By Narender Strong
The journey to self-love is a holistic one; that was the message, which resonated throughout the “Hair and Our Perception of Beauty” panel event hosted by Leslie Carrington, owner of HolistiCitiLyfe on Sunday, June 11. The light-filled venue space at happylucky no.1 in Crown Heights Brooklyn was buzzing with naturalistas (and fashionistas), who were proud to share their natural hair stories and the self-love journey they embarked upon to own their beauty. Seated in rows of bright orange chairs, a diverse hue of beautiful brown women listened intently to the circle of six panelists, who recounted their beauty and hair story journey experiences.
Leslie, the event organizer, noted she had chosen, a panel of “fierce, powerful naturalistas” to share perspectives on hair, and how it impacts our identities as women of color.
The panel was moderated by Afroista Tessa Kagbala, who opened the discussion with her own natural hair journey. She spoke about how her hair journey was also an amazing one of self-discovery. She shared how she had become enlightened to her inner self-worth years go, and as part of that experience, she embraced her natural hair texture with pride. Tessa added that “being natural is also about how you are in everyday life,” which extends to having a holistically assured self-concept.
The Baldie Movement
Panelist Nell Coleman, spoke about her struggles with self-acceptance of her naturally textured hair, which eventually led her to found The Baldie Movement. The non-profit organization was designed to celebrate, support, and empower women to love themselves more without the need of hair through photos, storytelling, campaign projects, and meet ups. It was in 2010 that she had made the bold decision to remove her hair and embrace a bald aesthetic, as she revealed: “to prove to myself that I no longer needed to fit-in, in order to be the beautiful person I am today.” As Nell looked out onto the audience to share her best advice for self-love, she proudly recalled her turning point, “the moment I decided to accept me, everybody else started to accept me.”
Glow Up Academy
It was this mindset shift that Taylor Gordon, Makeup Artist and Beauty Coach, experienced as well during her personal journey to self-love. Taylor is founder of the Glow Up Academy and advocates for women to embrace their own unique qualities in order to feel beautiful from the inside out. She calls herself the ‘beauty bestie’ as she encourages women to live out their best selves. Taylor explained how living in your true self requires a new mindset and “is most important to your journey for your best self.” The journey to self-love she believes is a process. Fellow panellist Alicia Davis, creator of Cubicles & Curls expanded the dialogue from her personal experiences of accepting oneself too.
Cubicle and Curls
Alicia focused her natural hair story on the professional dynamic, specifically how you feel in the workplace. Alicia, who is also the Miss Black and Natural New York 2017, uses her online platform Cubicle & Curls to promote natural hair in professional workplaces. She advised that if you are just transitioning to natural hair in the workplace that you can “start slow, try a style or look that you are comfortable with first.” But equally, she recommended that you pulse check where you are in your environment and ask yourself, “Are you comfortable in your work environment?” She recalled the turning point when she gave herself permission to wear her natural hair and encouraged others to do the same: “…give yourself permission to come to work the way you are. From natural hair to your personal style, it is a part of who you are, and as Tessa reminded the audience, “there is power to natural hair as our strength and our power.”
It is a power that Tamara A., Owner of Ancestral Strands encouraged each woman to harness as mothers and adults. As a hair braider with more than 20 years of experience, she believes that it does not matter the texture of one’s hair, but that each hair strand is beautiful. She considers hair as “antennas that can be used to receive and transmit; it is our intuition and gut feeling.” Whether the hair is coiled or curly, she believes it is powerful with proteins and should be the source of shared stories to encourage each other to feel good about one’s hair and their overall identity. She asserted, “there is a lot of power in your hair!” and used examples from braiding hair to discuss how she found deeper spiritual connections with her ancestral roots. Tamara created her business, Ancestral Strands, to bring a deeper spiritual connection to African lineage with the roots of our hair, our ancestry DNA, while promoting holistic and traditional hair care. She encouraged women in the audience to view their hair more holistically and to learn more about the traditions of our ancestors, so we all can reconnect with our roots and pass it down to future generations.
Similarly, Stephanie B., a plant-based Health, Wellness & Lifestyle Influencer, decided years ago to get back to her ‘roots.’ The mother of two, who is dedicated to empowering others to achieve great health from hair to toe, spoke about the importance of inner self-love. She described how it took her until her adult life at age 25 to discover her natural curly hair. After being diagnosed with Lupus in 2010 and after unsuccessful pain treatments, she sought healing through holistic measures and a healthier lifestyle from plant based nutrition to clean beauty. She then adopted a holistic lifestyle and beauty regiment that included embracing her natural hair. Part of her process involved transitioning back to her natural roots and embracing every one of her curls, kinks and coils as part of her self-love journey to live her best life. She firmly believes that a healthy perception of beauty starts at home and is essential to building confident young men and women in a society that already judges us based on appearance.
From embracing one’s natural hair to choosing to live authentically as our best selves, the event’s key message echoed that these are all paths along the holistic journey to self-acceptance and building a stronger identity of who we are as women of color. Individually, each woman is experiencing her own journey of self-discovery and growth. But it is a journey that is both personal and holistically a sum of many parts. As Leslie sought to share and reinforce throughout the event’s discussion, our unique experiences as Black women can be defined by how we choose to see ourselves as beautiful and acceptable. The journey to self-love is about learning to see the beauty and love that is already within and around you, which then becomes your sense of pride. Most importantly, each individual possesses the power to influence and change society’s perceptions about hair and beauty. By discovering the amazing gifts within ourselves, there is a beauty and confidence that emerges and enables each woman to channel her truer, best self, which can become another story of encouragement for others who are on the journey to self-love and building higher self-esteem.