often was one of the few Black people at the companies I worked at in the past. At one company, I was the only person of color. What I found most challenging was finding an opportunity that compensated me fairly.
You go to school for all these years and many companies are offering you pay that you could have gotten if you didn’t have any education or experience. One of the best work environments I had was when I worked as a content writer, but the pay was so terrible I had to leave. I think it was challenging as a woman, and then to top it off, as a woman of color — that’s two strikes.
F2FA: As an experienced digital entrepreneur, you certainly do not shy away from coaching and educating others; you basically provide an e-course for fledgling bloggers. What piece of advice would you give to anyone starting out in digital media?
AR: The main thing I would say is be passionate, persistent, and realistic. Starting your own digital platforms is hard work. If you are the type of person who is going to give up because you don’t have X amount of followers within a certain time frame, this path is not for you. You have to be willing to work hard just like any other job and expect to have some failures before success.
F2FA: You just released a children’s book entitled “Jamie Loves Her Natural Hair.” I understand the inspiration behind it was urging young girls to love and embrace their curls despite the radicalness that is linked to it. Why do you think it is so political when people of a certain race or ethnicity own something that’s inherently theirs?
AR: You are expected to assimilate to what is considered the norm, and when you don’t, you are deemed as “unprofessional” or “inappropriate.” Sadly, much of this stigma comes from our own people, which has got to stop.
This is definitely not anything new if we go back to the early ’70s; natural hair was really in but then it drastically decreased in popularity because of a variety of factors but mainly fear of lack of job opportunity.
Angela Davis was considered a fugitive and her Afro was one of the main things [the] media used to distinguish with her. Many people didn’t want to be seen as radical or a criminal so this may have played some part in the decline of the Afro.
Melba Tolliver was a journalist and famous for being fired in the ’70s for wearing her Afro.
Hopefully, history will not repeat itself.
F2FA: Not only are you an Afropreneur but you are also a Femmepreneur/Shepreneur who is creating online spaces and platforms for women of color. What myths or stereotypes do you hope to break down through your company ARIDEONNE?
AR: I hope to show that there are so many of our sisters contributing great things. Which is why even on my natural hair blog if I see another fellow natural that has created something useful and unique, I love to highlight them to spread the word.
Through the BlackNaps website and through the meetup events I have done, I really have seen so much sisterhood. Overall I have gotten way more love and positivity in my life from the creation of these platforms while most media would have you think that Black women are constantly at each other’s throats.
So not true!
Find out more about about ARIDEONNE, here.