To Akuba Torvikey, hair is a tool of expression and a symbol of strength.
She is one of many in the natural hair movement working to make Black hair not only accepted but celebrated.
“When it comes to Black women, hair is an expression of how we feel,” Torvikey says. “It is like time-honored traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation, and so hair has more meaning and depth to it than what we see on the surface. To be allowed into that process and those traditions is sacred. It’s something I don’t take for granted.”
The natural hair movement celebrates Black hair by nurturing its natural textures. PATTERN Beauty contributes by developing innovative products for curly, coily, and tight-textured hair. Torvikey is responsible for the development of those products. Combining technical skills and creative finesse, she manages every aspect of the product development process from the idea to the finished product.
Product development wasn’t always what she had in mind for her career. It came organically and started in an unlikely place: job interviews with the CIA. It took only a few conversations for Torvikey, an international affairs major, to realize that governmental secrecy wasn’t for her. So she set aside her plan to become a diplomat.
As the director of product development, Torvikey leads communication across her internal teams, outside vendors, and internationally, something that requires the diplomatic skill she gained at UGA.
“When it comes to Black women, hair is an expression of how we feel. It is like time-honored traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation, and so hair has more meaning and depth to it than what we see on the surface. To be allowed into that process and those traditions is sacred. It’s something I don’t take for granted.” — Akuba Torvikey AB ’05, director of product development for PATTERN Beauty
After her post-grad epiphany, Torvikey did a stint in IT before landing a position as marketing manager for Bronner Brothers, a legacy Black hair care brand that was struggling to adjust to the modern market. Torvikey’s strategy to use influencers as brand ambassadors proved ahead of its time. She built relationships with the godmothers of the natural hair influencer movement, a now booming community of social media influencers who create content devoted to Black hair care.
“We had no idea what the lasting effect of it would be,” she says. “We were just trying to get through the day-to-day, from this hairstyle to the next. We didn’t know that we were laying a foundation for a movement.”
She continued to push the natural hair movement forward as a product developer and tester for Strength of Nature. Dozens of her products line the shelves anywhere you can buy hair products, many of which are the biggest names in the game.
“When it comes to African American women, in terms of brands I’ve worked with, I’ve touched everyone’s hair. In one way or another, I’ve touched your hair,” she says.
Torvikey stays busy with PATTERN Beauty, but she is steadfast in her mission to ensure there’s a seat at the table for everyone. In 2020, she launched the Breedlove Accelerator for Black-owned beauty and wellness companies. She’s also the founder of a professional community called Beautywise, which brings together Black product developers for networking and introducing grade school students to product development as a career option.
Torvikey knows she is a part of a bigger picture, and she’s working hard to paint more people into it.