Local event encourages black women to celebrate their natural hair

As a child growing up in Dayton, Lauren Ashleigh Holland said she had “spongey” hair that couldn't be tamed by the straightening comb her mother applied.

“I don't know how to manage your hair anymore,” Holland's mother told her.

“We weren't as educated as we are now with doing our natural hair,” Holland explained during an early-July interview. So, at 4 or 5 years old, she was given a relaxer, or a chemical straightening cream. But she longed for her natural texture, requesting styles like “puff balls” that were no longer a possibility.

“A friend of mine stopped getting relaxers because her hair was breaking off,” Holland said. “When I saw her hair, one day it was curly, the next day it was straight. It was so versatile.”

Still, Holland kept getting relaxers until she started college. “It was a struggle,” she said of growing out her “relaxed” hair in a world with fewer YouTube tutorials. And when she finally cut her hair short to speed up the process, she was anxious in public. “I felt I was hiding behind my hair,” she said. “It was like my face was front and center — all the features [and] all the flaws.”

One man's reaction sticks with her today, several years later. “I was trying to vent to him,” she said. “And his response was [something] like, ‘You shouldn't have done it.'”

Aware of ongoing stigmas associated with natural hair, both inside and outside the black community, Holland created an event, “Tender, Love and Curl,” which will take place Saturday, July 14 at 400 West Rich. Holland will facilitate conversations about natural hair in the workplace, how natural hair is viewed in relationships and other topics.

“That's something I really want to discuss at my event: the spaces that we take up and how it affects us mentally and emotionally,” she said.

Hosted as part of Holland's holistic wellness coaching business — BeLeigh Inspired — the event will also feature giveaways and an on-site food truck. Local, black-owned hair care and beauty businesses will be on hand to discuss their products.

“If you don't know what brands are in your community that could help you care for your hair, that can cause anxiety,” Holland said. “I want us to really connect with people.”

Ultimately, Holland wants black women to celebrate their hair, as she has come to do. “What I've learned with natural hair, especially mine, [is] it still changes [texture],” she said. “I get frustrated. … [But] I think I'm pretty comfortable. I love my hair.”