People Connected By Similar Obsessions

Ijeoma Kola

Meet the beauty blogger who’s getting her PhD on the side

When Ijeoma Kola was a sophomore at Harvard University, she read an article about natural hair in Essence magazine that compelled her to quite literally go back to her roots. But upon doing so, she noticed something crazy—she was the only girl on campus with hair like that. “There were some people who were natural, but they straightened their hair or wore braids all the time,” she says. “I had no one to talk to about the transition, which is when I turned to YouTube.”

There, Ijeoma found a whole community of people sharing what they were doing with their natural hair, what products they loved and more. She decided the best way to participate was to dive right in and launch her own channel. Six months later, she had a pretty big following. “People on campus starting coming up to me with beauty questions,” she says. “By senior year, I was basically running a natural hair salon in my dorm room. Beauty—especially natural hair care—became my side hustle from there.”

Fast-forward to 2013: Ijeoma was off to Columbia University to get her PhD in socio-medical sciences right after college. But the intensity of the program, not to mention her dissertation, made it so she had to back-burner her YouTube presence. “Video production took too long, but I was still fielding so many beauty questions,” she says. “I quickly realized I should just start a blog. I was fortunate that I already had a YouTube following, so I could convert my fans over to my new site, Klassy Kinks.”

Before long, she wasn’t just talking about hair. Ijeoma was now offering beauty, style and relationship tips. And her readers loved it. “It made me realize that people actually cared more about me as a person, not just the products I was recommending,” she says. Still, while her blog continues to pick up steam, Ijeoma has one priority right now: Finishing her PhD program. “After that, I’d like an academic role, but my plan is to continue to do both things.”

On a beauty trick she swears by for always looking put together. “I’m a huge believer in done brows. A well-groomed brow changes your whole face. It doesn’t take much work either: I typically tweeze mine myself, then fill them in with a light pencil focusing on the ends. That’s it. A lot of people say mascara, but I wear glasses most days. You’re not really going to see mascara through glasses, but you’ll always notice brows—even with glasses on.”

On the coolest place she’s traveled to recently. “I went to Johannesburg, South Africa, with my mom two years ago and it was amazing. The only other African countries I had been to were Nigeria, where I’m from, and Kenya, where my husband’s from. It was great to see a different part of Africa. I also did a lot of cool things while I was there, including bungee jumping. I’m afraid of heights, so it was pretty bold, but I was with my mom so I felt like there was no way anything would happen to me since she would be praying the whole time. It gave me confidence.”

On the best and worst parts of being a bride. “The worst thing about being a bride is having to make decisions about so many details you don’t care about. I recognize that some brides do care, but I only focused on three things: the venue, the photographer and my dress. When people started asking me about napkins and flowers—things I felt were minute details—I shut down. But the best part about being a bride (aside from marrying the love of your life, of course) is that people are so nice to you! My friends cut me slack whenever I had to bail on plans, you get free drinks for no reason—it’s the best!”

On something no one knows about her. “I love to cook. In a different life, I would have my own cooking show, actually. I’m really into mixing different ingredients together for new flavor combos and making the most out of things in my fridge. That said, I need to work on my plating. I’ll get there.”