Toronto Natural Hair & Beauty show – review

On Sunday, I went to the Toronto Natural Hair & Beauty show with my sister-in-law and my friend. We got to the show just before three p.m. and I was excited. This was my first encounter with a show like this – hundreds of naturalistas in one spot?

The girls getting ready to enjoy the show
We've got our wristbands and we're ready to go!

Wicked!

Parking was at a premium (and free!), so we were very happy when we caught a spot after circling for only about 10 minutes. There was a little confusion when we went in to pay – no change, people crowding around the table, but all-in-all it wasn’t ridiculous. We got our wristbands and went inside. The space was about as large as a high school gym. With hundreds of naturals, a stage with seating and vendors around the periphery, it was tight.

The first thing that caught my eye was HoneyFig’s table! Yes, the HoneyFig ladies were at the show selling their wares. I had one product that I was looking for: liquid black soap for washing my hair now that I’m wearing kinky twists.

I couldn't get a good picture of the HoneyFig table because the people were swarming it. It was ridiculous.

Well, with the HoneyFig folks with their table of goodies, I wasn’t sure if I was only going to go home with some liquid black soap. There was Qhemet Biologics Alma and Olive Heavy Cream (gasp! I am so looking to try that product so bad!), Kinky Curly products, Donna Marie, Karen’s Body Beautiful (who knew that was in Canada now?), Darcy Botanicals, Jamaican Black Castor Oil products and more AND everything was tax-free! I was in heaven! But, after spending 20 minutes at the show, we hadn’t left the HoneyFig table.

On an aside, we had a conversation about how much some of these products cost. As you know, I’m a recovering product junkie and I used to spend a mint at HoneyFig purchasing all types of products. But I realized that many of these products that cost an arm and a leg (I mean, really, do I need to spend $20 on 8 oz of castor oil or $34 on gel?) can be looked at as a money grab. Look, I’m not saying that some of them don’t work or work well, I just can’t depend on a product that is going to cost an exorbitant amount of money. While a lot of these products have great ingredients (some don’t), the manufacturers price them so high because they know that we are going to go crazy searching for the perfect product. And going natural, which is supposed to save you money, if not time, becomes just as or more expensive as when we were relaxed.

We moved on to some of the clothing vendors. I saw someone selling headwraps. I will get one and wear one at some point -- maybe on vacation, but I'm not sure if I'd feel comfortable wearing one at home. Too much politics attached to it.

With so many vendors and tables to look at, I didn’t want to spend hours bumping up against a number of other naturals (the HoneyFig table was crazy busy). So, we decided to move on and see some other things. There were naturals of many kinds – loc’ed, twist outs, baldies, ‘fros – it reminded me that there is a strong natural hair community in Toronto. For some people, that’s not a big deal, but when you don’t see it daily, it’s nice to be reminded.

There were also a lot of people selling products… but not a lot of people with real natural hair knowledge… well, unless you had loc’ed hair. For a natural hair show, I thought there would more of a variety of hair knowledge for all types of natural hair. I mean, when we were at the HoneyFig table, my friend, who was wearing her hair in cute two strand twists was asked if she was loc’ing her hair.

Twists don’t always equal locs. Sometimes twists just mean twists. And it’s not like it’s offensive or anything, but even at the natural hair show, there seemed to be a narrow view of what natural hair meant. Granted, I was not at the show for entire nine hours, but for the two hours that I was there, I saw non-stop locs on stage, selling products, etc. I think it’s great that locs weren’t looked at negatively at the show, but I would have also liked to see more loose natural styles highlighted.

I bought their 'schupse' t-shirt earlier this summer at Barbados on the Water. They have some new ones, including one that reads, "I have broughtupsy". Love it!
A shirt from another vendor -- isn't it cute?

We saw some cute t-shirts, including a bunch of new t-shirts from one of my favourite vendors GuavaLeaf Clothing and more hair products. I had bought Dudu-Osun liquid black soap from HoneyFig, but I saw another vendor who was selling black soap that I had bought before. I saw that they now have a shampoo product. So, of course I had to look and unfortunately, the shampoo had coconut oil in it. I put it down.

The dude selling the products said to me: “Oh, you should try it!”

“I would love to,” I said, “but it has coconut oil in it and I’m allergic to that.”

“Oh, well, you should try it anyway!”

Pardon? Do I look stupid? I just told you that I’m allergic to the second ingredient in your soap, why would I try it? Chupse.

I had expected people to be more knowledgeable about hair and what would work – and I’m sure that some of the vendors did have that knowledge – but the majority of the people who were selling hair products were there for just that, to sell. Not to educate or inform, but to make some money. I may be more knowledgeable than some consumers mainly because I have to due to my sensitivities, but many people are just looking for the people who are selling their products to tell them what will work.

I left that table happy that I didn’t purchase from them.

That, and two shakes of a leg later, we had seen most of the show. We watched a loc’ed fashion show – the hair looked lovely – and a pan artist perform and by that time, we were ready to go home.

My biggest complaint is that I would have liked to have seen different types of natural hair – not just locs and sisterlocs – but some loose natural styles like doing braid outs or twist outs. Maybe include some stylists who focus on different types of loose natural hair and could do hair analysis. I would have definitely liked to have seen some of the local bloggers and vloggers who are a wealth of knowledge. I’m certainly not talking about myself, but there are some awesome natural hair bloggers and vloggers in Toronto who would have added more depth to the show. I would have liked to have seen a main stage discussion about hair politics or even have the discussion later in the day so that more people could have taken part.

My thoughts on the show? I thought it was a great idea and I’m glad I went (although I think $15 was a bit much for what we got). I’m planning to go next year because I’m sure that it will be bigger and better. But for this year? I think the execution could have been better. I’m not dissing it or the organizers – I think they did an awesome job (better than anything that I could put together), but everything can be improved upon, right?

So, did any of you go to the show? What did you think?

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. r*dean [myaliasfotography] says:

    i heard about it but didn’t go. hadn’t planned to, because of no time and no money either. and i really wouldn’t have enjoyed it, if as you say, there really wasn’t any hair education going on – cause then it’s just a big shopping fair – and i don’t like crowds at the best of times 🙂

    that’s interesting that it is apparently still predominately loc’d hair represented. Funny about their comment on your friends twists – my sister has gone natural and is sporting a short twist out fro. A woman at her work – who has dreds – keeps asking her when she’s going to dred and that her hair will never grow like ‘this’. Still a lot of ignorance out there.

    Still a lot of education needed. Black woman literally need to completely re-learn how to care for there hair/learn how their natural hair truly behaves. Yes, there is time and commitment involved, but once you commit, it’s such a freedom 🙂

  2. Stephie says:

    Amen, amen, amen to this post! My sentiments exactly. My high hopes for the show fell FLAT. I loved how the artistry of locs were higlighted at the show however the show did NOT explore all avenues of natural hair. .

    I went with two friends of mine both of whom, loc their hair. They both attended the LOC 101 session while I browsed through the vendors. I was especially disappointed at the lack of knowledge and slight ignorance re: naptural hair. A vendor even attempted to sell me a product that clearly had chemical components to it. When I mentioned the obvious and told her that I was chemical free. She gave me a blank look and then tried to push her foolishness on another soul. Again this is no fault to the organizers of the show. I do believe the intent was a FABULOUS idea and for the most part served its purpose. My expectation for the next one is not to focus just a minimal view on being natural.

    I did enjoy the various shows and entertainment that was provided. It was a nice twist. Although the raffle was riddiculous. They could have hidden thise technical difficulties from the audience..*SMH*

  3. zainab1 says:

    This looks like sooooo much fun, I hope to go to one in my area one day:(…hopefully soon:).

    Thanks for sharing and BTW, QB alma & olive …the business, I use NOTHING else, best moisturizer I have found yet!

    take care

    zainab1
    AuNaturale007.blogspot.com

  4. Stephanie says:

    As the Founder/and Co-Producer of the Toronto Natural Hair & Beauty Show, I would first all say thank you for writing your honest review about the show, and also thank you for attending the show.

    We depend heavily on reviews, feedbacks, and constructive criticism, to improve on the show.

    First, I want to say that, it has been my goal since the very first show in 2003, to show the diversity of natural hair not only locs. I have been natural for 8 years now, and have sported, locs, twists, braids, bantu knots, and an afro, therefore I know that there is a variety of styles that one can wear when there hair is natural.

    The problem that we have, when organizing the show is that: 1. The people that say that are “natural hair stylist” are actually loc stylist.
    2. When I have met people who can style “loose” natural hair, they don’t want to participate in the hair showcase. 3. The people who are willing to participate in the hair showcase, that can style loose hair, live in the U.S. and what’s the point of having them come here if attendee’s can’t even visit them after the show.

    We really need help, from the natural hair community in Toronto, to help us seek out the experts amongst us. I am begging you PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, if you know where the natural hair stylist are, let us know, so that we can contact them, as well as the vloggers, and bloggers.

    The coconut oil issue, that not even right! boy, some people will do or say anything just to make a dollar. I am soooooooo sorry about that.

    My number is 647-857-8684 my email is torontonaturals@gmail.com
    the name is Stephanie.

    Peace & Nappiness!

    1. urbansista says:

      Thanks for commenting! Like I said, I thought the show was great — I definitely will be supporting it in the years to come. It’s unfortunate that stylists don’t want to participate. I think it would be an awesome way to connect with people in the natural hair community if you are a natural hair stylist. People are ALWAYS asking for natural hair stylists.

      Thanks for your contact info — I’ll use it when I come across natural hair stylists, bloggers and vloggers.

      As for the vendor, you can’t do anything with people who just want to make a dollar 😦 But I didn’t let that didn’t put the show in a negative light.

  5. Rhonda says:

    Thanks so much for this insightful post. It was great to see you back at the GuavaLeaf table. Whenever you’re ready for a broughtupsy tshirt… just holler! Thanks for once again highlighting our products.

    p.s as a natural non-loc’d sister, I’ll be following closely to see how we can bridge the information gap. Looking forward to next year’s show.

    Regards
    Rhonda

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