Ava Pearl is the epitome of taking lemons and creating them into lemonade. In her case, the lemons are the curly community, and the lemonade is her first annual event, CurlyConLA, which makes its West Coast debut on November 4, 2023. As a former influencer, Ava is all too familiar with the trial and error that can come with breaching the steep learning curve of the natural hair world. Between trying to understand your hair type, texture, regimen, and which products can turn your curls from drab to fab, it can be overwhelming and confusing.
Ava identified this familiar feeling and pivoted her brand from focusing on her experience as an individual to creating an inclusive digital space for the entire community. This weekend, she’s removing the digital barrier and making her vision of community, curls, and candid conversation a reality with CurlyConLA. As one of the first major curly events to be hosted in Los Angeles, CurlyConLA invites attendees to unite and connect throughout the day with celebrity-hosted panels and live demonstrations. Celebrity hosts like Ashely Everett and Eva Marcille will lead discussions on microaggressions in Hollywood and navigating the pressures of wearing straight hair. This all-day event will also feature live demonstrations like a “Mommy and Me” panel in addition to a “Big Chop” that will bring education and awareness to universal struggles within the community.
We sat down to chat with Ava about the ideation behind CurlyConLA, her entrepreneurial journey, and what attendees can look forward to from this event.
How did you begin your hair journey?
My natural hair journey began in 2019 when I decided to do the big chop after years of damage from blowouts and bleach. I was done with the dead ends and cut it off on my YouTube channel, which led to me discovering my hair regimen and working to get it healthy. To this day, I’ve never put heat on it again. I went through all the classic naturalista essentials, like sleeping with a silk scarf, using a wide-tooth comb, and figuring out what worked best for my curls. It has been an empowering journey because our hair is important to our identity, and I feel most confident when I wear mine naturally.
What were some of the biggest obstacles or challenges you encountered throughout your journey?
“For me, natural hair is like a box of chocolates, so to speak; you never know what you’ll get. I’m not a short hair person, so when I did the big chop, I was very self-conscious and had to adjust to that new style. I needed to embrace the daily imperfections, whether it was dealing with the frizz or each curl not forming the same. It can be so tempting to straighten it or slick it back in a bun because the vision doesn’t match what’s in your head.”
What experiences did you have as an influencer that helped your development as a businesswoman?
Being an influencer/creator has been a major part of how I formed CurlyCulture on YouTube and built out CurlyConLA. As a former YouTuber, I understood all the intricacies of monetizing, developing brand relationships, and connecting with fellow curlies, which is important and helped me transition into a better businesswoman. I could hone my YouTube skills to promote the event on camera or get granular with how I wanted the event space to look.
You transitioned your channel from focusing on individual content to community topics with CurlyCulture; what inspired the name and repositioning?
I wanted a brand I could own but didn’t have to be the face of all the time. I wanted to do a play on words with interloping Cs, so CurlyCulture was born. I wanted to dive deeper into the natural hair world but didn’t know where to start. I considered making products, but we have enough on the shelves. I realized it was more important to have a platform where curlies could get together, learn, connect, and develop authentic offline relationships. Once I saw that need for community, I wanted to create a platform that could be a hub for curly hair creators. I’ve never been to an event where all of us were in the same room, and I identified a huge need for that. The more people I talk to, the more it becomes apparent that there are interconnecting experiences and stories we all share.
We’ve seen various curly events hosted throughout the country. Why is having a curly event on the West Coast important?
A curly event on the West Coast is imperative because it’s a melting pot out here between Latinas, Persians, Black women, and mixed-race families. It’s so odd because there has never been a curly event in L.A. We’re the first group tackling that. I get a lot of moms who may not be the same race as their child who approaches me wanting tips and tricks to do their child’s hair. Those interactions inspired the “Mommy and Me” panel we’ll be having with a live demonstration where we’ll be styling a young girl’s hair on the stage. She’s Black and Asian, and her mom has straight hair, so even that distinction is important to educate people about.
Many prominent figures from the natural hair community are featured on panels at this event. Why is putting influencers at the forefront of these conversations meaningful?
Many of the influencers we chose focused on hair content. I wanted people who had done the research, had the communities, and had the expertise to speak to attendees and their struggles confidently. I’m very excited about one of our panels called “Behind the Industry: “ which focuses on microaggressions that celebrities and actresses with textured hair go through on set versus other people. Eva Marcille will be moderating that panel and has her journey to share as she’s been a prominent figure in the industry since she won America’s Top Model. We didn’t want to choose any celebrity; we wanted it to be community-based.
With hosts like Eva Marcille, who wears locs, it seems you’ve intentionally been inclusive at this event. Why is it important to destigmatize the perceptions around natural hair?
I grew up in Los Angeles, a melting pot of different cultures, and initially, I had pushback around not making this centered on women of color or one specific texture. I wanted this to be multicultural, inclusive, and span the entire spectrum of hair from 2A-4C. There is a panel for every type of texture, and that was important to me because there can often be a lot of discourse online between hair types.
What shaped the topics and panels you’ve chosen for your event?
The day starts with a scalp and hair growth panel with a licensed cosmetologist who will be on hand to provide their expertise. We’ll then transition into a panel regarding choosing the right products for your hair and why understanding ingredients is so important. The next panel will be moderated by Ashely Everett, who will discuss what it’s like being pressured to straighten your hair within our community. Finally, Eva Marcille will be leading the Behind The Industry panel I mentioned earlier before we transition into live demonstrations outside.
What can attendees look forward to at the event?
The first 200 people who arrive will receive complimentary flower crowns in addition to live photo activations that will be available throughout the event. There will be complimentary frose and vegan roll ice cream and garden bars for some casual daytime sipping.
This is the first annual event for CurlyConLA; what can future attendees look forward to next year?
This year will be elevated and classy, but next year, we want to expand it and make it larger with a marketplace featuring popular curly brands and local vendors.
Missed our live conversation with Ava? Check out our Leaders in Curls chat below.