Zoe Banoža | Photo by: Janée Green 

Zoe Banoža | Photo by: Janée Green 

Around 3 years ago, or so, I was put in touch with a young American woman called Emilé Newman Zynobia. My school friend, Tomas Dean, thought we'd have a lot in common because of our mixed black-and-white heritage, having spent some time in Geneva and most importantly that we'd connect because of our hair. 

I suggested to meet up at my restaurant du-jour, at the time - Black & Blue on Wigmore Street in Central London, which she said she was staying a stones throw away from. Good sign. 

Emilé was already sitting down, which I could see through the window of the door pane as I was arriving. A huge fan of thick, voluminous hair, under which sat a tiny, firm and regal body. Who the fuck is this chick?? I remember thinking as I strode over to greet her. 

If The Childlike Empress were a brown girl, she is Emilé Newman Zynobia. A mix of nostalgia and familiarity flooded me while we talked about who we were, how we grew up, and where we 'were at', at the present time. Much of our conversation was about the mental struggle of being mixed black-and-white, how we identified and what that meant. 

I'd brought some SKIMDO as (what felt like) my show and tell. Emilé seemed captivated by the story behind its creation and was incredibly eager to try it and pay for it on the spot (!!). 

"I really feel like these beautiful girls I grew up with in Cali, would love it." she said. "Oh nice! What kind of hair do they have?" I inquired. "They have long, thick curly hair and they are extraordinary. Have you seen Coming To America?" she asked. "Of course!" I said. "So you remember the Soul Glo ad in the film?" she dangled. "I swear, it's the best written equal parts comedy and aspiration of black hair products ever." I said, pleased to be remembering the scenes and also realising that there really is no competition. "Well their mom is the female model in the Soul Glo commercials, in the movie." I paused to imagine what that might feel like. We smiled together, finished our drinks, wrapped up our conversation, embraced like sisters and promised to keep in touch. 

3 or so years later, present day living in New York, puzzling my way around Instagram, I happen upon the youngest daughter of Soul Glo legend, Paulette Banoža. Suddenly very well aware that I'd manifested this, I write her a DM explaining that we have a mutual friend and that I'd love to send her some SKIMDO to see if she rates it. She writes back. I send her SKIMDO Original Cream. A couple of weeks later, she posts a jaw-dropping picture on Instagram, tagging SKIMDO.

With the prayer hands emoji, I ask Zoe Banoža for an interview..



Kim Cowans: What a beautiful day it is in New York! No doubt another one in Orange. I just cleaned the kitchen and prepared myself some oats with almond milk and fresh berry coulis, because I'm a boujis schmuck, given half the chance. Fully ready to sit down to this interview, now. Describe your perfect morning..

Zoe Banoža: I’ve been TRYING to eliminate cellphone and computer usage from my mornings because it really throws me off, and because my perfect morning involves waking up (ideally around 8am) tidying up my room, doing yoga, making myself breakfast, then reading or writing. I love mornings that are quiet and slow like those. 

KC: I hear you, dude, me too. That's really a balanced and gorgeous morning ritual you've described there. It's essentially an act of self-love, right? How else do you practice it? 

ZB: I spend a lot of time with myself. I journal every day, I read. In late high school I realized that I am a lot of fun to be around, so it’s rather nice to be alone! Sometimes I need to remind myself to take a break and spend some time on my own. A day off is usually what I need when I’m feeling off-kilter. 

KC: It's incredibly easy to be overwhelmed these days. There are so many channels through which we can be reached, and it's important to allow yourself a literal retreat (as in withdrawal or evacuation) from the guy ropes of communication! Respect to everyone who manages to start the day without falling into the void. I've found that simply listening to music instead of opening apps for stimulation, is working really well. What are your top three most listened to songs on your iPhone, right now? 

ZB: Magic by Coldplay (that’s my writing song), Real Love Baby by Father John Misty, and Evaporar by Little Joy

KC: I love that you have a writing song! I'm intrigued, what are you up to at the moment? 

ZB: Right now, I am on my school campus in between classes! In general, though, I’ve mostly been reading and working (I’m a waitress at a fancy restaurant near campus). I’ve been taking the train to LA a lot. My boyfriend and some of my family and friends live out there so I’m often visiting. I’m graduating in May with a Creative Writing degree and so I’m working on what I hope will be my first novel. I have a radio show every other Wednesday during which a guest and I talk about 2 books we’ve picked out, like a book club. 

KC: Nice one! Where can I listen to your radio show? 

ZB: You can listen to it here

KC: Brilliant! I'm hooked on podcasts at the moment, so I'm grabbing anything nerdy I can listen to while I work. What's your current fixation? 

ZB: I’m a big television show binger, but not in a way that is even really enjoyable for me, to be honest. Once I start watching a show, it’s really all I can do until I finish it. I’ll have my laptop in the bathroom with me, I’ll watch it until late in the night, I’ll have it on my phone while I walk to school. I’m trying to limit myself to watching one episode per night and to only watch television on the television (revolutionary!) so that I have to be in the living room and can’t take the show on the go. 

KC: Yeah, I often think about how wonderful it was to have to rewind the tape in my Walkman so I could repeat-listen to a song. The days of savour seem long forgotten and the words 'binge' and 'addict' are no longer taboo! End-of-year exhaustion has got me fantasising about a holiday. What has been your favourite holiday to date? 

ZB: I’ve been lucky enough to travel quite often, but I would have to say that my favorite trip was a road trip I took across Spain with my sister. She lives in the south there and we drove up the country visiting Madrid, Seville, St. Sebastian. The northern point, right across the border to France, was my favorite. Something about the coloring there was very special. It was beautiful. 

KC: Wow. That sounds superb. Talking of adventure, what has your curly hair journey been like? 

ZB: I feel as if I hadn’t really gotten along with my hair until late high school. Even then, it wasn’t until my sophomore year in college that I began to have some sort of hair routine to go back to again and again. Before then, especially as a little girl, I saw my hair as something that needed to be tamed, and I didn’t quite understand it or how it worked. In elementary school, when my mother did my hair, I was strictly a tight bun and ponytail girl, but as I got older and began to take care of my hair myself, I saw from my older sisters and from other curly gals that my hair was not something to be hidden away. From that point, it was a trial and error process trying to pinpoint the best method to reach my curl potential (which was not easy, I must say). I am so grateful for these last few years during which I’ve finally cultivated something of a relationship with my hair. Now, I have a pretty good idea on what the ups and downs of my curls are and work with that in a way that works for me. 

KC: You're preaching to the choir, I'm sure. Did your mother ever try and teach you about your hair? 

ZB: My mother has a wildly different hair texture than my sisters and I, and while she took care of my hair in the best way she could figure, I realize now that it was not the best way for my hair. She was mostly concerned with keeping my hair clean and combed which led to many a night spent between her legs while she brushed out my dry hair until it was untangled but also very frizzy. 

KC: Mixed Girl Problems!! How about your dad? 

ZB: My father was proud of how precise he was with my hair when he did it in the mornings. Rather than just brushing my hair back with water like my mother, he was meticulous, using sculpting gel to make sure there were no frizzy ends sticking up when he put up my bun. (That is, no frizzy ends yet. No matter the amount of gel, by the end of the day, my hair would frizz up around my head like a lion).

KC: That made me smile so much! Bless your dad!! I remember as a kid I would start the day off in a french plait that my mother would fasten together. Only to come back home at the end of the day with about an inch of plait left, right before the elastic started. The front of my head was a thicket of frizz and I was usually carrying a note from school asking for neater hair. I think my inherent concern for justice lead me to create SKIMDO Original Cream. What's your current hair routine? 

ZB: I shampoo (sometimes) and condition in the shower, brush out my hair with a wide-tooth comb, and use SKIMDO like a leave-in. Then I separate my hair into eight braids (my boyfriend calls it my octopus hair) and leave it like for that up to three days. When I take the braids out, I’ve got curls that last almost a week! My curls have been particularly light and defined since I’ve begun using SKIMDO. 

KC: I've got to say, that makes me feel extremely happy, and I'm very inspired by your octopus hair which I'm off to try out right now. Thank you so much for chatting with me. 

Clearly, the Soul Glows on.. @zoebanoza + zoebanoza.wordpress.com


Kimberley Cowans