The power of social media has taken over society by storm. Gone are the days of MySpace, now replaced by flat tummy teas, waist trainers, and gummy hair vitamins. Instagram celebrities are the new a-listers for younger teens and although this subject has been held up amongst much controversy, there are the influencers who aren't interested being #goalz just for some clout.
On the other side of the spectrum, we have influencers and content creators such as Solange Boudreau, a henna artist native to Ottawa with 99.1k followers at the time of this interview. Solange focuses her Instagram page on her art, the application of henna, taking away the vain and egoism often associated with Insta fame. Her page serves as a photographical documentation of the beautiful henna stains she applies all over Eastern Ontario accompanied by captions filled with tips and tricks. Personally, I've known Solange for years but recently, I got to know her as @HennabySolange, an Instagram I'm sure many of you have already come across.
In today's chat, we talk about her influence as a creator, the art of henna, and what she's been up to lately with this newfound fame.
Meet Solange, the personality behind Henna by Solange.
Fatima Alvarenga: Solange, you’ve grown an incredible following on social media because of what you do, henna, did you ever expect you’d get this popular?
Solange Boudreau: I opened this account randomly three years ago just for fun. I would have never thought that this account would be appreciated and loved by so many people!
FA: I know you’ve always had a very creative personality but how did you get into henna?
SB: I was first introduced to the art of henna at the end of November 2014, at my university during a charitable event. The organizer needed a henna artist, with my background in arts, I volunteered not knowing I would develop such a passion for the art of henna. From that date, my henna journey officially began.
FA: From the beginning to now, how would you say your techniques and skills have improved?
SB: It’s a constant improvement but I would say that my application, techniques and skills have highly improved since November 2014 due to my passion for the art of henna and also the fact that I constantly practice and try to perfect the art.
FA: What would you say you love most about doing henna, what keeps you doing it?
SB: The best part of being a henna artist is meeting so many people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, social statuses, etc. and listening to them expressing their perspective on life, their experience and their goals. I love meeting people who are driven and full of life! And, of course, I simply love the art of henna.
FA: We’re fortunate to live in such a cultural and busy city but considering most of your clients find you through Instagram, how would you say getting consistent clientele has been?
SB: I would say that I’m busier during the summer season because of the different activities that are going on in the Capital and in the GTA compared to the winter season. This said, in order to stay consistent with my clientele, I make sure that I continue to be active on my social media platforms and in the community. It’s all about networking!
FA: Is doing henna your main hustle right now or do you have anything going on?
SB: No it isn’t, I’m currently completing my bachelor degree in Conflict Studies and Human Rights with a Minor in Law at a university in Ottawa. Also, I work in the Public Sector and intent to pursue graduate school afterwards. However, I strongly believe that henna will always be something that I will be doing and providing as a service. Nothing can replace my passion for the art!
FA: All of your henna is made by yourself and you ensure to use only the best henna, why is this important?
SB: It is extremely important to use natural ingredients in your henna paste because of the many chemical cones that are sold on the market. I do not use “black henna” or the chemical henna cones because it is extremely dangerous for the skin since black henna is sometimes mixed with hair dye that contains paraphenylenediamine (PPD) which can cause serious allergic reactions and even death. As for the ingredients in my natural henna paste, I use Raj powder, granulated white sugar, lavender oil and water, which leaves a beautiful dark stain on the skin if you follow the proper aftercare.
FA: In all your posts, you speak on the importance of proper care-taking of a henna stain/application, where did you learn all this?
SB: When I first started doing henna, and when I opened my Instagram account, I was amazed at how giving and generous the henna community was. A lot of henna artists are more than happy to share their tips and tricks when it comes to making your fresh henna paste, rolling your cones, the actual application of the henna paste, and much more. This said, the first recipe and aftercare instructions that I learned were from Joey, @mehndikajoeyhenna on Instagram. She’s absolutely amazing and has been such a great inspiration in the henna community!
FA: Technically speaking, you’re an Instagram star! With that being said, you’re also extremely private, with very little pictures of your face on your profile, what do you think of social media becoming a lifestyle and income source for people nowadays?
SB: I am! I like the fact that I have a very minimal profile on social media platforms and that I genuinely know that people are purely following me because they share a mutual appreciation for my art. I have thought of showing my face here and there, which I have a couple of times, but you’ll see me delete the post within 24 hours haha. This said, I think social media is a powerful thing and a great mean of income! You can build a clientele without necessarily providing a service or a product; which could come in handy in the long run if you decide start a business in the future.
FA: What causes you, personally, to want to keep Solange, the person, in the “behind the scenes” of Solange, the henna artist?
SB: I think that it is important to keep some kind of relationship between the artist and the art; meaning that you can tell a lot by an artist by just looking at their work. Although I might share little about who I am and my perspective on life, I think a lot of people could point out some characteristics by just looking at my feed and my work. The art speaks for itself sometimes!
FA: Considering your following is already so big, have you considered taking advantage of that and turning social media in an actual career? (Perhaps by becoming a vlogger or a blogger, for
SB: It has crossed my mind and I like to think that this is a full-time job. But, I would want to have a position in my field of studies in the future and work in the Public or Private Sector after I am done with my studies. This said, if there is an opportunity to meet great people and partake in projects - count me in!!! I love, love, love that aspect of social media, and I love sharing my art and inspiring people.
FA: I can’t say there are any henna artists from Ottawa that are as significant as you are but this is obviously from an outside perspective, do you find that you have a lot of competition in the city? By this I mean, there are obviously people who do street henna in the ByWard Market and other smaller artists so does this impede your success in any way?
SB: Thank you! I wouldn’t consider it as being competition purely because what you may find beautiful could not be appealing to someone else eyes. Art is very subjective I find! I have met other great henna artists in the Capital and they are wonderful! Then again, my henna business is purely a passion and that’s what I love about it!
FA: Of course, CityinThree aims to shed light on the talent in this city and there’s a lot of it, from YouTubers to bloggers to musicians. Unfortunately, not many people acknowledge this, however, recently, you were invited as a content creator at Bluesfest. What would you say about the creative scene in Ottawa and where it’s headed?
SB: I was and it was such a great time. Big thank you to RBC Ottawa Bluesfest for inviting all of us and for hosting such a great festival! I was so surprised to see how many creative individuals were putting Ottawa on the map and accomplishing great things. From YouTubers to bloggers and dancers, I could say that each one of them are, and will, accomplish greater things in just a matter of time. It’s a small community but a community with good intent and filled with drive!
FA: Now that we’ve acknowledged you’re the top dog in Ottawa, where do you see yourself going with henna; is this a long-term gig for you?
SB: In three years, I could see my social media platforms expanding to more of a henna/lifestyle/fashion theme. I always loved fashion and lifestyle blogging, so I think it would be nice to share a little more about myself in that way. As for the long term goal, henna will always be in my future plans! Can’t wait to see where this will bring me in the next few years!
FA: What would be your ideal outcome of out Henna by Solange as a brand?
SB: My ideal outcome for Henna by Solange as a brand would be expanding my social media presence to a bigger demographic and incorporating fashion and lifestyle blogging; and being able to provide my service to clients in the GTA. Another thing I would love to do is provide henna for an artist and have it showcased to a larger international audience; continue to partake in collaboration with other brands, festivals and other artists on social media.
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