From Shanghai Struggles to Textured Hair Empowerment: The Journey of 4ever Curly

Embracing my natural curls

Before boarding my flight to live in Shanghai for a semester, I had packed a suitcase FULL of natural hair care products. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to find any conditioners or creams for my type 4 hair in Shanghai, my new home for 4 months. I understood that, in China, my hair was an oddity and often got stares, so I wished to give the people something nice to look at and take good care of my fro. But despite my planning, I ran out of product and spent my last month in Shanghai with dry, unmanageable hair. I wore a hat every day and felt self-conscious of my curls and coils that I usually wore with pride.

This experience inspired me to curate 4ever Curly, a zero waste hair care brand for textured hair. Whether you were eco-conscious or a wanderlusting traveler, I hoped to support others on their natural hair journey wherever they were in the world. With compact shampoo and conditioner bars for curly, kinky hair, you would never be without the best hair care to keep your coils.

Although my time in Shanghai was challenging, it fueled my determination to make a difference in the world of natural hair care. I hope to return to this passion project one day, expanding 4ever Curly’s reach and providing accessible, sustainable hair care options for everyone. With the lessons learned from my own struggles, I aspire to create a brand with others passionate about natural hair care that celebrates and embraces diverse hair textures, empowering individuals to feel confident and beautiful in their natural state, no matter where their journey takes them.

Visiting Shangrila

August 2018

Five days after landing in Shanghai, we traveled to Zhongdian – better known as Shangri-La since 2002. Thanks to the guidance of our amazing Tibetan tour guide, we were able to indulge in delicious Tibetan cuisine, take part in local dances, and explore the old town of Zhongdian, all at an altitude of 10,000 feet!

Visiting a Tibetan Monastery near Shangrila.

When first arriving in Zhongdian, this high altitude was most apparent. It seemed the sky and the horizon were in much closer proximity than in the Shanghai or Kunming skyline; Pine trees of deep green and lush mountain tops lined the blue sky in stark contrast. But with the air so thin, at our arrival, many of us preferred the relaxing scenery of our hotel rooms to the outdoors. Prior to resting after our long bus ride to Zhongdian, we were greeted in the lobby of the Le Fu Ge Dan Hotel with steaming cups of sweet ginger tea. “It tastes like Christmas!” one of us exclaims, inspiring us to start playing holiday-spirited music while waiting for our room keys.

At last, settled in our respective rooms, we collectively sighed. Having been so busy the last week with back-to-back travel plans, it felt wonderful to rest, even if just for an hour or two. As the sun began to dip below the ever-closer horizon, we prepared ourselves for dinner at a local Tibetan restaurant. A feast including yak’s milk tea, potato pancakes, and yak meat dumplings, everything tasted so foreign yet so delicious! Our meal gave us the energy to traverse Zhongdian’s old town, a winding maze of shops and cafes, restaurants and hotels, while at the center of it all, a swirling mass of people dancing under the darkened sky.

Similar to the local dancing we encountered in Liming, this dancing circle was just as vibrant, just as inviting, and just as difficult to follow! The accompanying music rippled through the crowd, guiding them through a leg crossing, arm waving, graceful choreography that everyone seemed to know except the scattering of foreigners. It seemed we were just as satisfied stepping back to watch the swirling patterns of traditional dress, smiling faces, and stars in the Zhongdian sky.  

Exploring Shanghai: My Internship Journey in the Heart of the French Concession

September 2018

During the fall of 2018, I was an intern at Rethink Manufacturing Solutions, an American-owned startup manufacturing consultancy in Shanghai’s Former French Concession. Rethink is owned by two young entrepreneurs from Portland, Oregon. Their objective is to connect American and European startups with Chinese manufacturers for their manufacturing needs. My supervisors were amazing to work with and made my time in Shanghai a period of professional growth. As an intern, my jobs included creating and managing social media, writing articles about sustainability practices within China’s manufacturing industry, and developing ways to ease contact processes between Rethink and their clients. 

As an environmental studies major with a passion for entrepreneurship, I found this internship to be quite beneficial. Prior to accepting the offer, I was hesitant to agree to work with Rethink partially because of the bad press China’s manufacturing industry receives. This industry rightfully deserves such media coverage; China’s manufacturing industry is the main contributor to air and water pollution in the country, not to mention poor working conditions in many factories. However, during my time at Rethink, I learned that, while much of greater China is far from adopting better Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practices, some factories do exist that pride themselves on their sustainability practices and working conditions. Foreign manufacturing consultancies such as Rethink do their best to place their clients with such factories with high CSR values. While at this point in time, it is impossible to always match American and European companies with factories with the best CSR values, in a decade, it is my belief that China will offer more factories for those who view sustainability as a paramount practice in their supply chain. 

While I grew much as a professional in the sustainability field as an intern at Rethink, I was also able to explore a part of Shanghai not easily accessible from Fudan University’s campus. Working in Shanghai’s French Concession, I had easy access to many amazing restaurants and cafes. It is important to realize that Shanghai’s French Concession is a bustling part of the city that is home to many foreigners with a long history starting in the 19th century. For this reason, this area contains a diverse range of eateries, from Tacolicious, a delicious Mexican restaurant, to Pain Chaud, an aromatic coffee shop, not to mention the many restaurants offering the best Shanghainese cuisine offered in the world. The French Concession represents the immense diversity and entrepreneurial spirit found in Shanghai. 

In this part of the city, I never felt out of place. I developed a sense of belonging that I never thought I could have experienced in China. I came to realize that, during my semester in Shanghai, I was able to exist as my most authentic self. Shanghai became a second home.

Getting work done at a café in Shanghai’s Former French Concession.
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