The #ITGTopShelfie interview series focuses on the beauty routines of Into The Gloss' lovely, accomplished, and loyal community of readers. Submit your own on Instagram—post your Top Shelfie (tag us @intothegloss!) and include the hashtag #ITGTopShelfie for a chance to be featured on ITG.”
“Hi! I’m Anima (@anima.agyeman). I was born in Virginia, raised in New Jersey, and grew up in upstate New York, but I never claim that I’m from anywhere besides Ghana. That’s where my parents are from, and strangely enough that’s the place that feels most like home. In Africa my skin tone is the norm, but I’m darker than the average Black woman in America for sure. Colorism was a common theme throughout my childhood, and I had a lot of self esteem issues. Plus, the only women I saw who had really dark skin, apart from my family members, were always kind of hypersexualized on social media. When I went to college I was pre-med because my parents always wanted one of their children to be a doctor. But I just hated medicine! In retrospect, I think that immigrant parents just get scared. They want you to take on these traditional roles where there’s always a demand and you’ll always have a job, but as long as you’re secure and have that better life they came here to give you, they’re happy.
I broke it to my parents that I didn’t want to study medicine my junior year, and by that point I was so far into college I didn’t really know what I was supposed to do next. But all of a sudden, these other opportunities started popping up—I posted this picture of me at a friend’s birthday dinner, and it went viral. Then the producer of Wendy Williams slid in my DMs on Instagram about a natural hair segment—that fell through, but another natural hair brand hit me up to model for a hair expo. I started making my own YouTube videos, and that’s kind of how this whole thing started. It is completely nuts, actually. After I graduated from college, I modeled for a friend’s brand and that photo ended up on Teen Vogue. I think that’s where Glossier saw me, and when I really started modeling professionally.
Women who look like me have a whole different experience in the modeling world. First of all you have the whole hair issue. If you’re doing five campaigns a week, and you meet five hairstylists who are overmanipulating your hair because they don’t know what to do with it, by the sixth day you will have significant damage. The problem is that hairstylists don’t learn about Black hair, and that translates down. Before I step on set, I ask in advance what the hairstylist wants to do because I don’t want to get there and have a whole issue. I don’t know any white woman who carries hair products and tools with them on set, and I don’t know any lighter skinned or white models who bring their own foundation in case the makeup artist can’t match their complexion. Sometimes I’m afraid that if I speak out it’ll be met with backlash, but I also know that if I don’t speak out, and another Black girl walks on set after me, I didn’t do her any justice.
One day while eating dinner, my mom got up from the table to go to the bathroom, and came back bald. ‘I’m tired of getting perms!’ was all she said. It sparked something in me—why did I get perms? I thought straight hair was better, easier, more manageable, more societally digestible… I had conformed to it for so long that I didn’t even second guess it. After that, I learned how to care for my hair by watching my mom and YouTube. I love Naptural85, Hannah Mussette, Bubs Bee, and Chizi Duru. At least once a month I trim my hair with a process called dusting. Glossier is one of the few brands I’ve worked with that brought on a hairstylist who was knowledgeable about Black hair and actually taught me something. But in general, every time I work with a hairstylist they tell me to keep doing what I’m doing. I think I know what works best for me.
I wash my hair once or twice a month with black soap from Ghana. I put it in a bottle with some essential oils, some moisturizing oils like jojoba, castor, argan, sweet almond if I have, and then some stimulating oils like rosemary and maybe a little tea tree. Then I add hot water, and let that sit for two hours. After I shampoo I go straight into deep conditioning with Shea Moisture’s Manuka Honey Mask or the Black Castor Oil Mask. Those two are amazing, especially if your hair has been colored. Detangling takes like three hours. Then I sit under a hooded dryer for an hour, rinse it out, and style. I have low-porosity hair and heavy products don’t really penetrate, so I love to use a spray leave-in. I usually use the one from Shea Moisture’s Manuka Honey and Yogurt line, but if my hair feels dry I’ll use a heavier butter from Carol’s Daughter. I finish off with Northshea’s shea butter. This brand is amazing, and their shea butter is fair trade and really fresh.
I always have Skin Tint, Stretch Concealer, and Wowder in my bag. Those are my favorites because they make me look like I’m not wearing any makeup. If I’m going out-out, I’ll usually use my Lancôme Teint Idole in 560 Suede, which is the same shade Lupita wears, and a nude lip with lip liner. Usually I use an eyeliner, because they’re darker than normal lip liners, but the new Teyana Taylor MAC lip liners are actually great for dark skin. Then I add some Nars Climax Extreme mascara, and that’s it. Me and makeup… I don’t know. I never wanted to rely on makeup as a crutch, where I’d take it off and feel ugly. Now I’m less adverse to it, but finding stuff I love is hard. I love clean beauty, but you go to Credo and brands are offering five shades and the darkest one is like, orange. Even outside of clean beauty shades are hard to find. One beauty brand I used to work for would test products on me in the office, and one time my coworker was like, ‘Well, Black women don’t really buy makeup.’ What? Huh? Look up the stats! I think what she meant to say was that a lot of dark skinned women don’t need makeup because their skin already looks so good, but I still think that’s a cop out. Make the shades and see if no one’s buying them—then we can have this conversation.
More than makeup, what I really love is skincare. In the morning I start with Holifrog’s Tashmoo cleanser. It’s my favorite cleanser ever because it’s great for sensitive skin, I don’t need another tool to really get my skin clean, and it doesn’t leave me feeling dry. Then I go in with The Ordinary’s Glycolic Toner—I used to use Glossier Solution, but I ran out. I like to wait 30 to 45 minutes and then wet my face before I apply my other serums, because I think that helps keep my skin calm. I apply hyaluronic acid and niacinamide next, and sometimes I just go straight to sunscreen. The niacinamide makes my skin look really shiny, and after I add SPF I look like a diamond. My favorite one is the Sonrei Sea Clearly—it’s so good! And it doesn’t leave a white cast.
At night I start with the Glow Recipe Papaya Cleansing Balm, and then double cleanse with Tashmoo again. Then I go in with the peptides, which is Buffet from The Ordinary, and after that I use their Granactive Retinoid Emulsion. I use Tula’s Beauty Sleep on top, and in the morning I look like a baby. Oh, I forgot to say: I use fresh aloe vera on my face every other day. One day I was on set and my skin was so, so bad. I had done a L'Oréal hair dye campaign right before, and the purple dye got on my cheeks and totally inflamed my skin. I was so embarrassed. I put a piece of aloe vera on my face, stuck it on with tape, and when I woke up all of the inflammation was gone. Bruh. I think I’m going to start eating it.”
—as told to ITG
Photos via the author