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?
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.
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.
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.
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?