For this writer, the Twin Cities Natural Hair & Beauty Expo felt like a one-day, local Essence Festival. It brought joy to Blackness. It felt like being surrounded by a warm aroma of freshly made cornbread.
Upon entering the space, I was fed with beauty by a Black fashion show with some of the baddest models—all genders, all shapes, and all sizes. But wait, there’s more.
The event was jam-packed with so many vendors that they spilled into the hallway and every room within the vicinity. It was like walking through a selfie maze where you are met with confirmation, reassurance, and pride in being Black at every turn.
As I made my way through the space at the Delta Hotel in Minneapolis, I was greeted with cultural garments from the motherlands. Then I encountered the most joyous smile painted in the boldest of colors.
Behind it was Algebra Bleesett whose speaking voice is just as melodic as her singing voice. She is the owner of LoveLipsbyAlgebra. She caressed my hands with pomade and spoke life into my soul during my search for the perfect lip shade.
I planned to stay only for a quick trip, but then Melanie Savage rang and lured me into a group dance with bangers most known at Black cookouts. So, I forgot that other thing I was running off to do and sat my purse down, swag and surf.
Next, I enjoyed the presentation of beautiful models gracing the space in tribal face paintings, big, decorated hair, and glowing melanin that made me want to find the Wilson’s Image table for my share. As I shopped, a panel of beauty experts and influencers offered tips to keep my natural locs flowing, and skin moist.
As I journeyed from table to table, I indulged in meaningful conversation that erased the void of social interaction that Covid created.
While juggling many shopping bags from deserving businesses, I pulled out my phone and jotted down social media tips, branding skills, and business-growth gems being dropped at the expo.
By 1:30 p..m., my back became tense from carrying the merchandise, so I rested on a massage chair to allow skilled hands to ease my body and mind.
Over the speaker, celebrity stylist from Tyler Perry Studios, Rosalyn Hall, shared with the room that she built her career using the gifts God gave her as her criminal record prevented her from working any jobs.
Coming up from my massage, I decided to follow my nose to some of the best-tasting food Flame has whipped up. While waiting, I observed the red carpet and hurried to take a spin on the 360° camera platform by KMOJ’s GlamLife Kim and founder of Museum of Self.
Giving up any idea of retreating early, I returned to the space to gain insight from the expo’s co-founders Kelley Eubanks and Tephanie Delaney, and production team member Briana Cress.
Meet the team
The expo’s organizing team were excited to highlight over 60 Black business vendors at the expo during August, National Black Business Month.
Eubanks said that the event, held this year on August 7, “encourages self-preservation by keeping the conversation going with engagement of our mental, physical, financial, and spiritual health.”
Delaney, a celebrity publicist, added, “We needed an inviting space to transform perspective around natural hair and beauty for Black women.”
Indeed, in a society that cultivates the beliefs that White is right and straight is fate, the expo allows for Black hair to be celebrated in its many forms. “The CROWN Act passing in MN and other states validates the realness of why an event supporting and celebrating hair was needed,” Eubanks said.
Cress is a former vendor-turned-team member. She said she joined the team because “it has elevated my brand as a small business owner, as I launched my haircare line at the 2017 Expo. The exposure this expo gives to small businesses is major. It is a place for our products and services to be placed in front of thousands of people in one day.”
What drives the success of the event? “Having the opportunity to create a memorable experience is what drives us every year,” Eubanks said. “Our goal is to have attendees, vendors, and sponsors feel the vibrant, positive energy that fills the room.”
“The positivity of the atmosphere is consistent, the energy is uplifting, and we’re collectively celebrating one another while raising awareness regarding concerns in our community,” Cress said.
“The success is driven by our passion for empowering women of color,” Delaney added.
Jiccarra N. Hollman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about the Twin Cities Natural Hair & Beauty Expo, visit tcnaturalhairexpo.com.