I am STILL on a high. This past Saturday, in partnership with my homegirl Ann Marie from Soulafrodisiac, I held my first event called Curls, Coils & Cocktails – and it was AWESOME.
Since I started this blog, one of the most common questions I’ve received has been “When are you going to start organizing some events and meetups?” We’ve all been witness to the incredible events that bloggers like Curly Nikki, Afrobella, and others have thrown in the States, but here in Canada (and specifically Toronto), we’ve seen much less action. Thankfully, this is starting to change – and Curls, Coils & Cocktails was my addition to the offerings of natural hair and beauty events in the city.
photo credit: Toni
Held at the lovely and unique Saviari Tea & Cocktail Lounge, the event kicked off with time for mixing and mingling. If you haven’t hit up Saviari yet (on King West), you’re missing out. Amazing tea-infused foods and drinks in an intimate atmosphere – I’ll guarantee you’ve never had an experience quite like the one Saviari offers. The Trendsetter martini was our signature drink, and we saw everyone partaking of the yummy appetizer platters circulating the room. We had two amazing photographers on deck – Tanya Petraglia and Ashton Chambers – and they expertly captured all of the beautiful women (and a few fellas!) who came decked out in all of their gorgeousness.
About an hour into the event, the only emotion I felt was overwhelmed – in a good way. We had received a great response for our advance ticket sales, but the amount of women who still came through and paid at the door had us at standing room only. The sheer number of attendees who were in the house was one thing, but the vibe itself was incredible. I saw women laughing, smiling, talking, hugging, shaking hands, air kissing, complimenting, and just genuinely showing love. Many reflected on how nice it was to be in an environment filled with women without the shadiness, side eyes, and screwfaces, and I had to agree. I make an effort to surround myself with positive people, so I wasn’t at all surprised that a room full of lovely women were getting along – but it just felt nice. A big shout out to Juliana and Vee who held down the door for us like champs! Working the door at an event is rarely as simple as it seems, but these ladies kept things moving smoothly.
Thea Mitchell from Cocoa Bloom Cosmetics and Trudie, Karlene, and Dixie from Curl Bar Beauty Salon were on hand to offer free mini hair and makeup consultations, and the women in attendance didn’t waste any time taking advantage of their knowledge! I recently coloured my hair for my birthday, so any compliments I got on my hair colour and style were directed to Curl Bar’s way – Karlene did my amazing summer colour, and Trudie and Dixie both tag-teamed me the morning of the event to hook me up with a gorgeous twist-out.
It was soon time for our panel discussion on natural hair and diversity in beauty – moderated by myself and featuring panelists Yemi of the awesome blog Shakara Natural Tips, Thea from Cocoa Bloom Cosmetics, Trudie from Curl Bar Beauty Salon, and Deb from the En’tyce Your Beauty product line. I have never in my life moderated a panel, but I think it went well! We discussed topics around the new views of Black beauty in the media, natural hair and the corporate work environment, how to deal with the frustrations of accepting our natural textures, the importance of healthy hair (regardless of style), natural hair and relationships, and much, much more. With the panel, I wanted to illicit more of a discussion than a straight Q&A feel – I often feel that we too easily want someone to give us an answer or solution to an issue, but I wanted to encourage more thought, debate, and new perspectives. The panelists loved the segment, and we got great feedback from attendees, so I was happy!
photo credit: Jaeda
photo credit: Monique
photo credit: Christine
We also did a product swap, where attendees came up to the mic to discuss the gently-used products they had purchased that just didn’t work for them. We got a great response and had some awesome products that were then up for grabs for anyone else who wanted to try them, free of charge. We also made sure to highlight the various stylists (Hair by Glenna, Curl Bar, independant stylists) that were in attendance so that women would know what resources were available to them for their hair care needs. Finding a trusted stylist can be so difficult, but more and more options are becoming available to us in Toronto.
Ann Marie and I also wanted to make sure we highlighted a very special woman – Christine Tonkin. Christine is the creator of the Curls, Coils & Cocktails Meetup.com group that inspired the entire event. Months ago, she had reserved the date of May 18th for a special event, in order to mark International Natural Hair Meetup Day here in Toronto. However, due to some family health crises that needed her time and attention, Christine was unable to continue with plans. She asked if I would be able to take over the reins for the event – Ann Marie jumped in right away to partner with me, and we ran with it. Christine is an amazingly strong and faithful woman, and Ann Marie and I wanted to make sure that the event was true to her vision. Christine told us that we had created exactly what she had envisioned, so we were so happy to make her proud.
Toni and Christine (top)
Toni and Ann Marie (bottom)
photo credit: Toni
Oh – have I mentioned the FABULOUS giveaways we had on deck? We’re so thankful to all of our generous sponsors who went above and beyond to contribute to the event:
A big shout out to the bloggers/media coverage that were in the house! We did interviews with Caribbean Vibrations TV and Toni Daley, and had Noni and Winnie from Three Naturals (we missed Juli-Anne, but she has a beautiful new baby keeping her busy), Jacqueline from Anancy Magazine, and Carcia & Telly from It’s MusicFashionLife out as well! I saw a ton of other folks conducting mini photo shoots and interviews with attendees, so we can’t wait to see all the photos and event recaps!
photo credit (top): Christine
When I started organizing sponsors for the event, I was reaching out across the border to American brands – but didn’t get much response back. No one seemed to value the consumers here in Toronto, and it brought to mind my discussions with brands at a conference last year in Philly. The shock and surprise that so many displayed when they asked “There’s BLACK PEOPLE up in Canada?” was telling. While we’re a much smaller number than the Black population in the States, we’re still a relatively unknown consumer group in their eyes. Thankfully, the Universe started opening my eyes and led me to find the amazing resources and talent we have right here in the city. Our mission was not necessarily to host an event filled with vendors expecting attendees to buy. We wanted to create an environment of interaction, engagement, and awareness – getting to know who’s here, what they’re doing, and how you can find them was paramount.
If you’ve made it this far in the recap, I thank you. I knew it would be a long one, but there’s so much to say! All in all, Curls, Coils & Cocktails was a success, and I’m so proud of what we were able to accomplish. In my typical perfectionist way, I’ve spent mo’ time than a lil bit critiquing myself on what I could have done better, where I flubbed certain things, and chiding myself on areas where I can vastly improve. However, I take those self-critiques as learning lessons to make the next time (yes – there will be a next time!) even better. Curls, Coils & Cocktails exceeded all of my expectations, and I’m so thankful to everyone who supported in any way. Like I said at the top of the post, I’m still riding the high – thank you, Toronto!
Were you in attendance at Curls, Coils & Cocktails? Let me know what you thought! If you’ve got any photos you’d like to share, please feel free to email me copies to bee(at)83toinfinity(dot)com! Professional photos will be coming soon!