Long-revered for its history of grassroots activism, Oakland is home to a diverse community that appreciates the great outdoors as well as good food and a thoughtfully curated selection of art. Fashion trailblazers hailing from the Northern California city include rappers Kamaiyah, MC Hammer, and R&B group En Vogue.
“Authenticity, boldness, and beauty that radiates from the inside out,” is how Diishan Imira describes the city’s distinct traits. The founder and CEO of wig company Mayvenn, Imira decided to establish the startup’s headquarters in his hometown for those reasons. “There’s no place like Oakland. The way we express ourselves always leaves me in awe and reminds me of what a special place we come from.”
Whether you’ve been living in the Bay Area all your life or are passing through, some places are a must-see for any beauty enthusiast looking to treat themselves. While far from comprehensive, consider this your starting guide to beauty in Oakland.
The Beauty Supply
Despite African-Americans accounting for nearly 90% of overall spend in the ethnic hair and beauty aids categories as reported by a 2019 Nielsen study, few have been able to secure ownership of beauty supplies which many women and men rely on for their protective styles and grooming needs.
Abdirahman Jama Mohamed opened Essence Beauty Supply in 1987 on E18th street, just a few blocks walking distance from Lake Merritt. After immigrating from Somalia and completing his BA in accounting in San Francisco State University, Mohamed saw an
opportunity to not only make a living for his family but to create a local business that would serve as a one-stop shop for residents looking to stock up on beauty products while getting tips from someone who was deeply passionate about catering to the needs of afro-hair textures.
Since Mohamed’s passing, his wife Zahra Alsomali took over the shop and continues to run the only Black and women-owned beauty supply in Oakland. “The community has always shown their support for us and we do the same which is why we are still here after all these years,” says their son Abdeik Jama, who now oversees the store’s social media. “We’ve survived the Walmarts, recessions, Amazon and gentrification all because of the support of community and God.” Best-sellers include shea butter, black soap, and Sheba Locks hair pomade. Looking forward, the store has plans to expand into e-commerce, with a focus on spotlighting Black-owned products.