Curlfest 2023 returned to New York City this past weekend following a three-year hiatus, and the kinks, curls and protective styles were in full effect.
Curlfest is the largest natural beauty festival in the country, providing safe spaces for Black women to celebrate their hair, beauty and culture.
The day-long event was held Saturday on Randall’s Island in New York City, featuring over 100 small businesses, name-brand sponsors, food vendors, art and music for attendees to enjoy.
This year’s theme was called “The Bounce Back.”
Blavity chatted with co-founders Charisse Higgins, Simone Mair and Melody Henderson, who deemed the event “the biggest reunion in curl history.”
“Yeah, it’s special this year because it’s been three years. It’s been three years since we’ve all been on the Curlfest lawn. The last time we were all together was in 2019,” Higgins told Blavity.
She continued: “And soon after that, it was amazing because we did New York, and then we also did Atlanta; and everyone came out and then the pandemic happened, and although we had other events, we miss seeing everybody hugging everybody. It’s a reunion. So we are very excited to be back on the lawn for the biggest reunion in curl history.”
Fitness experts Anowa Adjah and Cassandra Nuamah hosted the event alongside DJs Moresoupplease, Young Chow, Power 105.1’s Suss One and GabSoul. The empowerment stage featured speakers, including journalist and television host Tamron Hall, who talked about Black women leading in the beauty industry, Black beauty legislation and Black-owned beauty brands.
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Curly Girl Collective and Curlfest were created by Higgins, Mair, Henderson, Gia Lowe and Tracey Coleman, who wanted to change the narrative around Black women and natural hair.
During a pre-event press conference, the trio was joined by Elle beauty director Danielle James, and they talked about the brand’s inception and why it remains at the forefront for young Black girls and women.
The group was inspired to launch the brand after a college friend cut off her hair and went natural. They held their first event in 2010, with community members demanding more events in the near future.
“We decided we gotta meet the demands. Let’s do something that reaches more people, let’s find a venue that can reach more people. We were thinking 500 people would show up,” Higgins said.
Since then, they’ve held annual events in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, Randall’s Island and the Legacy Center near Atlanta. When asked if they would take the festival to other states, the trio said they were open to expanding the brand.
“That’s always been on our vision board,” Higgins said. “I mean, you should see our vision board. We have so many amazing ideas and thoughts about the way we can expand on Curlfest.”
The co-founder confirmed there might be a Curlfest tour in the near future.
Curlfest is undoubtedly one of the hottest festivals in New York in the summertime. It’s a time for all melanated people to celebrate one another and share how the event has changed their lives.
“When we have a conversation with one person that says their attendance at this event changed their life in some way, or impacted their life in some way, that’s enough,” Mair said. “That’s enough for us to say, ‘This is needed, and we need to keep pushing forward.'”