Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby

Founder Emaan Abbass wants to talk about your private parts–and how she turned a forbidden subject into a brand that supports women. By Twanna A. Hines

Growing up in Hollister, a small town south of the Bay Area in California, Emaan Abbass was one of the only Muslim girls. Her parents, immigrants from Egypt, were very strict. “My dad was literally the president of the mosque,” she says. “I wasn’t allowed to take sex education with the rest of my seventh-grade classmates. I always felt different.”

Indeed, there are few things about Abbass’ upbringing that would suggest she’d become the founder of a new luxury feminine and sexual wellness brand–other than the name, Ketish, which is derived from Qetesh, the ancient Egyptian goddess of sexuality and pleasure.

“Sex was considered a taboo topic in my household,” Abbass says. “But that secrecy actually backfired because it made me even more curious. It was like the forbidden fruit.” Her curiosity, coupled with a diagnosis of cervical cancer from HPV (the most common sexually transmitted infection) when she was 21, inspired Abbass to start her company.

“I couldn’t turn to my family because pre-marital sex was essentially prohibited, so I started doing research and discovered huge gaps in the market,” she says. Although many companies sell body-safe products for women, few are owned by women of color.

At the time, Abbass had her foot in the beauty door, working at Sephora as a supply chain manager. But she wanted to get closer to the products. In 2016, while traveling to Dubai, she met Huda Kattan, foudner of Huda Beauty.

“I fell in love,” Abbass says. “She was creating magic and I wanted to be part of it.”

Six months later, she had a job with Huda Beauty, moved to Dubai and began creating products from the ground up.

Soon after that, Kattan announced a new venture: Huda Beauty Angels, a business initiative that invests in female entrepreneurs. And Abbass decided to go for it. She approached Kattan with her business plan for Ketish, and the rest is cooch-istory.

In August 2021, the brand launched its first product, “The Quickie” ($27 for 20), an intimate wipe for your vulva, though it can be used all over your body, that Ketish says is rich in probiotic enzymes and made with 99% natural ingredients–plus, they are individually wrapped so you can easily throw a few in your purse or gym bag.

The Ketish website also boasts positive messages and empowering images of women in their underwear, with a full “coochiology” section dedicated to educating women about “what really goes on down there.”

“I want to help women. I want to change women’s lives. I want to normalize the conversations around these important topics,” Abbass says.

It may have been an 8,000-mile journey from Hollister to Dubai, and an even longer journey from a girl who was forbidden to take sex education to the founder of a sexual wellness brand, but it made Abbass the powerful woman she is today: a proud descendent of Nefertiti and Topac (as stated on her Instagram), “It’s about accepting yourself,” Abbass says. “And showing up for all the other fearless females.”

Published by Zakieh Lloyd

I'm a housewife, and mother of a 6 year old dog. I don't have kids. Currently knitting different items to be sold.

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