Beyond skin deep: Sister Spokesman talks Black beauty and dollars (photos)

(l-r) Nicole Pillow, Karen Coffey and Tephanie Delaney Steve Floyd/MSR News

Sister Spokesman took a holistic approach to the topic of Black beauty at its most recent afternoon soirée. From finding the right lip color to fitness tips to a conversation on intentional and well-informed beauty consumerism, the afternoon was a flurry of activity with much food for thought.

The event, held at LifeSource in North Minneapolis on Saturday, June 2, centered on a panel discussion on the business of beauty moderated by MSR Editor-in-Chief and Sadiaa Hair + Beauty Guide founder Stephenetta Harmon.

“Black women spend $2 billion on beauty products. We outspend our White counterparts by 90 percent,” Harmon informed the crowd. But are Black business owners at the table when it comes to the dollars made in the beauty industry?

The expert panel, consisting of Kelley Eubanks and Tephanie Delaney, founders of the upcoming Twin Cities Natural Hair & Beauty Expo; Karen Coffey, owner of Bella Beauty and Hair; and Nicole Pillow, Inner Beauty Project founder and author of the upcoming book Beyond Skin Deep: How to Apply Your God-given Beauty from the Inside Out, weighed in on some of their trials and triumphs as beauty industry entrepreneurs.

“I think Black consumers need to be more consistent and intentional about where they purchase [from] and what they purchase,” said Coffey. “A lot of natural hair care products used to be Black-owned, but were bought out by Koreans or other people and now we are not truly benefitting…We’re not sowing into our own communities.”

Steve Floyd/MSR News

Coffey continued, “You can’t go to a Black business one time and say, ‘Well, I supported.’ We have to continue to keep it in our mind, like, ‘I’m going to purchase this — where can I purchase it from where the money will benefit me and from people who care about me, people who will hire me, people who want to see me do well?”

Delaney shared a bit of her journey and why she felt the need to create the Twin Cities Natural Hair & Beauty Expo. “It’s all about sisterhood,” she said of the expo, set to take place August 12 at Graduate Minneapolis. “We’re all about coming together on one accord and supporting one another on this journey to remove the stigma that we wore for so long…

“We had to try to look as European as possible to be accepted,” she continued. “I came from a corporate America background; so for many years, I walked that line of acceptance, until I just said, you know what, no more. I am who I am.”

Eubanks also shared her vision for the expo, now in its second year. “For me, [it was important to] create a space to change the narrative and change the mindset of how we view our own hair… It’s a safe space to celebrate it and collab with a lot of other beauty [entrepreneurs] in the industry. It’s really about creating an additional space of solidarity for women so we can celebrate ourselves and have a good time doing it.”

Steve Floyd/MSR News

Pillow rounded out the discussion by touching on her own self-discovery and how she came to embrace her natural hair. She shared that, even as she worked as a “beauty cultivator” doing workshops, conferences, and other speaking engagements to help empower women to know their inner beauty, she was reluctant, ashamed, even, to wear her natural curls in public.

“I walked through a process of owning that,” said Pillow of discovering her curl power. “It’s deeper than wearing my curls; it’s owning what we’ve been given,” she said.

Sprinkled in between the discussion, shopping and prize giveaways were five-minute demos from vendors MSDENISHIA and Anika Robbins offering tips on finding the right shade of lip color and easy and safe makeup application.

Another highlight of the day was Brandi Phillips of Wellife 360, who took things up a notch with five-minute workday exercises that got everyone up and moving to beats by DJ Lazy T.

Sister Spokesman will take a break in July to prepare for the Fourth Annual Legacy Boat Cruise Fundraiser on August 4. For tickets, go here.  To see a video stream of the event, go to Facebook/SisterSpokesman.