As a child, Tiara Shelton took note of her mother’s commitment to her weekly hair appointments, which often took up entire Saturdays.
“I think about my mom and how she would drive around for hours,” Shelton said. “That was something mentally she needed to get done for herself.”
Those weekly salon trips eventually inspired Shelton’s father, Vincent Shelton, to co-found the Texas International Hair and Trade Show. It was a way to spend quality time with his wife while caring for her beauty routine. The event has since grown into an annual convention that draws thousands of hair enthusiasts to North Texas.
At 29, Tiara Shelton is carrying her father’s vision forward. This year’s event, dubbed the Texas International Beauty and Wellness Expo, will incorporate self-care practices, discussions on natural hair and at-home solutions. Organizers say that’s in response to beauty regimens transformed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which temporarily shuttered salons and halted plans for a 2020 expo.
“Whenever we get together, it’s just therapeutic,” said event co-founder Cratina Webb. “That whole year off, everybody was calling. It really took a toll on the industry.”
The expo aims to celebrate hair in the Black community, which has been on a shapeshifting historical journey. At times, it has been exploited and commodified. In 2016, a furniture restorer shared a viral video of a 200-year-old chair from Georgia which he said had been stuffed with human hair from slaves.
Through the ages, Black Americans have been pressured to conform their hair to meet white social standards. Many have also worn styles in protest of racism and inequality. Through the Beauty and Wellness Expo, Webb says, Black hair is being molded into award-winning creations.
“We are being free,” Webb said. “We are being us. We are being creative.”
Hair care is also a key component of overall wellness, which has become especially important during the pandemic, said Cynthia Page. The natural hair specialist and owner of Twisted Loc Bar describes her own lockdown experience as taxing.