natural hair convention this weekend in chicago- founder speaks to

October 8, 2010
I really want to slap myself for not being in Chicago this weekend for the 2010 natural hair convention. Looking at the photos from last year’s event, it looked like a natural hair sanctuary, with hundreds of ladies from all over the U.S. meeting up for a convention specifically suited for women.

As a “nappy happy” New Yorker, I love visiting Leila Noelliste’s website, (Black Girl Long Hair), which is one of the largest sites for minority women who’ve tossed the idea of chemically processed hair to the waste basket and share product and hair care tips like I’ve never seen before. Leila, who’s a 2006 graduate from Wheaton College, decided last year to create the annual meet up after the overwhelming response to her website and is considering making a full fledged festival for natural hair lovers around the world in the near future. Since I couldn’t make her meet-up, I wanted to ask Leila some questions about the success of her site and convention, and why she thinks natural hair in the black community is making a comeback from the 70s.

Natural Hair Convention this weekend in Chicago- Founder, Leila Noelliste speaks to!
Words Whitney Summer Boyd for

(photo from last year’s convention)

Why did you decide to have a full fledged natural hair meet up?
I started doing casual meetups back in October 2009 and noticed that they were growing really, really fast. So I decided to put a bit more time and energy into planning them. It's been fun!

Very briefly, let readers know what you have in store for your annual meet up?

The meetup consists of a haircare discussion, product swap, vending and (a new feature) an afterparty! It's a great way to socialize with natural ladies, and some gents 😉

founder of, Leila Noelliste

Since creating, what has been some of the reactions you get from readers who are new to the site?
I once got an email from a chick who was like, "I really appreciate how you portray black women. We need more of this." That meant a lot to me because it's one of the main reasons I started the site. I wanted to present positive, honest and fair portrayals of everyday black women. We're an amazing bunch.

What do you hope to accomplish with the BGLH meetup this weekend?

Most of all I hope women enjoy themselves! I also am trying to get a natural hair scene going here in Chicago. We're way behind New York in that regard.

Do you think that having natural hair will ever be just a style and not such a statement? Why?

Actually I do think it's a style and not a statement. That's the overwhelming sense I get from my readers. For many of them, it's not super-deep. They're just tired of relaxers.

What are your views on perms?

I don't really have a view on them, to be honest. Scientifically I don't believe they're the safest option. But I don't really read into them too much.

logo for Black Girls Long Hair website

What is one of the biggest lessons you have learned since creating a hub for people with natural hair?
That black chicks are amazing!! We really can change the world. There's a lot of charisma, intelligence and drive amongst us.

What's one of your favorite products to use?

Right now I'm loving Giovanni's conditioners. They're tagline is "smooth as silk" and it's SO true!! I also think Shea Moisture (available at Target) is a great alternative to more expensive curly-hair brands.

What advice can you give our readers who want to go natural, but don't know where to start?

Start reading blogs, lol. It's a great way to get information and gather up your nerve!

flyer for Saturday event