Naturally ReDefined hosts hair expo, encourages natural beauty
Published: Monday, September 30, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 30, 2013 23:09
Tywanda Howie, a 2004 university alumna and a co-founder of the Delaware Naturalistas, returned to campus to host the second annual Natural Hair Expo at Clayton Hall Saturday through her company, Naturally ReDefined, with co-owner, Akira Grenardo.
Naturally ReDefined’s objective is to promote African-American women to embrace their beauty, specifically their hair, by advocating female empowerment and the rejection of media and societal constraints that dictate what is and is not beautiful, Howie said.
She said there are different levels and variations of defining natural hair. Her personal definition is the standard––natural hair is choosing not to use a permanent relaxer or product that will alter the natural state of hair, she said.
Thirty companies sponsored Naturally ReDefined this year, including the university’s Center for Black Culture, and 57 vendors, selling items from all-natural skin, hair and beauty products, to jewelry and clothing, set up in the lobby pit and conference room of Clayton Hall.
In the center of the conference room was a large stage used for entertainment, such as poetry readings, musical and dance performances and panel discussions, all focused around encouraging African-American women to feel beautiful.
The company has evolved since its beginnings, Howie said. It started when she and Latoya Watson were in the process of converting to a natural lifestyle, while students at the university. Howie cut off her hair and was looking for not only support from other women who were embracing their inner beauty but also a way to learn more about the variety of natural products available and which ones were best.
Initially, the two created a Facebook group, which they named Delaware Naturalistas, consisting of 20 members. They never thought of hosting events or founding a company, she said. But as the group grew, so did a natural hair movement.
“We followed what they asked for,” Howie said. “The group now has 2,500 people in it.”
It became clear to Howie and Watson the Facebook members of Delaware Naturalistas wanted to meet in person, and so they decided to host their first event in New Castle two years ago, Howie said. There were ten vendors, three workshops––led by Howie and Watson––and 75 attendees, she said.
“We just realized that people were allowing us to lead them,” Howie said. “So we decided to have an expo last year, and it exceeded our expectations. We had 30 vendors, and I didn’t have to do any of the workshops because people were coming to us asking to do them themselves.”
The 2013 Natural Hair Expo was held in Delaware to provide residents of the state with the opportunity to experience it, since expos like this typically occur in larger states, Howie said. The event was sponsored by vendors from all across the country who support the movement. Sponsors traveled from Georgia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey and New York to participate in the event, as did many of the men and women who purchased tickets.
Normally, the products for sale by the vendors at the expo are not found at mainstream stores that sell other beauty supplies, Rickey Torrence, a representative from the Curls Unleashed table, said.
“These people come to events like this to sell and distribute their products,” Torrence said. “There are many different types of black hairstyles, and there are products for all of them.”
Some of the vendors were just individuals selling their homemade products and remedies, while others were larger, well-known businesses, like all-natural spas and cosmetic companies. Casey Taylor, a representative from Bronner Bros., one of the oldest companies specializing in African-American hair, was at the event to promote Tropical Roots, the company’s new line of natural hair products.
“Maintaining natural hair means to be able to work with what you already have,” Taylor said.
She said she came to the Hair Expo because the women who attend an event like this are the customers Bronner Bros. is looking to reach, and the Tropical Roots line of hair care targets women who embrace their natural hair.
While the vendors sold their products, multiple workshops were held during the expo on a variety of topics such as the ways the media impacts views of hair and beauty, quick styling methods and how to maintain hair health.
Nine men participated in the “What Do Black Men Really Think About Natural Hair” discussion. The male panelists agreed black women should not feel that black men pressure them to conform to society’s standards of beauty. They should feel more comfortable in their natural state, and know they are encouraged to do so, they said.
Howie said that for the most part, the Expo is about loving your natural appearance and supporting other people as they express theirs.
“It’s just a big family, but we don’t know each other,” she said.
The university’s Center for Black Culture was present throughout the day, as it sponsored the event, Howie said. Sophomore Gerti Wilson, a member of the Cultural Programming Advisory Board, said the CBC encouraged students to attend the Expo.
Wilson, a supporter of the natural hair movement, said she was glad so many students came to the Expo since the media is so dominant these days in society’s standards of beauty.