Remember that post I wrote about the importance of surrounding yourself with other naturalistas as you embark on your hair journey? Well, on Sunday I practiced what I preached and attended a meetup hosted by Toronto Naturals called The Politics of Black Hair. The discussion of the day centred around the question "Is protective styling political or simply a style choice?" Needless to say, the conversation got pretty colourful! Monique London of London Ivy Products led the event by posing a series of questions to a panel of five naturalistas who have each found great success in the realms of vlogging, blogging, hairstyling, jewelry design, and wig making, to name a few. Because of their varied backgrounds, every panelist was able to bring a fascinating and unique perspective to the table.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have experienced the event at all because despite arriving twenty minutes early, I was too late to buy tickets at the door! I know, I know... I should have purchased an advanced ticket, but this event was so hot even those had sold out the week prior. It was disappointing to be turned away, but then someone piped up suggesting I stick around just in case there was a no-show at the last minute. I could hear upstairs that the venue was getting pretty full already, but I had a feeling it would be worth the wait. After all one of my favourite YouTubers, Toni Daley, was on the panel and I was pumped to see her in person. Luckily the event organizers were able to squeeze me in literally at the last second, and they even had some free lipbalm left!
When I got upstairs, I was pleasantly surprised by how funky the venue was. Harlem Restaurant (on Richmond and Church) has an eclectic and casual vibe to it. The stage area looks a bit like Graffiti Alley -vibrant hues of different paints, random cables strewn on door hooks, and exposed brick walls. Much to everyone's enjoyment the bar was fully stocked and there were original paintings of natural hair hung around the room for us to feast our eyes on.
The panel itself was lighthearted yet thought-provoking. Monique (or Mo for short) did an awesome job of gently guiding the conversation from general subjects like what constitutes a protective style to more serious issues about hair envy, hair type discrimination, and self-love. It was enlightening to hear the panelists describe their personal experiences. Some views I could identify with, others I hadn't considered before. At one point the discussion turned to whether or not women who wear weaves 24/7 are purposefully hiding their natural hair out of shame or embarrassment. This was particularly interesting to me, because lately I've been trying to avoid using extension hair and instead celebrate what my Mama gave me. To this, Toni Daley made a solid point. She paralleled the use of weaves to wearing makeup.
[Paraphrased] Some people wear makeup only to fancy occasions. Others wear it whenever they leave the house. And then there are those who wear makeup even when they're in their house all day. It's a personal choice. You can't say I don't love my skin just because I wear makeup, just as you can't say I don't love my hair if I wear weaves all the time.
Celebrity hairstylist Janet Jackson admitted she's all about the weave life because of the ease and effortlessness it affords her. She cited the difficulty of managing her own natural hair (which extends past her shoulders) when she has to be up as early as 3:00 AM for work, and that weaves are the best way for her to save time in her busy schedule and still look professional. Even though I've never had anything against weaves (I've been known to rock one on occasion), hearing what she had to say gave me a new appreciation for what other naturalistas go through.
One of the coolest things about the panel was — as far as I could tell — no two ladies had the exact same curl pattern. There was everything from famous vlogger Natural Neiicey's luscious, loose curls to the wonderfully kinkier coils of curly hair specialists Keina Morgan and Nicky Splinta. That variety gave a definite credibility and approachability to the event. It felt inclusive and honest, which I think is crucial for the natural hair community.
Then came the best part: FREE PRIZES! I was impressed by how many goodie bags Toronto Naturals had sourced for the prize draws. There were so many sponsors the giveaways just kept rolling. For once in my life I had a winning ticket in hand and landed a highly coveted gift basket from Rainbow Kisses Cosmetics! It contained two striking lipsticks (one in plum, the other a deep metallic turquoise) and a gift card. Hilariously enough, after collecting my prize two different people come up to me asking if I really wanted to keep the lipstick and if we could work out some sort of trade! Rainbow Kisses is just that good!
Despite lasting about three hours, the meetup seemed to fly by. Before I knew it the panel had concluded and everyone was encouraged to network around the room. I was glad to have the opportunity to catch up with my hairstylist Glenna Sandy who has had my back since I moved to Toronto and was helpless managing my own hair. I also got to fangirl Toni Daley and chat with her about the amazing movement she started, the #SupportASista campaign that encourages people to shop locally and support women-led, Black-owned companies. Janet Murphy of Roots to Curls was there too. She explained to me how exciting the last few months have been as she and her long-time friend and business partner have worked hard to get Roots to Curls off the ground.
Overall, it was really inspiring to be surrounded by so many independent, successful, and forward-thinking Black women! Big thanks to Toronto Naturals for continuing to host events like this. Can't wait for the next one!
Have you attended any natural hair events lately? Share your experience with me in a comment below!
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