These days you can spot gorgeous curls, coils and kinks just about anywhere in the world. On Saturday March 15, the natural hair movement adopted a chic French accent for the Paris-based Natural Hair Academy, an intensive 10-hour day of workshops and one-on-one moments with some of America’s most prominent natural hair advocates and manufacturers. Over a thousand women gathered at the upscale event to hear the wisdom of celebrity stylist Felicia Leatherwood, YouTube natural hair personalities and sisters MsVaughnTV and Meechy Monroe, and textured hair advocate Taren Guy, who was recently recognized in an online campaign for Rise, Beyonce’s latest perfume.
Now in its third year, the Natural Hair Academy showcased American brands such as Mixed Chicks, Carol’s Daughter and Jane Carter. It offered French naturalistas the chance to purchase products praised by curly haired women in the United States, but not yet available at home. The dynamic female founders of these companies were on hand to offer guidance and support with the help of local translators.
The event was broken up into workshops presented by brands and natural hair personalities, who were greeted warmly by an audience eager for information and inspiration. Felicia Leatherwood, who delivered styling and maintenance demos to a packed house of four hundred women, was a definite favorite. Attendees devoured her tips, and more than one person in the audience was driven to tears by her presence. “Thank you so much” a woman choked out during the Q&A portion. “You don’t know what having you here means to us.”
Due to the size and popularity of the event, workshops were repeated multiple times to ensure that everyone had a chance to benefit. “Natural Hair Academy was designed to fill a gap in education and resources for the French natural hair community,” says Natural Hair Academy co-founder Chimole Williams. “Natural women here have eagerly embraced their textures, but just don’t have access to the same tools and products as those in the United States. We’re trying to change that.” Williams, a U.S. citizen who grew up overseas, also distributes popular American hair and beauty brands overseas through her company, Diaspora Products.
Natural Hair Academy featured more than just great butters, creams and conditioners for sale. Huetiful, the beloved hair steamer of American curly girls sold out of its European version. Founder and president Ken Burkeen spoke to attendees about the important of hydration for textured hair. His company also sponsored the Monroe sisters, who delivered an engaging presentation on natural hair and fashion. Iman Cosmetics also represented with a beauty bar featuring makeup and tons of advice for women with limited options relative to those in the U.S. Popular American t-shirt brand Natural Girls Rock was there with its signature apparel for ladies looking to rep their ‘fros as a lifestyle.
Attendees lined up and waited for over an hour for customized consultations from hair regimens from the U.S. based Design Essentials, and a personalized hair and scalp analysis from French haircare line PhytoSpecific. French haircare brands AmenaÏde and Activilong were also present, selling products to motivated buyers.
The day concluded with Taren Guy’s Luv & Learn Your Hair workshop, where she delivered her unique blend of affirmation, self-reflection and curly girl tips to a full house.
Sporting the natural hair look is still rare in France. This past Saturday, the women daring enough to flaunt their textures found camaraderie and validation from abroad. Those trendsetters are leading the charge of the French natural hair revolution. And, the Natural Hair Academy provided the ultimate opportunity to affirm that choice.