By Lyndell Harris | For AC JosepH Media
ATLANTIC CITY — High spirits filled the room of the Atlantic City Showboat Hotel as professional African Americans displayed a mix of goods and showcased great talent at The Black Excellence Festival, also known as BEFEST 2023, over the Juneteenth weekend.
One of the festival’s hallmark events was its Black Hair Show, organized by cosmetology veteran Lisa Motley and her assistant Lakecha Dionne. Hair for many African Americans has long been an expression of culture — and in some cases has had to be protected by law.
For the past 29 years, Motley has worked with other African American women as a licensed professional. Motley and Dionne moved the Black Excellence crowd with beauty and grace as they styled the hair of audience members live on stage.
During the show, they conducted men and women giveaways, conducted a hair care Q&A, and gave opportunities for attendees to purchase goods their showcased hair care products and others.
Motley, a South Carolina native, said she believes that Black hair in its natural texture is the best.
“The thickness of Black Hair is good hair,” Motley said.
Motley said she has found the hair of her clients damaged by perms, dyes, and over usage from other chemicals which can take away from its original beauty. She created and sells her own hair care products at Visionary Silk Collection, which can be found at Amazon and Walmart Market.
Dionne’s hair care focus goes beyond styling but into coaching, mentorship, serving as a creative director and motivational speaker. She served as emcee for the hair show. During the event, she engaged all her audience members and many consumers as they walked by.
Black hair has been in the news lately with efforts by some entities to curb those cultural expressions and laws to protect it. More than a dozen states have passed CROWN Acts that prohibits discrimination based upon a person’s hair texture or hairstyle because African American women described how they were passed up for jobs and promotions based on their hairstyle.
Dionne described trying to figure out what to do with her life a 16-year-old mother when a friend told her she was going to hair school.
“So, I decided to go hair school too,” Dionne said. “I started doing my mother’s hair in our kitchen and 20 years later I’m glad I did it. I’m also proud to say that through my hard work in the hair industry, it’s afforded me the opportunity to support my daughter Montia Shardae.”
Montia is the first Black woman in Fayetteville, N.C. to open an Esthetics school.
“When people tell you don’t do it, do it anyway,” she said. “Black Hair is our Crown!”
Rufus Spiral, of Willingboro, was a winner of the Father’s Day men’s hair basket. He said he feels Black hair is important and Black hair is very particular to Black women because they “want to look good.”
Jocelyn Perry, of Burlington, is the owner of Beauty Speaks Salon. She said she enjoys being at the hair show. Perry is also the author of the book “Take off the Mask,” which focuses on intimate conversations with women as they were getting their hair styled. The book’s release date will be announced soon,
Dorset Powell, also of Burlington, is a veteran licensed hairstylist. Powell said the biggest change in Black hair is education.
“There’s more information about how to care and treat Black hair,” Powell said. “I can tell if my client’s water intake is low due to hair hydration, shedding of hair and know what conditioners to use or mix for hair success. My client’s hair talks to me.”
Black hairstyles and techniques are rooted in Africa and continue to transcend the way people view Black hair today. The attitude of the Black hair stylist is all heart, experience, knowledge, and unlimited expressions of creativity. The hair stylist that holds the hair tools is the essence of their client’s vision. Black hair is Black excellence.
Lyndell Harris is a community reporter for Stories of Atlantic City. This is her first story for Front Runner New Jersey.com.
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