We are thrilled to be partnering with Bella Kinks founder Julian Addo to bring you the Bella Kinks DFW Natural Hair Expo this week. The Expo will be held October 21-23 at the Fashion Industry Gallery (F.I.G) in Dallas, Texas. I recently sat down to talk to Julian about her vision for this Expo and what it took to bring it together. She has invested everything (literally) into this venture and I felt so inspired just speaking to her that if her enthusiasm is any indication of what we can expect from the event, then I truly can't wait to be there.
Why did you choose to take a holistic lifestyle approach rather than concentrating on beauty or hair? What made you choose to include diet and exercise?
It’s not even just diet and exercise, it’s the whole thing. Before you even get to the diet and exercise portion of healthy living, organic natural hair, chemical free, all of these other things, you have to be a whole person. And I just tried to look at things holistically when I was deciding what to have at the Expo.
Before someone can diet and exercise they have to be in the right mental state of mind, they have to be inspired, they have to be empowered. And I think just as people, especially as women, no matter what happens outside whether it’s being at our goal weight or whatever, if we feel strong that day, if we feel empowered, we’re going to go out and exercise, we’re going to eat right, because we already feel that.
So I think looking at a person from a holistic standpoint is important. Not just the hair and beauty, the hair and beauty are extra. When you take better care of your hair, you do take better of yourself. But I think we really need to look at just empowering people to just be in a place where they feel that they can do anything and take on anything.
Before someone can diet and exercise they have to be in the right mental state of mind, they have to be inspired, they have to be empowered.
And that’s why I scheduled the Expo at for October. It’s leading into the holiday season, as we move into our New Year's goals and bettering ourselves whether it’s health, exercise, business ventures, it just makes sense to look at a person holistically.
What do you want women to get out of the Expo? What do you want them to go and take action on?
I want them to get out of it possibility. We don’t have a ton of workshops during the Expo that focus on natural hair, I think in the whole Expo we have two. What I wanted to focus on more was the person, empowerment, triumph, and overcoming. For example we have the CEO of TGIN, I reached out to her because I didn’t know that she had had cancer. I said to her I don’t know if you’re ready, but I’d love for you to come and talk about this. There are so many women who suffer in silence in this community and they don’t talk to anyone. There are women who suffer from hair loss and alopecia. So why would we go around just showing women who have full curly hair? We want to give women encouragement that they might not usually see in their day to day social media or on Instagram.
It’s not just about buying a ticket, coming to an Expo, buying a product, it’s about investing your time in someone who actually cares. Maybe you meet someone who you can partner with on a business venture or you learn something new that you can walk away.
I love what Brown Girls Do Ballet is doing, can you tell us about your partnership with them and what you're hoping to achieve at the Expo?
It’s amazing what women are doing in the country, especially minority women and women of color. When I learned that Brown Girls Do Ballet was in Dallas I connected with her and wanted to get involved with TaKiyah Wallace, she’s the founder. What they’re doing with little brown girls and minority communities is highlighting them and empowering young girls during a pivotal time in a child’s life, it’s the most innocent time, it’s when their personality forms. I love what she’s doing and I knew I had to have them perform in the Expo.
Can you tell me what inspired your theme of Royalty?
Every year I try to figure out what I want the Expo to feel like. It’s a great time in our country for African Americans and it’s a very hard time in our country. Black women, as of 2016, we’re the number one small business owners, we’re getting degrees and doing amazing things, and I know so many women who are doing amazing things but you turn on the news and you see all of this other nonsense and people getting killed for no reason. So I knew I wanted to make us feel good about ourselves again despite what was happening in our community.
I’m from Africa so I immigrated to the US when I was two years old, I always say I’m 100% African even though I didn’t grow up there, but I’m also black American I understand what they go through. I have both experiences, immigrant and black American, and one thing that I knew was missing from the black American conversation was who are we? There are lot of slavery movies and movies after slavery, but I’d never seen anything on TV or movies or anything that shows who these people were prior to slavery. And me being African I know about my culture and history, so that’s why I wanted to be able to infuse into the Expo with upscale elements that show we are a beautiful, rich people and we can get to that place again with the camaraderie that we create for ourselves. All that to say, ballet is not traditionally known for black people, Misty Copeland shattered all types of stereotypes this year. Beyond Misty we have so many young women with capabilities like Simone Biles, all of these things we’re doing that we’re not nationally recognized for, so I knew I had to have that Black Girls Do Ballet performance at the Expo. Especially with Olivia Belle, a twelve year old. I wanted to show something beautiful from a young black girl. Prior to the brown girls ballet performance we have a poem that’s going to be performed by 9 year old Ivana Holmes, of ImHolmesx2, and that’s an ode to brown girls, speaking about how they feel. Then she’ll introduce Olivia to do her really beautiful performance. I think it’s a powerful message to the children and even the parents in the audience. It’s probably one of the things I’m most excited about.
I can't wait to see it! What else are you looking forward to that’s new or different this year from last year?
Everything’s different! I’m excited about the NaturallyCurly partnership. I’m excited about Michelle Breyer being involved in it, I reached out to Michelle before the Expo even came together to see if it was something she'd be interested in so when she accepted I was beyond the moon ecstatic about that. Even though Michelle is a white woman I think she’s very instrumental in helping to push the dialogue of the textured hair community forward and moving the culture forward. NaturallyCurly plays an integral part in why we’re here today as a community, so there are so many things I’m excited about. I’m definitely excited to moderate the P.O.W.E.R. Panel. Last year it was one of the most popular sessions and I had all of the CEOs crying. It means a lot to me to have those raw, unfiltered conversations. I want it to come from a real, honest place. So I’m looking forward to the P.O.W.E.R. panel, I’m looking forward to Michelle’s keynote speech. I’m looking forward to everything!
I was willing, if I could not get funding to pull off this Expo, to pay for it myself. I had to give up my Brooklyn apartment, and I sold my house in Dallas and I moved back home with my mom. I delayed getting a place to live just in case I couldn’t find sponsorship to cover this Expo. Luckily I didn’t have to pay for it, because the universe conspired to get all of the support behind me. Brands were supporting me before they even saw the full vision. So I truly don’t take anything for granted, I really don’t. And it was scary. If I had put down my plan on paper people would have told me not to do it. It didn’t make sense on paper, but I just did it. If I had to pay for it and live with my mom and sacrifice all of these things I was willing to do that. I think God saw that I was willing to do that and He made it possible, so it’s just very overwhelming. I’m so proud.
I think the textured hair community is unique, there isn’t another community like it.
You've said that this is a really pivotal time in the natural hair movement, what do you think is special or critical about where we are right now?
I haven’t been a part of the movement the longest, I started in 2012, and there are women who've been here way longer and pioneered this thing but it’s surreal when I think about brands that started even 2 years ago. Seeing where they are and what they were able to do. You have, for the first time ever in the history of America, you have minority women who own their own products in major retail stores. When I watch what they’re doing on social media and the platforms they’re building, and seeing that big box retailers are interested in their businesses, I get so inspired by them. That’s what feeds me, if you do the work all of these things are possible. People could easily say “there’s too many hair product companies” but no, do what you believe in because everybody has their own audience.
I don’t need everybody in the world to follow me, if I get less than 0.001% of the world’s population I can still be successful. We have access to people beyond our neighborhood, community, state or even continent.
I’m excited about seeing women and our community grow and people are living their dreams and starting their own businesses and giving back to their communities. That’s something I’d like to see more of in our natural community, giving back. Maybe people are doing it on their own time but I think there’s beauty in showing those things on social media too. When people see their favorite brand or favorite blogger go out and feed the homeless they may be inspired to do the same. We’re true influencers, we influence the way people act. I think there’s a certain level of responsibility that comes with that power.
I’m happy to be a small piece in the movement and I’m looking forward to using my platform to give back and connect and grow the people around me. I think the textured hair community is unique, there isn’t another community like it. If you relax your hair you don’t have a community like we do. There’ s just nothing like the natural hair community and I’m proud of it.
Talking to you is so inspiring, I love what I do but I feel like I can go approach the rest of my work day with a new resolve.
Two years ago I was in a cubicle in corporate America, I had a great job but I was just doing a job that people told me to do. The fact that I can do good for a living now is crazy to me. It’s my passion, I’ve put in a lot of work don’t get me wrong, but it’s not as stressful or as tedious as sitting in a cubicle and reviewing things for Bank of America. I think gratitude changes my perspective on things because there are so many people who would want to do what I’m doing but they’re not because they’re paralyzed by fear. My personality is the opposite, I have my own things, but fear isn’t one of the things I suffer from. I’ll lose everything for what I believe, if I believe in the Expo I’ll invest everything in it.
It’s hard, challenging, scary, lonely, all of those things that entrepreneurship is. Being at the top of your game is lonely and you question what you’re doing, I have those days but 85% of my days I’m grateful and I jut keep pushing because I know it’s bigger than me and God will support me.
If you're feeling inspired and energized by what Julian had to say, just as I was, then you can get tickets to experience the Expo for yourself here.
As Julian said, our own Co-Founder Michelle Breyer will be giving the keynote speech and I'll be there along with our NaturallyCurly team members Gerilyn and Julissa - we can't wait to see you there!