This Saturday, September 17, CURLFEST by the Curly Girl Collective is bringing back their Roller Set skating and dance party to Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Since 2014, the annual CURLFEST event has been a staple in the natural and curly hair community for Black folks. Their last event took place in 2019 amassing 75,000 people to the festival alone. Now, after a two-year pandemic-induced hiatus, they’re back and tapping into what has been uplifting our community and getting us through the last two years: skating!
CURLFEST immediately brings to mind images of beautiful Black hairstyles ranging from braids, thick and luscious afros, to a variety of coils and textures. The event also brings eclectic fashion and great music to have you vibing throughout the entire day. I attended the event for the first time in 2018 with my friend, Amani Richardson, and I was enamored the moment I stepped foot into Prospect Park. I couldn’t help but stare at all the beautiful Black people and their amazing hairstyles.
Fast forward to 2019, I was interning for the Curly Girl Collective and I got to witness first hand how the five founders: Tracey Coleman, Melody Henderson, Gia Lowe, Simone Mair, and Charisse Higgins were able to bring this event to life. Under Higgins’s leadership, I was able to learn about how they grew the Curly Girl Collective community and what goes into marketing the brand worldwide.
Despite the pandemic isolating us more than ever, the strength of the Curly Girl Collective community survived and thrived — they continued to speak on topics beyond hair and create experiences that bring Black folks together. Unbothered spoke with co-founder Charisse Higgins about the return of CURLFEST Roller Set skate and dance party, the importance of continuing the moment of joy in the Black community, and how her hair journey evolved as a naturalista.
Unbothered: Can you share what it means to you that CURLFEST has made such an impact on the Black natural hair community?
Charisse Higgins: The way we started really humbles me. We started from an email thread because one of our good friends did a big chop and we came together as a form of resource. That commonality grew into a sisterhood and as time went on from us talking to each other all day long. We wanted to have more of these experiences or to provide these types of experiences for more people outside of our friends circle. The essence of CURLFEST is still sisterhood but we've been able to expand to Black men, boys and girls, and our grandparents. It also makes me understand how important this work is because of how beautiful we feel inside and out, especially when we're not given spaces to feel that way.
How was the Curly Girl Collective Community able to remain strong during the pandemic?
CH: The pandemic hit us hard and Curly Girl Collective has never shied away from being very transparent about that. Our entire business model is about being outside and celebrating black joy, women, and community. I was pregnant with my first child and now I have this business that can’t show up the same way it usually does. But what I loved about that time was that my partners and I really got together and thought about what was really important. Our health, love, and community, were the three things that helped remain present for our people. So we started Curly Girl Convos on Instagram live and talked to various people like Tamika Mallory, Bea Dixon, and Ursula Stephen to name a few. We also hosted virtual fitness classes on Wednesday to remain a place of resource for our community and leaning on each other during those times.
What sparked the idea for the return of CURLFEST to be centered around a roller skating and dance party? What can we expect to see at the event as well?
CH: CURLFEST Roller Set is something we actually brought back. Right before the pandemic in 2019 we moved from Brooklyn to Randall’s Island (one of the largest outdoor venues in New York City) and expanded the one day event to a weekend. One of those days we had the skating event and it was a chance for the founders to let our hair down and be more interactive with our community. During the pandemic we saw more Black people skating and the skating communities coming together to uplift more Black joy so it made sense for us to bring it back especially since we remembered how it made us feel. We want our community to come out and enjoy themselves and they can definitely expect good energy, music, and of course hair products.
You’ve personally never shy away from switching your hairstyle up, can you share what your hair journey was like during the pandemic?
CH: I was pregnant throughout the entire pandemic and growing out my short cut. Oddly enough, for some reason it was important to me to still do my hair and I started rewatching youtube again. Prior I always tried new styles and never shy away from experimenting with my hair. I just loved showing up to Zoom hair slayed.
Are there any creatives you looked to for hairstyle inspirations? Which type of hair products do you prefer to use when styling your hair?
CH: Yes, MsVaughnTv on youtube had just cut her hair and I watched her a lot because I believe we have similar hair textures. I relied on one of her videos to teach myself how to do knotless braids. I attempted various styles from crochet to twist outs and I found that when it comes to products I usually have to do a concoction because my hair is finer even though it's a lot of hair.