By Natalie Prioleau
Known as the “premier hair expo of the Carolinas,” the annual Charleston Natural Hair Expo continues to expand as a source for cultural, social and economic empowerment in the Lowcountry. The event brought some of the most relevant health and beauty bloggers/vloggers, entrepreneurs, vendors and brands to Charleston. Designed to “educate and empower the community in every area of life,” the Charleston Natural Hair Expo was sponsored by over 25 different brands and businesses. It also featured more than 60 vendors from a variety of industries and housed over 1100 guests from South Carolina and beyond.
The main features of the event were as follows:
Hair and Skincare
There was booth after booth of natural hair and skin care products on tables and racks, in brightly-colored packages and plastic tubs, on stage and on monitors. There were hair demonstrations done by Mielle Organics and Design Essentials, a presentation by Alikay Naturals and tons of samples from Honey Baby Naturals, Nature’s Protein, Jamaican Mango and Lime and much more! Although there were countless hair care and skin care products, each had something different to offer the customer. Some products catered to hydration while others promoted hair growth and styling. Guests were educated about how to nurture, manipulate, moisturize and grow hair regardless of texture, style or length. Skin Care products like Jamaican Castor Oil, Pure Shea, and Divine Luxury Bath and Body products addressed skin care issues such as moisturizing dry skin, balancing an uneven skin tone and reducing skin blemishes.
Fashion and Accessories
The perimeter of the space was lined with tables of wares: clothing and accessories from dashikis to sunglasses, handbags to hair barrettes, jewelry to turbans. There were a variety of patterns, cloths, colors and textures just as there were women, men and children with a variety of skin colors, body sizes and hair textures. Upon entering the space, the first table belonged to African Snow, a line of cloth handbags, backpacks and jewelry designed using cloth that has been imported from Africa. Past the partitions and to the right of the crowds stood the display table which read, “Gabby,” a 10-year old who patented double-sided hair barrettes so that they hold to the hair without falling out; and standing almost directly opposite of Gabby’s table was the iTurban Boutique. These pre-knotted turbans come in a variety of patterns, colors, bejeweled and plain. The turbans were designed with cancer patients in mind, women who may have lost their hair and don’t want to wear wigs, or women who are simply taking a break from wearing wigs. Each display offered the customer a variety of fashion and accessory options that evoke a sense of cultural pride, individuality and style.
Just as captivating as and even more vital than the other areas of focus were the display tables from health agencies such as the Lowcountry Aids Services and the Alzheimer’s Association. These display tables helped to put in perspective a few of the major health issues that are facing the African American community. For example, Lowcountry Aids Services provide free HIV testing, condoms and sex education. The Alzheimer’s Association also put on free events and workshops, seeking to create awareness and increase the participation from the community. It is essential that the community support these events because African Americans are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s due poor health habits. Last but not least, one of the most captivating health-related demonstrations was Nspire, natural sanitary napkins. This demonstration which was done by Ms. Shalanda Jones, explained the health risks and problems that are associated with continued use of conventional tampons and maxi pads, such as bacterial buildup and even cramps themselves! Nspire sanitary napkins boast relief from menstrual cramps and longer wear due to high absorbency.
There was no shortage of entertainment as the event featured a live DJ, three fashion shows, singing, dancing, music and giveaways throughout. The atmosphere pulsated with music from “Redbone” to “JuJu on that Beat.” Much of the entertainment was child-focused, specifically the fashion shows and a few performances, some of which included group dancing and games. There was also lots of delicious soul-food and desserts including My Three Sons of Charleston’s barbecued ribs, seafood salad and seafood rice, Daddy’s Girl Bakery’s powdered sugar chewies and frozen treats from Italian Ice.
Entrepreneurship, passion, drive, community and solidarity were common themes throughout the expo. Ebbie Drayton, founder of the event not only networked with amazing entrepreneurs and vendors to help sponsor it, but she also included many of them in a panel. The panel included Ebony Bomaini, licensed cosmetologist from the Mane Choice, Gabrielle Flowers, Vlogger Gabe BabeTV, Janell Stephens CEO, Camille Rose, Obia Ewah CEO of Obia Naturals and more! These women each shared their career journeys, their struggles, what they wished they would’ve known beforehand and they also provided advice as to attendees for being successful in their own businesses. This segment was the heart of the event, showcasing women who have defined success for themselves, achieved their goals, live healthy lifestyles and educate others on how to do the same. Vendors Katherine Drayton, CEO of Kat Drayton Realty and representatives from the Steinberg Law Firm were also important assets to the event as they shared information about home ownership and legal advice. This is Ebbie Drayton’s goal for each Hair Expo event which is, “to continue to blow the minds of those who come year after year by bringing top notch companies and education. I hope to be able to expand and bring more entities to the show over the years. Drayton adds, it is in my plan to be able to do more for the community and to offer more community resources and opportunities to my attendees.”
This is why the annual Charleston Natural Hair Expo is an essential event to the Charleston community that not only requires participation, but support. Click here to learn more about Ebbie Drayton, the panel, sponsorship, the vendors, products and volunteering at the Charleston Natural Hair Expo.