Through her company, African Ancestry Inc., Gina Paige is helping individuals curious about their African heritage trace their roots through DNA testing, And in doing so, pioneered a new way of tracing African lineages using genetics, and a new marketplace for people of African descent looking to more accurately and reliably trace their roots. Gina Paige travels the world helping people demystify their roots and inform on identities so that they may better understand who they are by knowing where they’re from.
Dr. Gina Paige has worked with and revealed the roots of the worlds’ leading icons and entities including Oprah Winfrey, John Legend, Chadwick Boseman, Spike Lee, Condoleezza Rice and The King Family. Paige has served as speaker, presenter and/or partner to McDonalds, Capital One, The Walt Disney Company, Booz Allen Hamilton, Wells Fargo, The Wall Street Journal Health Forum 2019, United Healthcare and dozens of community organizations and faith-based entities. She’s often a go-to resource for African Diaspora communities including the Embassies of Cameroon, Nigeria and Ghana.
Can you please tell us about yourself and background?
I love Black people. All aspects of my life are guided by this simple principle and it is what led me to co-found a company that’s in the business of being Black!
People also say that I have entrepreneurial DNA because I come from a family of entrepreneurs. After starting businesses in elementary school and after college, I now run a company that’s the world leader of genetic ancestry tracing for people of African descent. For specifics, see my attached bio.
How did you get involved and become a co- founder of African Ancestry?
I was fortunate to be introduced by a colleague to leading geneticist, Dr. Rick Kittles, our company’s Co-founder and Scientific Director. Dr. Kittles’ passion for the movements of African people across the world, combined with his research and compilation of thousands of African lineages that comprise our company’s database — sparked it all. We combined his science expertise and my business acumen to form African Ancestry
You discovered from your African Ancestry test you share paternal genetic ancestry with Hausa people in Nigeria. Have you visited Nigeria?
I have visited seven African countries. My plan is to finally visit Nigeria in 2020!
Was it easy to bring the African Diaspora into this experience?
Yes and no. When you think about it, African Americans have been here in the U.S. for more than 400 years. Unfortunately, we have been disconnected from our African heritage just as long. That means that for many of us, we have been longing to know our roots for generations. On the other hand, it also means that we have been subject to every negative stereotype possible about Africa and so there are others of us who want nothing to do with being from there. This is why AfricanAncestry.com exists. We reconnect people across the world with their true African roots. And our customers are excited to find out and transformed through the process.
What Motivates you at African Ancestry to help people reconnect with their African roots? Was it your own experience?
I am motivated by the fact that I am a Black woman with the ability to use my skills and talents to provide a service that expands that way that we view ourselves and Africa in a unique, unparalleled way.
How many people have utilized your product and service? We have helped nearly one million families reconnect with their roots.
Who are some of the notable people that have experienced the work of African Ancestry? You can find a list of notables here (Wall of Return). It includes people like Chadwick Boseman and Oprah Winfrey. However, the most fulfilling part of our work is the excitement and reactions of everyday people … especially young people like Julian Frederick @stepstoolchef.
What’s your next step after you get in touch with your ancestral background? Do you encourage them to travel and see for themselves where they come from?
We refer to the process of finding your roots with AfricanAncestry.com as “The African Ancestry Experience”. It begins with taking the test and then takes off from there. We provide information resources and training and we facilitate connections and engagement. For example:
- The African Ancestry Online Community empowers test takers to meet, exchange and share with other members of the African Ancestry Family. Strong bonds have been formed among members in the group that share similar ancestries.
- African Ancestry Family Reunions are specially curated birthright journeys home to the countries of Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Ghana, providing a more meaningful way to visit and experience our roots in Africa.
- Programs such as The Ultimate Selfie Youth initiative, The AfricanAncestry.com Experience event and our flagship African Ancestry Reveal Ceremonies, among others, celebrate our connections to Africa and educate groups on various countries and tribes.
We have seen these years the necessity for African Diaspora to come back, we had the Year of Return in Ghana that attracted more thousands of people landing in Accra. Is your mission aiming to fulfillment or is there more to do?
We have seen unprecedented momentum due in part to efforts such as the 400 Years of African-American History Commission Act, Ghana’s Year of Return and The 1619 Project, but there’s always more to do. For AfricanAncestry.com, we won’t stop until every Black person displaced from their African roots knows where they’re from; and those that know, use their knowledge to enhance self and community.
What was the funniest reaction you had after someone took his Ancestry Reveal?
We recently did an African Ancestry Reveal for some employees at Facebook’s NY office. The guy I was about to reveal is quiet and reserved. When I revealed that he shared ancestry with the Yoruba people in Nigeria, he had a huge smile on his face. But the entire room of over 100 people exploded with shouts and claps and screams of “Naija!”. They had the outward loud and raucous expression of the joy that he was feeling inside. It was a priceless moment!
Entrepreneurship is challenging. What keeps you going/motivated?
I am motivated by the reactions and the impact that our work has. It is an honor for me to be able to serve Black people in the Business of Being Black.
What would you say to motivate/ empower women who want to go into entrepreneurship but are scared and nervous?
I would tell them to embrace the fear first and then use it to their advantage. In my experience, when you admit things to yourself, it diminishes the power it has over you.
I also believe it’s important to start a business that you’re passionate about. There are many, many factors that affect the growth and sustainability of any company, and if you’re not driven beyond the money, you won’t last.
And always remember — most women are already entrepreneurs. We’re working jobs, running homes, raising kids, taking care of mates, handling civic duties and maintaining social lives. Use this as a reminder that you’re naturally equipped with what it takes to succeed.