After a pandemic pause, the Texas International Beauty and Wellness Expo returns to Dallas
What started as a show to help put Dallas hairstylists on the map has grown into a safe space for conversations about health, wellness and entrepreneurship.
As a child, Tiara Shelton took note of her mother's commitment to her weekly hair appointments, which often took up entire Saturdays.
“I think about my mom and how she would drive around for hours," Shelton said. "That was something mentally she needed to get done for herself."
Those weekly salon trips eventually inspired Shelton's father, Vincent Shelton, to co-found the Texas International Hair and Trade Show. It was a way to spend quality time with his wife while caring for her beauty routine. The event has since grown into an annual convention that draws thousands of hair enthusiasts to North Texas.
At 29, Tiara Shelton is carrying her father's vision forward. This year's event, dubbed the Texas International Beauty and Wellness Expo, will incorporate self-care practices, discussions on natural hair and at-home solutions. Organizers say that's in response to beauty regimens transformed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which temporarily shuttered salons and halted plans for a 2020 expo.
“Whenever we get together, it’s just therapeutic," said event co-founder Cratina Webb. "That whole year off, everybody was calling. It really took a toll on the industry."
The expo aims to celebrate hair in the Black community, which has been on a shapeshifting historical journey. At times, it has been exploited and commodified. In 2016, a furniture restorer shared a viral video of a 200-year-old chair from Georgia which he said had been stuffed with human hair from slaves.
Through the ages, Black Americans have been pressured to conform their hair to meet white social standards. Many have also worn styles in protest of racism and inequality. Through the Beauty and Wellness Expo, Webb says, Black hair is being molded into award-winning creations.
“We are being free," Webb said. "We are being us. We are being creative."
Hair care is also a key component of overall wellness, which has become especially important during the pandemic, said Cynthia Page. The natural hair specialist and owner of Twisted Loc Bar describes her own lockdown experience as taxing.
“Everybody understood the situation, but it took a toll on me mentally," Page said. "Like, what am I supposed to do with myself? I’ve always worked."
Page, 38, will be a panelist and natural hair educator at this year’s expo.
“The hair and body are one," Page said. "We teach people not only about their natural hair, but how their hair relates to whatever is going on inside their bodies."
The expo will also feature competitions for barbers, nail technicians and hairstylists of all ages. Wendy Swoops, winner of the 2019 overall hairstylist competition, will be returning to defend her title.
Swoops, 31, is known for her precision and intricate freestyle braid designs. She says the creativity and competition of hairstyling gave her "something to hold on to" when her husband died shortly after her 2019 win.
“It gives me a chance to slow down, a chance to think," Swoops said. "It gives me a chance to just be in the moment and stand still."
Swoops got her start doing hairstyles on herself and her siblings. It wasn’t until she started working in a salon at 17 that she realized her work was a key part of clients' wellness routines.
“It made me value what I was doing," Swoops said. "It made me look at it more than a service. I’m actually helping people."
To Swoops, hair is a form of self-expression. She looks forward to seeing innovative styles of curls, coils and textures at this year's Texas International Beauty and Wellness Expo.
Free COVID-19 vaccinations and testing will be available during the event, which kicks off this Saturday.
“Hair is really important to the Dallas community," Swoops said. "We care a lot about hair. I feel like we are starting to set new trends that a lot of people aren’t doing yet."
Got a tip? Email Solomon Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow Solomon on Twitter @SolomonSeesIt.
KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.