Hello my Naturalistas!
The 3rd Annual Natural Hair Academy Paris was held on Saturday 15th March 2014 at L’Espace Tapis Rouge in Paris!
As you know I had made a decision not to go to any more “Natural Hair Events” but I really wanted to see if France could offer anything different to the UK Natural Hair events I’ve been to in the past.
I paid for my everything myself on this trip -unless I specifically state something was free, I mention this so you know that my review/recap is honest and non-biased, I did not have a wristband or VIP access to the event. I’m not saying that VIP’s are dishonest I’m just making it clear that I haven’t been paid or “gifted” to write this review.
When purchasing tickets to the event there were three options:
Option one – The Felicia Leatherwood Workshop 35.00 Euros
Option two – The Monroe Sisters & Clarisse Libene Workshop 35.00 Euros
Option three – All of the workshops 60.00 Euros
Although I had never heard of the Monroe Sisters or Clarisse Libene before the event I decided to Purchase the 60 Euro ticket so that I could fully experience the event. I went to Paris with my Mum so I bought her an all-workshops ticket too.
Before booking my accommodation I contacted the organiser Gwladys and asked for some tips on where to stay and if the workshops would be in both French and English, Gwladys was extremely helpful and answered all of my many questions leading up to the event itself.
Gwladys also invited me to the NHA Launch/Cocktail party which was held at the venue the evening before the main event.
The Cocktail party was due to start at 18:30 but everything wasn’t quite ready on time, that wasn’t a big issue as there were enough punctual guests there for me to mix & mingle with and practice my French on!
I met a couple of the French Bloggers I follow:
The Cocktail Party was really a Panel discussion -entitled Curls and Discussion the subject matter was of course Hair more specifically wearing your natural hair with confidence, the panel also told us personal hair anecdotes.
The discussion was hosted by the delightfully witty, elegant and bilingual Clarisse Libene founder of Bellebene (far left with the microphone and black & white head wrap.)
The beauties on the Panel were (from left to right) : Kelly Masso founder of French hair brand Les Secrets de Loly, Kelly J the founder of Natural Girls Rock, The Monroe Sisters, Felicia Leatherwood and Fatou- French Blogger and beauty editor of Ghubar Magazine.
Les Secrets de Loly were also giving all the attendees the opportunity to receive a free gift of a hydrating repairing mist and a customised 100% natural hair masque, we were able to select an “active ingredient” such as hydration, silkening, or protein and a fragrance I won’t list all of the fragrances but I chose the White Tea fragrance and it smells lovely, I can’t wait to try it out!
After the discussion Mum and I went to grab some hot food and go to bed we’d had a long day after a long week at work…
We were staying in the gorgeous bijou L’Horset Opera Hotel which is on Rue d’Antin, 5 minutes’ walk away from the famous Parisian Opera House.
The Opera Metro station is right in front of the Palais Garnier so it was really easy for us to get around the city, while we were in Paris their entire public transport system was free because there were record levels or air pollution in the city and the government wanted to try and encourage people to leave their cars at home and use public transport.
The Parisian Metro system was very easy to navigate, but maybe that’s because I understand quite a bit of French and I’m used to London’s complicated underground network and NYC’s crazy Subways!
The Metro was a bit basic – you have to open the doors yourself (I hate touching anything on public transport and wore gloves the whole time)
Some of the doors only have a metal latch that can operate the doors whilst the train is in motion! I jumped off quite a few moving trains over the weekend, once the train was in a station and had slowed down of course!
The trains were also a bit old and grubby with lots of graffiti and the aroma of urine lingering in most carriages (bearing in mind we only used lines 7 and 9 the entire weekend.)
The Main Event
There were 3 main workshops for the day, each workshop ran concurrently and repeated 3 times so that all of the ticket holders could attend their workshops, it would have been a nightmare to have all 1000+ attendees in one room for each workshop and I don’t think there was an auditorium large enough any way.
If my explanation seems complicated please look at my table below: the timings and room numbers are not exact but you should get a better idea of how it worked.
|Room 1||Monroe Sisters||Clarisse Libene||Felicia Leatherwood|
|Room 2||Clarisse Libene||Felicia Leatherwood||Monroe Sisters|
|Room 3||Felicia Leatherwood||Monroe Sisters||Clarisse Libene|
The Monroe sisters are very pretty (as you can see) and they both have full heads of natural hair, so they each know what works for their hair.
I found their workshop to be better suited to newly naturals or women who haven’t done their own research about hair already. The Monroe Sisters had a live protective styling demo on a girl they picked out of the audience, I was impressed by Ms Vaughn’s ability to style hair live on stage while answering questions from the audience and with everything being translated into French simultaneously but the finished style was not to my taste, plus I would have liked to see the demo on a girl with shorter hair, or a transitioner – I think that would have been more useful but I’m aware that they only had a certain amount of time for each workshop.
After the demo, the Monroe sisters shared their hair regimen with the audience I always think that telling people your own hair regimen can be a bit of a red herring and give newbies false hope because- as we all know everyone’s hair is different and what works for one Naturalista would not necessarily work for everyone else. A basic instruction on what steps can be included in our hair regimen is definitely useful for newly naturals but copying someone else’s exact hair regimen and thinking that your hair will turn out exactly like theirs is never a good idea. The Monroe sisters plugged the Huetiful steamer at every opportunity but that is to be expected as Huetiful sponsor them, they even showed a video showing how to use the steamer as part of their workshop the video was mute but there was a French voice over, considering that the Monroe sisters are not fluent in French themselves I think they could have at least had English subtitles on the video but maybe they did not have any control over that element of production.
My next workshop wasn’t until 13:45 so I wandered over to the Phyto Specific “Hair Diagnostic” area, I was able to walk straight in and talk to Kathy Jean-Louis, the director of Phyto Specifc she was very knowledgeable about the brand and how it was developed. I didn’t intend to buy any hair products on this trip as I am as self-confessed Product Junkie and my Husband had to build me a special shelf just to house all of my hair products. Ms Jean-Louis didn’t try to sell me anything and there weren’t actually any products lined up anywhere, It was really nice not to feel pressured into buying anything, instead Ms J-L asked me if I wanted a hair diagnostic so I sat down with one of her colleagues who used a high-powered microscope with a live camera and monitor to examine my hair and scalp close up. The lady who was doing my hair diagnosis only spoke a little English but since I speak a bit of French I managed to understand my hair diagnosis. I learned that my scalp and hair were well nourished and hydrated, I have a mixture of fine and medium hair strands and lower down on my strands – towards the tips my cuticles are frayed and damaged but my hair is not snapping off at the ends.
I know my ends are bad because of the chemical damage from colouring my hair if you read my blog then you know that I am transitioning out of this chemical damage without big chopping my hair again, I simply coloured my ends Black with a gentle powder box colour and I’m keeping it moving. The hair diagnosis lady recommended a few Phyto Specific products I might like to try and I bought a few of them, the actual products were stored behind a screen partition and there was a desk where I could make my purchases the whole experience was really interesting and not rushed or pressured, I even got a couple of free gifts, a beige patent bag- which is guess is to store make-up or products since it has no handles and a free sample of the Phyto Specific deep treatment bath.
Later in the day the queue for the Phyto Specific hair diagnostic was so long it snaked down the grand staircase and into the main hall, I think they were a victim of their own success a couple of my friends waited for over 3 hours in that queue!
The Clarisse Libene workshop was in partnership with the “Jane Carter Solution” Jane Carter was there by the side of the stage but she was more of a silent partner – at least in my version of the workshop. Lisa Price the founder of Carol’s Daughter was also invited on stage to say a few words.
Although Clarisse is fluent in English she did not give any part of her workshop in English and there was no English translation at all which was a real shame because with my limited French I could only understand 50-60% of Clarisse’s workshop and even then I found it to be the most interesting and informative workshop of the day. Clarisse’s workshop actually went into the science of our hair and the different growth cycles she also talked about the internal and external factors that can affect both hair growth and retention.
I personally found Clarisse’s workshop the most helpful because rather than just go on about how she washes her own hair and what products she uses, Clarisse actually gave honest factual and practical information that any woman, relaxed or natural could understand and in some cases implement. At the end of Clarisse’s workshop there was an informative quiz with multiple choice questions, at the end of the quiz Clarisse gave everyone the correct answers so they could mark their scores down and the girls who had the best scores were rewarded with a full sized Jane Carter product each.
My last workshop of the day was the Felicia Leatherwood “Loving Your Hair With Natural Care “workshop. Felicia’s workshop was really good, before she started her workshop Lisa Price the founder of Carol’s Daughter came on stage to say a few words, Lisa was really sweet and humble and just said a few words about how she started her company (with body products first not hair products) and she said she was really happy to be part of the event and glad to see to many different women representing so many types of beautiful.
Felicia started off by selecting girls from the audience and explaining their hair types and what kind of regime/styling suits each hair type, apparently the way to accurately assess your hair type is when your hair is wet. Felicia also gave lots of helpful information regarding going to hairstylists, how to detangle your hair and when to trim your hair – when the season changes so 4 times per year. Felicia recommends that Jamaican Black Castor Oil is applied to your scalp not your hair at least three times per week where it can be absorbed into your scalp and act as a fertiliser for your follicles. Felicia also did 3 live hair demonstrations on girls from the audience and showed us how to recreate this gorgeous style she did on Teyonah Parris’ natural tresses:
Roughly one week prior to the event we were emailed and given the opportunity to enter our tickets into a draw for a bonus workshop given by the famous Taren Guy (aka Taren916 on YouTube).
My tickets were chosen in the draw and I made sure I entered the hall early so I could actually get a seat. This was the only workshop where tickets were actually checked!
Taren’s workshop started a little bit late but it wasn’t too bad, Taren (and her hair) looked fabulous as usual.
Taren was glowing with her pregnancy and she looked very comfortable in skyscraper heels and skinny jeans with a loose denim-look silk embellished top.
As for the actual content of Taren’s “workshop” I will just say that I don’t think I was her target audience… Taren told us about her hair journey (like most of her subscribers I’ve heard it already on YT) Taren also invited two girls from the audience who don’t like their hair texture and spoke to them about why they don’t like their textures but also what they do like about their textures.
I was glad to get the opportunity to attend Taren’s very popular “Love and Learn your Hair” workshop,
I am subscribed to Taren’s YT channel and I know she has toured with her workshop so I was interested to see what all of the Hype was about, but at NHA Paris Taren herself admitted that she is not a hair expert and she usually has a stylist with her on tour to answer specific hair related questions. Most of the women in the audience were acting as if Taren is the Beyoncé of the “Natural Hair Community” and queued up for ages after the workshop to take photos with her, in fact as Taren entered the hall before she started the workshop, the room was illuminated with hundreds of flashes as if the room was full of Paparazzi! I have respect and admiration for every sister doing it for herself but I don’t fawn over people or make a big fuss over “celebrities.”
As well as the three main ticketed workshops there were also free workshops given by Mixed Chicks and Huetiful. On the ground floor there were many pop-up shops representing hair and beauty brands. Les Secrets de Loly also did a live big chop but I missed the actual chopping.
I didn’t attend the free workshops because in between my paid workshops, I was eating and shopping with my Mum, networking with other NHA attendees and exploring the nearby area in Paris’ 10th Arrondissement including Boulevard de Strasbourg also known as “Black Paris” but I (affectionately) nicknamed the area “Black Sister’s Street” because of the way most of the female workers in the Salons were dressed and after the novel “On Black Sister’s Street “by Chika Unigwe- it is an excellent novel and I highly recommend it. *
I digress please forgive me… All in all I did enjoy NHA Paris but there are a few aspects that could be improved upon. I would attend again but I would carefully think about which workshops I would attend to get the most benefit, value for money and enjoyment. I enjoyed the networking aspect of the event and will definitely be returning to Paris to build upon some of the relationships I formed last weekend and to further explore the city.
The Good, The Bad & The Beautiful
One thing I thought was particularly good is that each workshop was signed for at least one session, I believe it was only in French Sign Language but it was still fantastic as I have been to countless Natural Hair events and none of them have been signed. Kudos to you for arranging that Gwladys.
The Event was the best Natural Hair Event I have been to so far, the vendors were not pushy and trying to shove products down your throat.
The Venue which I believe translates to The Red Carpet Space – was gorgeous and large enough to accommodate every one without feeling clautrophobic or cramped.
All of the advertised speakers were actually there on the day!
Gwladys the organiser was at the event all day and was checking if we were ok and enjoying ourselves.
The toilets were well maintained and cleaned throughout the day.
I bought 2 tickets for all of the main workshops at 60 Euros each. What really annoyed me is that once you were in E’Space Tapis Rouge tickets were not checked again, so people who had only paid for the cheaper tickets were able to get into all of the paid workshops or people were attending workshops they had paid for but at the wrong time -subsequently there were not enough seats in each of the workshops and I ended up standing in a couple of the workshops, I asked one of the NHA representatives/translators about this and I was rudely told that “we intentionally oversold the seats so if you do not have a seat that is your own problem” (I did ask Gwladys the organiser about this and she informed me that seats were not intentionally oversold.) Either way that was really disorganised and unfair to people who had paid full price for the same workshops that other people were getting into for free.
There was a lot of security around inside the venue and near the doors to each workshop but I don’t know what their purpose was because they certainly were not checking tickets!
The temperature in each workshop was either freezing or sweltering.
There was nowhere in the venue to sit down and just chill, to eat your snacks or whatever so many girls were sitting all over the floor and stairs.
The day was way too long, by the time it was Taren’s workshop Mum and I were so tired, it really was a very long day but at the same time there were not enough hours to see and hear everything that was going on.
All of my sisters! It was fantastic to be in such a grand space with so many beautiful women and there was so much positivit in the atmosphere.
Merci beaucoup Gwladys pour une telle journée agréable et bien remplie!
Thanks for Reading!
*I am aware of the seriousness of the topics covered in the novel. I am not making light of these issues, I am referring to the visual aspect when looking at the particular street in Paris.