You know you are in the presence of Black Girl Magic when every time words are spoken, clusters of gems are dropped and you realize you need a basket to catch them all. That's the experience I had when I interviewed three of the five founders of CurlFest, the world's largest natural beauty festival. Simone Mair, Tracey Coleman, and Melody Henderson can attest to the fact that the one thing that binds us all together as black women, is our hair. Whether it's kinky, curly, or coily, there is an unspoken connection we have with one another when we're in our natural state. We all have dealt with those difficult wash-and-gos, or the twist outs that didn't work out the way it did for that YouTuber.
Most importantly, we also know what it's like to feel the stares, or hear the negative comments in regards to how we choose to wear our crowns. The founders of CurlFest agreed that there was an undeniable need for a brand that empathized with the experiences of women of color. Melody, who acts as the design guru among the tribe, said, "It was really to fill a need, to fill a void. My background (career in marketing), my whole question was always, 'Why aren't we being seen, why aren't we part of the story?' And the five of us wanted to be part of that solution. How can we, as women of color, in our natural state, in any capacity, be a part of the story?"
Thus, the Curly Girl Collective was born.
The brand started with five women seeking to create a space for women of color to talk about their experiences with their hair, as well as others' perceptions. It was a judgment-free zone that they soon realized many other women probably need as well. Creative marketing consultant and freelance writer, Tracey Coleman, who makes up ⅕ of the Curly Girl Collective explained, "At first people (brands and press), weren't really interested just because they didn't deem it as important. And as the narrative has changed on what beauty looks like, it's a huge shift from when we started. You're seeing more women of color and women with natural hair in commercials and in movies and in leading roles and all over the world. That's when the media starts to listen, and we're a part of what's driving that."
"The media realized that this was an important story that needed to be told."
Tracey and her teammates have made it their mission to develop fun and unique ways to help multicultural women celebrate their natural beauty. The first CurlFest was launched in 2014, and in just four years, this tribe of girl bosses was able to take their at-home business and transform it into a staple event in the natural hair community.
The founders of CGC are proof that heavy is the head that wears the crown, even if that crown is a mane full of beautiful curls. Simone, who is also an award-winning volunteer, told us, "I think sometimes as women of color, we're kind of a double minority here and naturally have more to prove."
"We kind of have to work twice as hard as some of our counterparts, so there are challenges."
Despite these challenges, these queens are thriving honey, and they shared some gems with me that will help you flourish, too. I got to speak with these ladies more about their roots (both proverbial and natural), as well as how pursuing your passion can truly liberate you from the daily grind and ultimately allow you to develop a profitable business.
What is the secret to your success? How did your brand become so well known in what seems like such a short amount of time?
Tracey: The growth was interesting...there isn't some marketing campaign behind it, or a celebrity that's driving it, or something that happened that went viral. Honestly, it's the energy that people feel when they come to CurlFest and that feeling of appreciation and celebration of who they are. That comes through in what people say about the event to their friends and family, and what they say on social media.
One thing that we've learned is that you can market something all day long, but at the end of the day, it really speaks for itself. The fans actually drove the growth, they decided that they were coming back the next year. Every single year, they're telling their friends, and telling their cousins. It's a blessing not to have to have to market the event because the demand is there.
What do you think was the major turning point? How did you turn your passion into profit?
Melody: I believe that the passion and the profit actually are intertwined. I think we are where we are today because that passion never went away. There's five of us, and we are literally doing this around the clock: putting on something that can support the 30,000 people. But what's driving it is that passion. The turning point really came when brands started to realize that we were bringing them qualified leads.
It's not a commercial you're bringing to the masses. People are opting into CurlFest, people are looking forward to CurlFest for the entire year. So, knowing that from a brand perspective, when you start to talk about revenue and finances, we're telling them "This is your demographic and we're able to tell you what they need, we're able to tell you what's missing, and we're able to tell you how you can plug in."
When we had our first CurlFest, there were two brands on the lawn. So, now you fast forward to this year, it was in the mid-twenties. A lot of that is really based on fostering relationships, building a network, really holding true to what our brand is with no apology.
We typically see the glamour of what success looks like, but not so much the setbacks. With social media, everyone makes it look so easy. What have been some of the challenges that you've had building this business, and what are the ways that you've been able to overcome them?
Tracey: With that type of growth happening that fast, we had to learn really fast. We had to bring on other experts in other fields and people that could support us. We've learned that with the five of us, we all have full-time jobs. You realize that for us to maintain that and to support the growth of CurlFest that was happening so quickly, we had to tap into our village. Most entrepreneurs learn that as you grow, you have to expand to let people help you.
That's really any business, if you're trying to grow your baby, you have to let your village support that baby.
That's what we've done over the years to help us grow so fast.
What does it mean to the team to have so much support for CurlFest from black women?
Melody: A lot of times we don't realize the psychological things are happening because of how society is telling how us we should be. The fact that we're able to play a role in breaking down some of those barriers is amazing. We often marvel at the success of others wondering whether or not we also have what it takes to get into business for ourselves. Instead of being paralyzed by the fear of "what if", be empowered by it.
Turning your passion into profit IS possible. The Curly Girl Collective shows us that when you combine your passion with your drive, determination, and fearless forward progress, anything can happen. Make sure to follow the Curly Girl Collective on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates and fly content from past events.
Featured image by Cincinart/Shutterstock.com
Michelle Schmitz is a writer and editor based in Washington, DC originally from Ft Lauderdale, FL. A self-described ambivert, you can find her figuring out ways to read more than her monthly limit of The New York Times, attending concerts, and being a badass, multi-tasking supermom. She also runs her own blog MichelleSasha.com. Keep up with her latest moves on IG: @michellesashawrites and Twitter: @michellesashas
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Many have wondered if one time is ever enough to see Queen Bey. Some argue yes. However, many of us on the opposite end of the spectrum, including myself, would disagree. Beyoncé's "Renaissance World Tour" is a universal yet varying experience for everyone who attends. In the words of Oprah Winfrey, the concert is "transcendent." For millennials, we have over two decades of her catalog that has served as the soundtrack for many of our lives and painted a personal portrait of our most coveted thoughts. Her music provides mental clarity and self-expression by serving as a universal language that has united fans from all walks of life through community, fashion, self-acceptance, and healing.
With a multi-layered approach to her artistry, just as she did on that winter day in December 2013 with the infamous digital drop of her self-titled album, she changed the game again on February 1, 2023, when she announced her world tour in support of Renaissance, her seventh studio album. Her cultural impact set the internet ablaze, with everyone trying to gather their coins, barter for presale codes, and figure out which cities to attend. The group chats were lit, and the Beyhive was stressed trying to get their hands on tickets.
Photo courtesy of Dontaira Terrell
Unfortunately, I was in that number. As the concert dates passed by and the one in my city drawing near all roads led to disappointment. With time ticking on the day of the Miami show and less than two hours to spare, my wallet bit the bullet, and I purchased three last-minute tickets, costing roughly $700.00 a piece (including fees) for me, my 9-year-old and 16-year-old nieces in Section 121 at the Hard Rock Stadium. With 10 minutes before showtime, we eagerly awaited the Queen to take the stage. A sea of metallic fringes, cowboy hats, disco fans, and western boots were in full effect and filled the entire stadium.
As the lights dimmed, a flood of emotions instantly overtook my body. It continued with each note she belted, along with nearly 50,000 roaring fans. The reverberating sound of the music through the stadium transported me from one era of my life to the next. As a teen girl in her bedroom daydreaming about her first love to blossoming into an unapologetic Black woman who is still on a road of self-discovery while learning to lean into the power anthem of "You won't break my soul." For over two hours, and with each set, I felt joy, love, peace, and a commanderie with fellow concertgoers. It was therapeutic as I danced like no one was watching and sang as if I were alone in my bathroom mirror.
There were no bars held, and I realized at that moment, "Nobody can judge me but me." The "Renaissance World Tour" proved to be so vast, and my Black girl joy was re-invigorated. It was magnetic and liberating, and I had to attend again, but this time, I needed to be up close and personal; I needed to be on the floor. In the days that passed, I watched more social media clips in different cities and asked myself if I would really splurge again to attend another Renaissance show.
Photo courtesy of Dontaira Terrell
After all, this would be my thirteenth time (maybe more because I lost count) seeing Beyoncé live, whether she was on tour with Destiny's Child, as a solo artist, or doing a live appearance. I contemplated for a while, but it worked itself out on its own. I was gifted two tickets and the next thing I knew, I was off to LA to attend another Renaissance show with floor seats at SoFi Stadium during Beyonce's 42nd birthday weekend! This time, things were different: no kids were allowed. It was adults only this go round.
Although the energy at the Miami and Los Angeles shows was empowering, infectious, and a celebration of life, happiness, and identity, they each provided their own unique experience. However, both concerts were what I needed for my well-being, leaving me with sore feet from dancing the night away, on vocal rest for the next few days from screaming at the top of my lungs, and on an indefinite high on life.
My introduction and love for Beyoncé began in 1996, while my older sister lived in Houston, TX, right before Bey hit the scene in 1998 with "No, No, No" as a budding R&B member. Her evolution twenty-seven years later as an international superstar and into womanhood has been an incredible journey to witness. As Mrs. Carter reminds each of us in the audience every night before the curtain closes, "I want you to remember this moment, where you're standing, who you came with, and take it with you. I hope you feel inspired."
I truly felt inspired, so thank you, Queen Bey. You awakened my inner child, and I will definitely remember these moments and take them with me.
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Feature image by Kevin Mazur/WireImage for Parkwood