Actor Mack Wilds said it best while speaking on his Empowerment panel, Curls After Dark: His Voice, Her Hair. He hit it on the nose when he said “Curlfest is heaven on earth.”
Indeed it is. There are few places where Black women can congregate and bask in the glorious vibration of African femininity. Five years ago when the Curly Collective (five brilliantly brown-sugary bossed-up beauties) decided that they wanted to take their natural hair empowerment movement from smaller informationals and meet-ups to a large scale platform, no one knew exactly how powerful this initiative would be.
But powerful it was.
It was as if God cracked open the sky, and rained down gracious drops of approval over all the #BlackGirlMagic going on in New York City. It seemed as if The Universe decided to tap those five ladies walk into a greater and spiritual purpose. As if this Great Energy anointed them as the Huldah, Debrorah, Miriam, Noadiah and the unnamed truth-seer of Isaiah for a generation of women and girls who have been fed the universal religion of straight-white-hair superiority. By no means is this hyperbole. For Black females trapped in the hell of American identity, the concocting of Curlfest by women that looked like them was a form of sacred salvation.
So… there… heaven on earth.
This year, close to 30,000 women (and more men than before) took over Randall’s Island in New York. By stepping away from Prospect Park, the producers were able to contain the population differently- organizing sections for VIPs, hair care products and food.
Black-owned brands monopolized the real estate, but a few major players who see value in the African American market also made their splash.
One of the crowd favorites was Mielle Organics, a Black-owned brand out of Chicago. Launched in 2014, its founder Monique Rodriguez worked as a registered nurse before shifting her attention to hair care. She and her husband Melvin, who serves as the company’s COO, have created a dynasty that is now in over 87 countries with several lines catering to different hair textures, needs and weather situations. There new Pomegranate & Honey line consists of a leave-in conditioner, curl smoothie, curl refreshing spray, moisturizing and detangling conditioner and shampoo, sculpting custard, twisting souffle and even some skincare items. This Christ-centered but commerce-driven business stood out, even next to Creme of Nature’s big yellow bags and Rita’s water ice stand.
DevaCurl was also in the building with a new milk-based No-Poo and conditioner from their Decadence line.
What we also know about Curlfest is their ability to allow dreams to grow. Just consider Beleza Natural.
Co-founded by Zica Assis and Leila Velez, Beleza Natural is a curly hair salon and hair care line that made its debut in Harlem, NY in 2018. A longstanding champion of hair care in Brazil, BN stands out for its unique cocktail of natural hair treatments and styling services, product research and development, and customer care. In the same vicinity as BN, was EDEN BodyWorks, a haircare line founded by Jasmine Lawrence. This brand is a Curlfest dream as it provides natural products that integrate wellness and beauty inspired by nature to restore and maintain the hair and body’s original design. You can find this brand everywhere, even at Target.
Target seemed to be putting on plenty of Black-owned brands.
Many brands went from being vendors at the festival to have real estate in shelves in Target. Melissa Bulter is one of those stories. She is the founder of The Lip Bar, a non-toxic and vegan lipstick brand celebrated for its diverse range of bold, bright, and super pigmented lip colors. Her story is interesting as she worked hard to push through that competitive make-up market (including a Shark Tank rejection) to become a player with an inexpensive, yet high-quality product. Another Black-owned brand at Target was Curls Dynasty. Curls Dynasty is a haircare line of chemical-free ingredients founded by healthy hair and body enthusiast Nickie Nougaisse after she experienced several disheartening experiences that caused severe burns and damage to her scalp. Curls Dynasty products can now be found in select Target stores nationwide and are formulated with natural ingredients, free of harsh chemicals, preservatives, dyes or fragrances.
Maybe the young lady Taylor, the brainchild behind Taylor’s Beauty products will have the same luck. Not even a teenager yet, she had three beautifully packaged offerings: Coconut Kiwi, Blue Razz and Peche aka peach.
There were brands at Curlfest that focused on skincare. One of our favorites is Urban Skin Rx. Urban Skin RX a clinical skincare line founded by medical aesthetician Rachel Roff, developed to offer scientifically researched corrective skincare products for all skin tones and colors after discovering the lack of education and services available for treating common concerns seen in darker skin tones. Urban Skin Rx to now available in Target, Ulta Beauty and CVS stores nationwide.
Other experiences that made Curlfest dope was UberSoca Cruise and their Soca take-over. Imagine tens of thousands of people singing in unison to Caribbean music… more concentrated than Eastern Parkway… a sweet reprise from the Trap music that dominates New York streets. Also, the Grae Wellness gave out free massages and yoga lessons to ticket holders.
There was something really for everyone. It really is heaven on earth.
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