Shades of Beauty Live 2018: the beauty event celebrating blackness

Images by Shades of Beauty Live

Over the bank holiday weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Shades of Beauty Live event held at Lindley Hall, Central London.

Founded by British-Nigerian sister duo Grace and Christina Adesina, Shades of Beauty was two days filled with workshops, free hairstyling and panel talks featuring popular YouTubers, bloggers, podcasters as well as top skin care professionals. Among them included authors of the highly acclaimed book, Slay in Your Lane, Audrey and Tolly T of The Receipts Podcast and other influencers who took to the beautifully decorated stage to talk about their stories.

Panellists varying in age and experience, ready and willing to bust myths about melanin and sun cream, give their skin routines, their personal experiences on religion and beauty blended with bursts of laughter and what felt like a genuine, much-needed girl talk session.

“Panelists varying in age and experience, ready and willing to bust myths about melanin and sun cream, give their skin routines, their personal experiences on religion and beauty blended with bursts of laughter”

As I entered the venue, I was pleasantly surprised at the level of detail that went into all the different aspects of the event. From the on-job security guards to the content and quality of the goody bags and booklet. The ex-events coordinator in me couldn’t help but be impressed by the little details hidden in the centre-pieces as well as the bigger details including exhibitor choices, especially since it was self-funded by the Adesina sisters.

Despite the joy that came with receiving freebies filled with eyeshadow palettes, leave-in conditioners and body oils I didn’t know I really needed, what warmed my heart was the fact I was able to enjoy myself in a space where my hair wasn’t politicised. A space where I could leave my afro out without worrying if an unknown pair of hands were going to try and explore it without my permission but the best part was being in a room with hundreds of people who understood exactly what I’m talking about.

Dotted around the main hall were various stations displaying make-up, skin and hair products dedicated to people who look like me. Men could purchase their beloved beard oils and receive fresh shape-ups and trims whilst the ladies were able to find foundation that matched their skin tone, get a complimentary big chop and even get their hair styled too. For once we weren’t an afterthought in a company’s hair or beauty range; our well-being was their inspiration.

During a conversation with, Anu Obe, the founder of To All My Black Girls, I asked why she started the natural hair extensions company and she responded: “it’s important for black women to have natural hair extensions that match their own…encourages them to appreciate their own texture and not manipulate it to suit what’s seen as the standard for hair”.

For me, Shades of Beauty Live wasn’t just an exhibition of black-owned businesses, neither was it just a chance to fangirl over some of my favourite influencers in person. It was an opportunity to ask all the questions I’ve wanted to ask but been too embarrassed to ask. I was finally able to find out about the right hair products for myself without a South Asian man dismissing my comments and responding with “everything is fine for your hair”.

“What warmed my heart was the fact I was able to enjoy myself in a space where my hair wasn’t politicised”

I loved that actual experts and businesswomen were willing to take the time to explain things to me including The Glowpot Director, Ofome Eyanagho and Naturally Tribal Founder, Shalom Lloyd on how to improve my skincare and I felt safe enough to ask the questions in the first place.  As much as millennials like to use the line “I feel so seen” as banter, myself included, in those moments, I truly did.

Having exhausted myself for five hours deliberating what to purchase, what workshop to attend and what panel to listen in on, on my way out I bumped into a Mother who attended the event with her five-year-old, and I couldn’t help but ask what made her want to bring her child to an event like this, she responded: “This is going to be part of her world…she needs to know what she can do with her hair and see the women she can aspire to be like.”

If there was no other reason for an event like Shades of Beauty Live to exist, that response in itself should be good enough for anyone.

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