The 2019 edition of the annual Curlfest was widely attended by several black people from in and around New York. They trooped to the Randall’s Island Park to celebrate the festival which is geared towards empowering women of various shades, shapes and sizes.
The festival, which was founded in 2014, drew attendees from around the world who are proud to celebrate their hair. The attendees took photos, purchased hair products and enjoyed another fantastic networking opportunity.
This edition was also an opportunity to celebrate after Califonia and New York recently signed a bill that banned race-based hairstyles discrimination which is a goal organisers have been hoping to achieve for years.
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A certain healing energy was palpable at this year’s CurlFest in Randall’s Island Park. The gathering was part festival, part picnic, and full-on celebration of natural hair in the New York sun. Ankle-grazing braids and lavender-dyed coils swayed to the sounds of hip-hop, house, and Afrobeats, along with the Brooklyn United Music and Arts Program’s drumline. Afros nodded at inspirational reminders overheard at the Empowerment Stage: “move fearlessly when unpacking the trauma of colorism.” It was the sixth iteration of CurlFest and its largest yet, a place for women and men and children to unite and honor their own magic. In tents across the field, crowds enjoyed free samples of Oribe’s Curl Gelée and Deep Treatment Masques, others talked curly hair tips with DevaCurl, while Shine n’ Jam held a braiding station for those wanting cornrows.
“Our vision is to spread the message that natural hair is beautiful, too,” said the event’s co-founder, Tracey Coleman, on the scorching July morning of CurlFest 2019. “Whether your hair is long, short, curly, wavy, kinky or whatever you choose to call it, this is for women around the world who don’t feel celebrated enough.” Coleman and her longtime friends Charisse Higgins, Melody Henderson, Simone Mair, and Gia Lowe began their journey to CurlFest in 2010, when they all went natural and turned to one another for support and advice. Eventually they become the Curly Girl Collective, and began planning events to spread the message of self-love. Their first CurlFest took place at Prospect Park in 2014— “the only natural beauty festival in the world that was created by five black women for black women,” Mair noted—to uplift other women on similar paths. “We want people to walk away from today with a silencing of their self-doubt and an amplification of their affirmations and healing,” Lowe said. This year’s CurlFest included an extra day of celebrations on Sunday, when guests were invited to attend an ’80s themed roller skating party, “Roller Set,” at LeFrak Center.
When it comes to summer curls, these queens have a few mantras they live by: “water is my hair’s best friend in the summer,” Mair shares. “We’ve been taught for so long to avoid it, but with natural hair, you can really embrace the health benefits it has for your hair, especially when it’s hot.”
“Don’t be afraid to embrace the humidity either,” Coleman adds. “The summer is the perfect time to learn how to let your hair be free and to get really get comfortable with embracing what you can’t control about it.”
“At CurlFest I felt like I could fully celebrate the rich culture and heritage embodied by our kinks and curls,” attendee Shari Cheverez said. “It’s a safe space.” Here, portraits from a day that proved the power of coming together.