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If you were in New Orleans during Essence Festival this year, the place to turn up wasn’t Bourbon street, it was with Design Essentials — specifically Design Essentials Natural which celebrated the true beauty of Black women all weekend long.

The festivities kicked off Friday, July 3 with a Blogger Martini Mixer complete with a celebrity gifting lounge which carried over to a “Dayhem” party hosted by Terrence J on Saturday and culminated in a mobile salon and lounge Sunday. That means 36 hours of stylish women, fabulous hair, and did we mention Ledisi?

The New Orleans native and Design Essentials Natural beauty ambassador was on site for all of the weekend’s events and we had a chance to talk to her about what it means to be a brown-skinned natural woman at the helm of a major hair care line’s promotions.

“What’s great about this brand is that they don’t tolerate natural beauty, they celebrate natural beauty,” Ledisi told us. “That means I can finally go to a store and there’s more for me to choose out of this one brand to style my hair and celebrate myself — brown-skinned, with locs. Locs used to be, you just put them up in a ponytail or you wear them in a bob, now I can do more. And I’m learning even more about natural hair with all my friends and they feel good celebrating their natural hair, like I always have.”

Friday afternoon’s Gifting Suite included the reveal of the new Ledisi Look Book from Design Essentials, featuring step-by-step instructions and product recommendations to achieve the soulful singer’s signature looks. She also gave us the scoop on her top products while she’s on the go.

“My favorite is the new oil treatment, coconut monoi, and I’ve been promoting that to family first and moving now to my friends. I love the honey shea edge tamer, and the twist and set is my favorite always because it’s the only thing that has held the curls on my locs. I like to switch it up. I don’t want to have straight hair all the time and that’s helped me out.”

Asked how she’s come to be so comfortable rocking her locs, particularly as the stereotypes surrounding the hairstyle came to the mainstream light following Zendaya Coleman’s Oscar look, she told us plainly, “I speak my imagery through my hair.”

“People need to just be what they wanna be. One day you want to wear an afro wig, one day you want to wear locs — do your thing. I’ve that’s celebrating who you are, great. I’m just happy it’s natural. It doesn’t always have to be processed hair or straight hair. It can be whatever you want it to be.”

Check out pics from the Big Easy takeover courtesy of Design Essentials Natural on the next few pages.

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