Founder of Curly-Centric Jamaica, Trudy-Ann Hylton, talks about how Jamaica’s first ever natural hair group got started. Plus, she takes us inside a CCJ meet-up--nothing like we’ve seen before.
SH: Tell me about the inspiration behind Curly-Centric? How did it all start?
CCJ: A couple months into my own natural journey I was totally confused as it regarded treatment, styling and overall maintenance of my natural hair. I also went about doing some informal research and found that there were many other naturals in Kingston, Jamaica that needed somewhere to go where they could hear all about taking care of their natural hair. So, I got in touch with owners of natural salons, product lines, a dermatologist, and the first Curly-Centric Jamaica meet-up was held in February 2012.
SH: What did you see that made you feel Jamaica needed a group like CCJ?
Natural hair has never really disappeared from Jamaican society as there is a strong presence of Pentecostal and Seventh-day Adventist churchgoers and Rastafarians who choose to keep their hair natural. However, in recent years, more women have caught the natural bug--choosing to do away with relaxers. So, the need for information on and support for natural hair grew. Persons needed a place where they could go for affirmation and support on their natural journey and I felt a strong need to provide this setting where women felt comfortable and happy sharing about their hair while learning more about it.
SH: Tell me about the atmosphere in your meet-ups.
Curly-Centric Jamaica meet-ups are fun, laid-back, interactive and informative. I definitely try to ensure that women feel comfortable sharing their stories or asking questions. We always try to include a warm-up activity which breaks the ice and helps persons to let their hair down. So, everyone feels like the gathering is one of supportive friends not complete strangers. By the end of the meet-up, persons usually exchange a number or email address with a new acquaintance and keep communication lines open.
SH: Your meet-ups are definitely one of the most interactive I’ve seen with everything from Zumba to Q&As with a dermatologist...
Yes. I've found persons are satisfied with a combination of fun and information at the meet-ups. So, I definitely try to keep them creative by including an interesting fun element along with the provision of well needed information on hair.
SH: What has the response been like so far?
Amazing and still growing! Each meet-up is bigger than the one before.
SH: Showcasing products also seem to be a major part of your meet-ups. What are some of the products circulating in Jamaica right now that we may not know about yet? What are your favorites?
Persons are always eager to hear about the different products which are available here and how they work on natural hair. There are many on the market. There are popular local brands like: Kumea's Hair Perspective, Asherlee Naturals, Ettenio and the Beautiful Earth line of products.
Some international brands include: Keracare Naturals and Textures, Jane Carter, Tresseme Naturals, Nice and Curly, Cantu, Kinky Curly, and Eco Styler are most of the popular ones available here. I try a lot of products so it’s hard to choose. But, I definitely love Eco Styler, Kinky Curly Knot Today Leave-In and good old Coconut oil! For local products, I love KHP's hair smoothie!
SH: How has CCJ been received, especially by the natural hair community? Has the response been what you’ve expected?
The response has exceeded my expectations! CCJ has been warmly embraced by naturals and women with processed hair alike.
SH: How has the group influenced perceptions of natural hair in Jamaica?
Natural hair is perceived to be either old-fashioned, childish, religious or conscious by some persons in Jamaica. We want to ensure that persons understand that natural hair is beautiful and its versatility knows no bounds. Our main goal is to encourage confidence in women with natural hair. We secured a column in the lifestyle magazine of one of our daily newspapers (The Gleaner Newspaper). Earlier this year, I was thrilled when they announced that our column has been met with positive feedback. So, in addition to our meet-ups, our column also works to change the perception of natural hair by giving information and styling tips using a public platform. So, more persons are able to see the true beauty of natural hair and possibly rethink their perception of it.
SH: Are there any plans to expand the group to more parishes?
Definitely! We hope to have at least one meet-up outside of Kingston by February 2014.
SH: Any partnerships with natural hair groups on other islands?
We've been approached by quite a few! And we definitely support them all the way. The natural movement is alive and well in the Caribbean.
Check out Curly-Centric Jamaica at https://www.facebook.com/curlycentric.