Video by Evelyn Ngugi

About 300 curlies gathered yesterday in Austin, Texas, for the Natural Hair Celebration hosted by NaturallyCurly and Miss Jessie’s. The celebration was an “in-person culmination of the online Grow-out Challenge” started in October by the two companies, Crista Bailey, NaturallyCurly CEO, said.

The Miss Jessie’s Grow-Out Challenge came from a need that NaturallyCurly saw for an environment in which transitioners and others who wished to go natural could go for advice and support.

“There’s strength in numbers,” Bailey said. “[Transitioning] isn’t an easy thing. People say it’s just hair, but it’s not, right? It’s tied to your being.”

The celebration was a chance for all the women who came together through the Grow-Out Challenge online to come together face to face, get more support for their natural journey, learn more about how to use Miss Jessie’s products and of course, meet the stars behind Miss Jessie's.

A beautiful mother and daughter attended the event.

Titi and Miko Branch are hairstylists and entrepreneurs from New York who started their own product line in response to the need they saw, not just for products, but also for methods and style tips that would help make the transitioning and natural process easier for women.

“A lot of women would go natural and then go right back to relaxed ‘cause they just didn’t know what to do with their hair,” Titi said. “What we think that Miss Jessie’s has done, what we’ve tried to do, is we’ve tried to support women who are making that transition and show them ways that they can actually make their natural hair, their textured hair, look good.”

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The two sisters began their journey with natural hair in 2000 when Miko started experimenting with curly hair.

“The more she experimented with texture, the more our clients started to kind of dig what she was doing, and the more I got on board. And at that same time, there was some sort of a movement that was going on, particularly in the black hair care industry, and in the hair care industry in general,” Titi said. “Women are just looking for ways to go back to their natural selves, to experiment with texture, to wear texture.”

The sisters named their product line after their grandmother, Miss Jessie, who Titi said introduced them to beauty at a very young age. Although Miss Jessie passed away in 2001 and didn’t get to see the line, Titi was sure that Miss Jessie was pleased.

“She’s smiling down on us now,” she said as the audience clapped.

As Titi described their work at Miss Jessie’s and answered questions from the audience about all kinds of hair issues, Miko styled the hair of five models with different hair textures to show the many uses for Miss Jessie’s products.

Miko used Miss Jessie’s Curly Pudding to demonstrate how to style transitioning hair on My-Cherie Haley, whose hair has both natural and relaxed textures. She made Julissa Hernandez’s naturally wavy hair more curly with Miss jessie's Quick Curls creme. For Maeling Tapp, a natural hair blogger and Grow-Out Challenge participant, Miko did a dry two-strand twist-out. She did a wet twist-out for Veola Jolly. For Kabrina Mitchell Miko, used their Stretch Silkening Creme.

The curly environment, the advice, the demonstration and the Miss Jessie’s products available from CurlMart in the next room, were what many of the guests traveled to Austin in search of.

Three friends, Aleca Rush, Ashley Mitchell and Briana Mouttet, who traveled from Houston, thought the trip was worth it in the end.

“I really wish this product and [Titi and Miko] would have been out when I was younger ‘cause I believe that I would have fully embraced my hair a long time ago.” Rush, 23, said. “I’m glad that I’m here and I’m glad that I came, I’m just grateful, for the product and the people who make it.”

For Mitchell, the celebration was a lesson on “how to embrace your natural hair and not work against it.”

“I really like how they made every texture of hair just beautiful, no matter what.” Mitchell, also 23, said. “‘Cause most of the time you go places, if you have a kinky curl, it’s kind of like, there’s nothing you can do but wear an afro. But here they’ve done all kinds of textures from the girl with the kinky curl to the Hispanic girl with the wavy hair and made it curly. And they made everything just really pretty and did a really good job.”

While many of the guests came with the hopes of getting more information about the Miss Jessie’s products and about how to best style and treat their natural hair, some also came actively seeking the curly environment. One guest, Lisa McClain, 38, even came with the hopes of finding a natural hair stylist in Austin area. Lisa’s sister, Loni White, 41, noted the need for more hair events in Austin.

“Austin needs more things like this because there are more women that are wanting to transition, but don’t know how,” White said.

While there may not be as many natural hair events as Loni White may like, there are natural hair support groups all over the state of Texas, and around the globe.

Iryike Faleti, 29, came with her support group called Nappy Love Houston. Brandy Mitchell also came with members of a support group, one called Nappiology.

After years of damage and breakage with relaxer, a lot of the guests were ready to go natural and or were already there. Some guests like Lola Dlateju didn’t have time for relaxed hair. Others, like Brandy Mitchell, were “tired of that creamy crack breaking my hair off.”

Laquitta Wiggins, who’s been natural for 4 years, was inspired by her aunt telling her that autopsies on black women revealed inches of perm under the skin in their head. That little tidbit of information “scared her curly.”

All the guests had warm words for Titi and Miko Branch.

Dlateju said the sisters were “very nice people. Very committed to what they believe in.”

Titi and Miko were just as happy to see the guests as the guests were to see the sisters. “It was thrilling to see all these curlies in one room,” Titi said.

“We are really delighted to be here today. The reason that we’re here is to support you ladies and gentlemen who have decided to wear hair with texture,” Miko said.

The Natural Hair Celebration gave the sisters the chance to spread the information about their product and most importantly spend time with their supporters in Texas.

“Touching more people, that’s really what it’s all about,” Titi said.

Natural Hair Celebration - April 25, 2010
Natural Hair Celebration - April 25, 2010
Natural Hair Celebration - April 25, 2010
Natural Hair Celebration - April 25, 2010
Natural Hair Celebration - April 25, 2010
Natural Hair Celebration - April 25, 2010
Natural Hair Celebration - April 25, 2010
Natural Hair Celebration - April 25, 2010
Natural Hair Celebration - April 25, 2010