MaryJo Myers-Battiston, owner of Imago salon, demonstrates a curly hair trim, using minimal tension on the hair, at the Curly Hair Expo. Photo by Ash Daniel
I'll acknowledge that Richmond isn't exactly known as the go-to city for hair and fashion. So I was pleasantly surprised to learn about the Taming the Beast Curly Hair Expo and Fashion Show at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. Put on by Richmonder Keenya Kelly in late July, it was a refreshing departure from the mundane.
"For 28 years of my life, I used chemicals to straighten my hair, but two and half years ago, I decided to stop using them," says Kelly, who can be found on Twitter as @keenyakelly or through her website, returnofthecurls.com .
"After embracing my curly hair, I realized I was unaware of how to properly care for my curls. I decided to figure out what other women were doing." She adds, "I initially thought it was only African-American women with these issues."
But Kelly soon realized that all kinds of women struggle with curly hair. "So I began to plan an event that would bring women of all races together."
MaryJo Myers-Battiston of Imago salon and Daviece Clement of Nirvana Salon and Spa were among the presenters who demonstrated techniques and products to help manage naturally curly hair. Clement shares this advice for anyone considering going natural: "The most important thing to remember is this process is about so much more than hair. You may have to redefine what self beauty looks like. So many images from society tell us how to look and dress and act. It can be difficult. Just know that your hair is an extension of who you are and shouldn't be the determining factor of how you see yourself."
Expo attendee Valerie Peyton of King George County says she was interested in getting advice from hair professionals. "I research natural hair care online," Peyton says. "Now I want to learn more about products and what other people are doing."
Jonella McRae of Henrico County adds, "I'm going natural and wanted to learn more techniques and about new products. This is a real eye-opener."
In the past, sources of education and support for natural hair care have been scarce. Stylists aren't offered much information in beauty school about leaving hair in its curly state. Women with curls, no matter their ethnicity, have often undergone harsh chemical treatments or heat styling to tame their unruly locks. For decades, straighteners, relaxers, pressing and wrapping have been the methods of choice. Women who wanted other options have been out of luck.
Now, women from all walks of life are encouraging each other to embrace their curls and wear them proudly. Instead of using chemicals, they're applying conditioning products or essential oils and going natural.
If you missed the summer expo, there will be another opportunity, Kelly says. She's planning a Holiday Trunk Show on Nov. 18 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Wingate by Wyndham hotel in Short Pump, featuring special guest Maeling Tapp of naturalchica.com .
Crystal Rivenbark is a Midlothian-based stylist and cosmetology instructor.