The women of CGC (L to R): Tracey Coleman, Charisse Higgins, Simone Mair, Gia Lowe, Melody Henderson, Julienne Brown
Behind the scenes and at the forefront of their events, the Curly Girl Collective celebrates diversity. CGC is the brainchild of six women from an array of backgrounds – their professions range from advertising to computer science, and their ages range eight years – who’ve come together under the common goal of honoring the diversity of natural hair.
“I think of our diversity is what makes us work so well together,” says Simone Mair, Director of Business Strategy. “It makes us who we are.”
In the summer of 2010, Tracey Coleman (Director of Events), Charisse Higgins (Director of Public Relations), Simone Mair, Gia Lowe (Strategic Partnerships Director), Melody Henderson (Creative Director), and Julienne Brown (Marketing & Promotions Director), couldn’t stop talking about their natural hair journeys. Their mutual obsession led to small get-togethers in Tracey’s apartment. The face-to-face gatherings gave them an irreplaceable sense of connection that the online natural hair community, while overflowing with information, just couldn’t compete with.
Determined to make this sense of community available to a larger audience, the Curly Girl Collective was born. I caught up with the ladies behind the brand to learn how they’re bringing online connections to the real world.
MADAME NOIRE (MN): How does CGC carry out its mission?
CHARISSE: Curly Girl Collective is centered around events with a focus on empowering women. Our mission is to create experiences that celebrate natural beauty and creatively inspire and educate women in and outside of the natural hair community. CGC celebrates diversity and creates experiences that give women the freedom to be their natural selves.
MN: What was the catalyst that gave you the confidence to jump into entrepreneurship?
SIMONE: Our launch event was in May of 2011. To be honest, we really weren’t 100% confident that anyone would be interested in our event or even attend. Although a few of us had experience hosting smaller parties/events, we were jumping in head first with this endeavor. We had confidence in our skillsets and used our personal experiences to create what turned out to be a very successful event. It was scary. It was anxiety-driven. It was exhilarating. And at the end of it all, though exhausted, it was so rewarding!
MN: The natural hair phenomenon has spawned many new businesses and blogs. Why is an organization like CGC needed?
CHARISSE: A lot of businesses and blogs were founded for the purpose of promoting, creating and/or reviewing products to help women navigate the landscape of the natural hair community. And that’s great! But our goal is a little different. We aim to truly create environments that speak to specific moments in the natural hair journey, with the goal of leaving our guests empowered, inspired and truly in love with their natural beauty. From coveting another woman’s curls (which is a very real feeling), to the issues one encounters when a love interest doesn’t embrace natural textures, our events seek to speak to the spectrum of topics in the natural hair journey.
MN: The main goals of CGC are issue-based (acceptance; providing a platform). How do you monetize your initiatives?
GIA: We’ve spent the past two years creating the groundwork – valuable experiences that women look forward to attending. From here, we hope to attract sponsors that are aligned with our vision and in return we can introduce their brands to consumers in an intimate way tailored to their business needs.
MN: What are the main issues your target audience is dealing with? How are you addressing them?
SIMONE: Some of the more common issues we hear from our audience are frustrations with hair health, regimens, textures, etc. We also hear about frustrations with the perceptions of natural hair among loved ones, family, friends, business peers, etc. None of us are experts in any of the topics aforementioned but we listen to our fans and we do our best to create events that address those issues such as our last co-ed event, Mane Attraction, where we provided an open judge-free platform to express how natural hair has affected their relationships with their mates. Sometimes the resolution to a lot of issues is just communication.
MN: What’s the key to putting on a great event? How do you make CGC events memorable?
CHARISSE: It’s interesting, we really treat it like an advertising agency. We approach each event with the lens of a creative department, making sure our ideas are grounded in something innovative. With so many brands creating experiences now in the natural hair space, it’s imperative that we break through the landscape of meet ups, launches and seminars with events that push it a little further. And above all, our events are memorable because we make them fun–that’s really all that matters. At the end of the day, ladies just want to come out and celebrate the movement!