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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Shemilla Parrish works on her niece Aaliyah Fomby's hair during The Art of Hair at Fort Wayne Museum of Art on Saturday.

  • Makeup artist Angie Gibsondemonstrates techniques on stage during the annual event, co-organized by Green Hair Revolution.

Sunday, November 19, 2017 1:00 am

Black women celebrate natural beauty at event

SHERRY SLATER | The Journal Gazette

A preschool book fair three years ago changed Angelica Sweeting's life.

When the Florida woman picked up her daughter that day, the tot had two Barbie books and a heavy heart.

“She said, 'Mommy, I don't feel pretty because I don't look like Barbie,'” Sweeting said. “She was only 3. It was heartbreaking.”

Sweeting got to work, designing a doll with darker skin, thicker lips, a wider nose and curly hair. After presenting the finished doll to Sophia, Sweeting saw a swift improvement in her daughter's self-esteem.

The University of Miami graduate shared her story Saturday during “The Art of Hair,” now in its fifth year at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art. Green Hair Revolution, a local group that promotes natural styles and products for black hair, was the co-organizer.

About 150 people attended the event, which included workshops, demonstrations, vendors, and a hair and fashion show.

Whitney Roberson said it was her second year attending the one-day affair.

“I love it,” she said. “It's just so great to see fashion and beauty products that are geared toward me.”

The 29-year-old Fort Wayne woman also likes the idea of supporting local small businesses. Late in the afternoon, she'd bought some earrings and a T-shirt and was ready to cap off the day with a seated massage by Jay Marsaw of Jay's Essentials Touch.

Sweeting, the special guest, talked about her appearance on “Shark Tank,” when she and her husband, Jason, successfully struck a deal with Daymond John.

Although black dolls were available in some toy stores, their facial features were what Sweeting described as “very European.”

“I thought, 'Aha! It's finally a chance to quit my job and be an entrepreneur,'” she said after her formal presentation.

The Miami couple, who now have three daughters, have continued designing new dolls, including an upcoming line that matches personalities with super powers tied to various elements.

As demand grows, Sweeting expects Mayzeepedia, her business, will be able to ramp up production and lower its prices. The original line was priced at $89.99 each, but the dolls are on sale for $49 each during November.

One of the dolls' features is curly hair. Sweeting, who has long, braided hair, reflected on the event's theme – and its role in her life. 

As the mother of 6-year-old, 4-year-old and 3-month-old girls, she doesn't have much time for fussing with her own curls.

Black hair has so much texture that it tangles easily and gets very dry, she said. Moisturizer is a must.

It takes Sweeting about two hours to wash and detangle each head of hair. That's why she ministers to only one daughter a day and is teaching her husband how to help.

Health concerns have convinced Sweeting and others that natural and organic hair products are best.

Among the jewelry, makeup, T-shirts, scarves and other items for sale were Chocolate Kinks & Kurls natural and organic hair products.

Juanita Henderson, a local woman, designed the products with the help of a New Jersey cosmetic chemist. She launched her own product line in October 2016.

“We empower women on their journey to healthy, natural hair,” she said.

Some products in the assortment work with any type of hair, including Cocoa Creme, a clay wash and one of the most popular items.

Henderson, who bills herself as “The Kurl Koach,” has only one caution for her customers who are a little too enthusiastic about the all-natural products.

“It looks good, smells good,” she said, “but it will not taste good.”