On Friday, October 30th, naturalistas from across the Greater Toronto Area gathered at Roma’s Hospitality Centre in Mississauga for the first annual Canadian Naturalistas Hair Expo.
The Expo was a jam-packed evening of natural-hair-goodness, featuring a panel discussion, two hair fashion shows, two hair care workshops, spoken word and vocal performances, giveaways, vendors, and more!
The panel discussion focused on the Naturalista Experience in Canada, and was moderated by the Founder of Canadian Naturalistas, Brittiany Gayle (@canadiannaturalistas).
The panel was graced with the presence of YouTube sensations Jaimee Leblanc (Jamie Elle; @__lblnc), Dorcas Siwoku (Curious About My Curls), and Charnel Grey (@charnelgrey); bloggers Aziza Brown (6lackADaima) and Jade Janelle (SistaGerlsWithCurls; @jadejanelle); and Baltimore-based photographer Kelvin Bulluck, creator of the natural hair portrait series, “Coquine: The Beauty of Kinky Hair Realized” (@kelbpics). The five female members shared their perspectives as African-Canadian women who wear their hair natural, while Kelvin offered the perspective of an African-American man, who has interacted with naturalistas across Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.
As an audience member, it was interesting to hear the varied hairstories of the panelists—some of whom had big-chopped, others who had transitioned, and a couple of whom have been natural for most, if not all, of their lives. While some of ladies experienced pushback from their family, friends, and loved ones when they decided to go natural, others were actually encouraged to do so—like Aziza, who has been a lifelong locs wearer, as a Rastafarian. Aziza explained that many people still have a negative perception that locs are dirty; yet, at the same time, there also seems to a trend towards a sort of infatuation with the hairstyle, which often draws [good] stares.
The ladies talked about their go-to natural hairstyles (for the most part, wash ‘n’ gos and braid-outs), as well as their seasonal hair care regimens (i.e. wearing protective styles and using heavier butters/oils, like shea butter, olive oil, black castor oil, and coconut oil in the wintertime; and wearing their hair out and turning to lighter oils for the summertime). Although the panelists shared their beauty and hair maintenance secrets, they also encouraged audience members to experiment with different products to find out what works for them as individuals.
While sharing the joys of being natural, the ladies were also quite honest about the not-so-pleasant aspects, such as the struggle that is Wash Day—for instance, Dorcas, whose main battle is getting herself [mentally prepared] to go through the process of washing her hair; the frustrations of detangling; just how time-consuming proper hair maintenance can be; and sometimes feeling limited to certain [“appropriate”] styles and hair colours, so as not to draw negative attention from others.
Kelvin, the sole gentleman on the panel, expressed that his appreciation for natural hair came from growing up with naturalista women, namely his mother and three sisters, as well as being greatly inspired by his naturalista wife. He explained that his motivation for “Coquine: The Beauty of Kinky Hair Realized” (his amazing photo series, which has led him to travel through three different countries to capture portraits of women with natural hair), is to “spread the natural hair gospel” by bringing a positive light to it. He further explained that he chose the name “Coquine” because it’s the French word for “kinky” (kinky, in both senses), and textured hair is still considered to be taboo, in many cases- for instance, some of the lawyers and doctors he has photographed have been told they can’t wear their hair “that way” in their professions.
Some key takeaways from the discussion:
- Exude confidence when going natural and when wearing your hair natural: fake it until you make it, if you have to, suggests Charnel Grey;
- Have fun with experimenting with your hair, and don’t see it as a chore [especially if you want to see it grow], advises Jaimee Leblanc; and
- Recognize the amazing powers of coconut oil: “Rub it on everything—it will save your life!” exhorts Jade Janelle.
The Expo also featured two natural hair care workshops. Dr. Susan Walker of Earthtones Naturals and Monique London of London Ivy Products facilitated simultaneous workshops on vital techniques for braving the arctic weather as a Canadian naturalista: “Cold Weather Curl Care” and “Do’s and Don’ts of Protective Styling”, respectively. Both facilitators emphasized the importance of making changes to your hair care regimen to shield your hair from the dry frigid air of the winter season, such as increasing your hair’s moisture levels and/or essentially covering your hair with protective styles, like braids, twists, weaves, or wigs.
For more information on how to properly take care of your hair in wintry climates, check out Dr. Walker’s webinar here: Cold Weather Curl Care.
The Expo was a great opportunity to meet other GTA naturalistas; learn how to properly take care of your hair, regardless of the season; witness the creative genius of hair designer Allison Griffin (@da_allig_show) and curly hair specialist Keina Morgan of Urban Curls Toronto (@urbancurls416); and pick up some natural hair products, from local vendors (#shoplocal), like Up North Naturals, London Ivy Products, Locsuria, Earthtones Naturals, and CurlShoppe, among others.
Kudos to Brittiany Gayle and the Canadian Naturalistas team (@canadiannaturalistas) for putting on a very classy and informative event! ‘Looking forward to CNHairExpo 2016!