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'Many black women look artificial!'

SHE MEANS BUSINESS: Debrose Searchwell

AS EXPLORED last week in my colleague Elizabeth Pears’ article Going Back To Their Roots, many of today’s black women are ditching weaves and relaxers and choosing to wear their hair naturally.

Keen to embrace this growing trend, entrepreneur Debrose Searchwell launched the event Natural November last year, to promote natural hair and beauty.

Since then, the show has grown from being a one-off hair event held in November, to becoming a biannual occasion, which encompasses hair and beauty products, holistic health stalls and seminars on everything from hair styling and natural skin care, to raw food diet tips and home furnishings.

As someone who had worked at many different black hair and beauty shows, Searchwell became disillusioned with the afro hair shows that hardly had any afro hair on display.

“I was frustrated by the lack of hair shows I wanted to attend,” the 30-year-old recalls. “I would go to some afro hair shows but there were hardly any afros. It seemed to me that they were trying to make people look more European. They sold relaxers, weaves and bleaching cream – things I don’t agree with.”

As a result, Searchwell began her own show and implemented a strict only natural rule, which applies to all products and exhibitors.

“All staff and exhibitors were vetted to ensure they were in keeping with what Natural November is about. They cannot wear their hair straight or wear weaves. It’s called Natural November so I can’t have someone with straight hair selling products for afro hair – it would be a bit of a contradiction.”

NOTHING BUT NATURAL: Natural November doesn’t sell any weaves or relaxers, instead promoting only natural hair and beauty products. The event’s staff and exhibitors are also required to have natural hair

Believing that black women can, at times, look very unnatural compared to women of other races, the businesswoman hopes her event will counter the more typical beauty images that current mainstream shows perpetuate.

“In my opinion, a lot of black women are looking more artificial than natural. You don’t see the majority of white women looking artificial, and by that I mean with cornrows or afros, unless they are going to a fancy dress party or coming back from the Caribbean. It’s about being a role model and I don’t want my children growing up with the same negative stereotype.”

So what does the natural hair advocate think about black women who say they perm their hair for manageability and not to look European?

“I think that’s denial,” she asserts. “It’s just about learning to deal with what you have. There are so many different options, you don’t need to result to chemicals.”

Still, the natural hair movement is in fact growing; something that Searchwell can confirm thanks to the popularity of her own event.

“I had no idea the first show would be so well received, but we were offering solutions instead of asking questions. I think it was a combination of my event and people being ready for an event that is of interest to anyone wanting to adopt or maintain a natural, healthier, cultural lifestyle. It’s not just about your hair but what is in your mind too.

“I’ve noticed lots of small events regarding natural hair and products are popping up, which I think is fantastic. The more the better.”

Natural November will take place at the Chelsea Old Town Hall, King’s Road, London SW3 on May 6. For more information, visit:

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