Friday, March 29, 2013

The 1st Annual Beauty Empowerment Panel at Spelman College

I had the pleasure of attending the 1st Annual Beauty Empowerment Panel at Spelman this week.  The event was outstanding.  Presented by Design Essentials Natural, the topic was Black Hair in the Media.  On the panel were a bevvy of natural hair advocates including professional stylists, a radio personality, popular bloggers, you tubers and beauty entrepreneurs.

from the flyer:   Featured Panelists and attendees will discuss how the representation of black hair impacts pop culture and self esteem, including the acceptance and non acceptance of natural hair...

Upon entering Cosby Auditorium, each guest was treated to a light snack catered by Chic Fil A.  We also received samples from the Design Essentials Naturals line and information.

Moderated by Design Essentials Director of Marketing, Tracey Gibson, the dialogue was open and I loved that.

The Panelists:  Kiki of Mahoganyknots(YouTube), Deshonica Kerrie (Salon Owner),
Curlbox CEO Myleik Teele, Linda, Ripoll (Jet), Ebony Steele (Ricky Smiley Show)
Kim Walker (Journalist), Jamila Robinson (AJC)
Right out of the gate each panel member was asked who their influences were as children regarding hair and beauty. Most of the panelists said they were influenced by their mothers and grandmothers initially.  As they grew older the influence became TV personalities and/or celebrities. MTV, Solid Gold, Janet Jackson, Vanessa Huxtable, and Diana Ross were all mentioned as early influences.

My takeaway:  as a community we need to make sure that we are nurturing the self esteem of our youth and make DOUBLE sure that we provide positive images to influence them!

Spike Lee's movie, School Daze, was discussed. "Are the themes in the movie still relevant?".  "Have you seen it and how did it affect you?"  Most agreed that skin tone is STILL a major issue in the Black community and that the issues in the movie are still relevant.  I remember seeing the movie when it first came out (1988) as a young college student taking a Black Film in America class at Indiana University.  I was BLOWN away by it.  To me it was such an accurate depiction of what was happening on campus at THAT time. And here we are 25 years later...  

Of course you cannot discuss black hair in today's media without touching on the Gabby Douglas situation where "Black twitter" decided to focus on the hairstyle of the Olympic history making athlete instead of her God blessed athletic talent.  All panelists agreed that was a pretty ridiculous thing to do.  Shame on you "Black twitter"!  The moderator asked this..."Is there too much emphasis placed on hair in the Black community?"  What do you think?

There were several more great questions posed and each panelist gave open and honest opinions.  They were knowledgeable and often shared personal details about their own hair journeys. The audience was filled with mostly Spelman students, bloggers and other natural hair advocates like Fro Fashion Week CEO, Tarin Boone.

Students were also given the opportunity to ask questions.

It ended with a meet and greet with the panelists.  I could tell that the students really appreciated this event.  They were so eager and happy to get up close and personal with the panelists.  I believe that each person on the panel brought something different to the conversation and the young ladies really appreciated them being there.

Ebony Steele of The Rickey Smiley morning show
posing with a student/fan

Deshonica Kerrie sharing useful information

Curlbox CEO Myleik Teele 

Kiki of MahoganyKnots with a student whose hair she admired

I even ran into my cousin, Shawn Dowdell, who was the photographer for this event!

Thank you Design Essentials for putting together such a diverse panel of ladies who were willing to share a little bit of themselves with youth who are not only continuing their education but doing so at one of America's oldest historically Black colleges for women.  It was an honor to be there and a pleasure to see your affect on these girls.

How do you feel about Black hair in the media today?  What are some of the issues that you are facing a Black woman with natural hair? Who influenced you?  Let's keep the conversation going!!

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