In His Eyes: Pierre Bennu

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First, let’s all do our part to continue to keep dreams alive … not just during Black History Month, but every day so that the dreams of our youth, parents, grandparents become reality.

Ok … now, I know you know of Oyin Handmade. Well,  I love them … I mean, I LOVE them … like family. Well … in full disclosure … Jamyla is my cousin. But, since she’s my cousin, and because I write male perspective pieces, I interviewed her husband Pierre.

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by Weusi

Q: So … what inspired Oyin Handmade to be birthed?
Necessity. Jamyla was into high quality handmade products, but we had our money tied up in other investments (like food and rent, lol). She started to make and experiment with natural bits and pieces until she got something she liked. It was just for our personal use or for gifts, until our friends began beating down our door for the stuff.

Q: What was it that led you to go all in? Your love for the products, your ladies love for it, the business, the creativity, the what?
We are partners in every sense of the word. We knew that we wanted to work together creatively and were in a phase where we just threw everything to the wall to see what stuck. Oyin stuck, in a big way.

Q: What’s a regular/average day for you?
For better or for worse, we don’t really have one. We try time and time again to build structure, but it seems that once we have mastered that structure, the circumstances change and we have to adjust. It keeps us sharp and makes us malleable.

Q: Is your wife Jamyla a product junkie? Was she ever?
Quiet as it’s kept, Jamyla is actually pretty low-maintenance. The closest she got to “product junky” status was after she combed out her locks and was re-learning her hair in its loose state. But, it was out of that process that she developed the first of the Oyin recipes and, from there, think about it: there’s now an entire line of products that she basically built just for her! lol. So yeah. It’s basically all Oyin everything around here. When she wants something different, she just makes it.

Q: Is she always in research and development mode?
In the past few years, the business has been growing so fast that she actually doesn’t get as much time to mix and create as she would like. We have tons of things that she’s made in the past and never released; and she has a wish list of things she wants to develop when she gets a chance. For example, we had an early prototype of Hair Dew knocking about for a couple of years before she was able to find the time, between mixing and making and moving and hiring, to solidify the recipe and make it public. I once made a companion soap to the “Cuppa Joe” called Cheesecake – it was creamy and had a “crust” made of ground loofah. I didn’t take good notes while I was building the fragrance and, as a result, I wasn’t able to repeat the recipe.

Q: How many products in your bathroom are part of the Oyin research and development project?
All of them.

Q: Do you ever get products tested on you? If so how often?
All the time. We all do. That’s part of being Oyin staff, lol.

Q: Does that ever become an issue? Has it ever been one? 
It’s a perk of the job. I don’t have much hair, but I have the most well-moisturized beard in America!

Q: Can you talk about the Oyin for men products?
Most of them are actually just our regular products, but double-listed in the “for men” category, which is kind of new. All our products are unisex, but most of our customers were/are women. What ended up happening is that men (boyfriends, son, husbands) would use up the products of the women closest to them … they weren’t buying it for themselves. Apparently, if you cross-list the same product in a category called “for men,” guys feel like they are now allowed to use it. It’s probably part of a larger systemic problem with Western concepts of manhood … blah blah blah. The one exception to this is a product that was formulated specifically for beards and close-cropped hair, Go Tea. The fellas seem to love it … but so do lots of ladies who rock short cuts. So again, we’re back to the Oyin philosophy that it’s about what you need, not who you are.

Q: What products do you use? Why?
I use whatever we have in the house: Honey Wash, Poo Bar, Burnt Sugar, Honey Hemp, AfterBath and Whipped Pudding; Go Tea and all the Juices to keep the beard juicy and “combable.” Hair Dew is new, so I always forget to mention it, but that’s in the rotation too. We use all of the above on the boys, plus Whipped Shea on the boys’ faces before they go outside in the winter. Occasionally, I’ll make a bath for J with the Fizzy Milk.

Q: Do you know what she uses in her hair? If you were walking down the beauty aisle, would you know what to pick up for her?
Yeah, I know an almost embarrassing amount about natural hair care to be a guy who keeps his hair cut off. Like I said, we don’t spend much time (if any) at the beauty store, but I would know to look for a detangling conditioner, a watery/spray moisturizer, a petroleum/mineral oil free sealant, something with a humectant ingredient (depending on the season and what she was doing with her hair) …etc.

Q: Have you ever dated a sister that had the “need” to wear headgear to bed? How did/would you deal with that? What’s your preference … bonnet, scarf, do rag, hat!?!
I’m an “all-in” kind of fella, man. If she comes with a do-rag, you love the do-rag. If she comes with a hat … you love the hat. If you love the woman, you love whatever she comes with. The fact that she’s coming to bed is way more important to me than what she’s wearing on her head. Your picky a$$ could be sleeping alone! Talking about, “Yeah! at least I ain’t with no woman in a do-rag!” lol!

Q: Can you talk about your book really quick and if there will be a sequel?
BS or Fertilizer (tough love for artists on the fence)” was actually published 10 years ago! Time flies. I’m actually compiling a collection of inspiration/affirmation for the new millenium, called Exittheapple. It should be out this summer or fall. J and I are also working on a joint project called Love Works … about how principles of business and principles of marriage can interrelate.

Q: Can you talk about how being creative and artistic has played a part in the business? Can you also talk about how it is infused in the culture of your family?
For us, the creative/artistic/family/business stuff is all the same. Our creativity influences everything about the way we do business. The business is a huge part of our family. Our family is a huge part of the business (you can often find the baby crawling on the conference table during our morning meetings and our pre-schooler considers all our Oyin employees his personal friends, lol). And everyone in our family is creative/artistic. It’s one huge continuum. We’re very lucky.

Q: And finally … are you looking forward to the new Batman movie? Can you get a day off and we can take “man day” and go see it?
Yes … lets make it happen!

♦♦♦♦♦

I hope that you like this, because Pierre is really cool cat. He even made this great silent animation meditation loop just for you … watch it with your favorite motivational tune playing in the background.

via exittheapple

Shelli: Or check out my favorite!! Black Moses Barbie!!

The Bennus are really cool … but hey, you don’t have to believe me … you can check them out for yourself in a number of places like:

http://www.oprah.com/relationships/Loving-Your-Family-Despite-Their-Flaws-Happy-Families
http://www.ebony.com/life/the-coolest-black-family-in-america-no1

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You can find Oyin products at www.oyinhandmade.com and other creative projects from the family at www.EXITTHEAPPLE.com.

Support good people making good stuff!


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10 responses »

    • LMBO!!!! Elise, you are a MESS!!! He didn’t mean braces/teeth headgear, he meant actual HEAD gear, like scarves, bonnets, do-rags, etc.!! LOL!! But, we are sisters in the other headgear, because I had to wear it too!!! It never really bothered me though! I just hated that I would end up sleeping with my mouth closed and drooling all over my pillow and face to wake up crusty, wet or both in the morning!!!! LMBO!!

      Like

  1. Awesome interview! I love the Oyin gang, the make me feel warm and fuzzy inside ❤

    Love the animations at the bottom! The first one is beautiful and the second one…. I feel like I need a motivational freedom riffle sometimes….

    Like

  2. Black Moses Barbie is the Truth! I am a graduate of Harriet Tubman elementary school in Harlem, NY and Black Moses remains my historical role model to this day. Love it! The interview was great and I applaud the men who are “all-in”.

    Like

  3. Great post. I love Oyin. I’ll be in the shop this weekend for the 3rd birthday celebration “re-upping” on some Shine and Define and After Bath Oil. I’ve even gotten my mother and husband hooked. And they’ve been spreading the Oyin love to others. Great products, great family!

    Like

  4. Great story and beautiful family! I have yet to try the products but Curly Nikki raves on the pomade I think. I want to try for me and the lil diva-still trying to curb my pjism but I can’t pass up a sale/special, I’m going to see if the site has an email list!

    Like

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