“A Night of Grandeur” by Jennifer Lord
“Who do you think you are?”
There I was, approximately 4-years-old, having an emotional breakdown at Glenda’s wedding. Glenda, a long-time friend of the family, employed me as her flower girl. Flower girls are to look pretty and sweet while doing their job, throwing the petals along the walkway for the bride to step on. Not me, we hadn’t even made it to the church and I had already released a down pour of tears. These were the kind of tears a person can’t hold back even though you know you should because your mother would not approve. I was having a flashback of my pre-school nativity scene incident. The school’s Head Master, fond of my mom and I, had given me the part of Mary who of course had to hold baby Jesus, a doll, who happened to be naked. All the angel-winged toddlers couldn’t resist the temptation to giggle and tease my naked child. As a result, I cried at every practice and though I vowed not to cry at the show, I failed with a capital F. It was happening again only this time, there was no rehearsal. Unless of course you count her sister Carol’s wedding which took place a month prior.
You see at Carol’s wedding I wore a big, fabulous floor length can-can dress and a white floral crown atop my drop curls. I walked with the ring bearer, my first date and no one since has been cuter. But it was the flowers that did it. Yes, my flower girl bouquet was the talk of the wedding. At least it seemed that way to me. Everyone marveled at it, including the bride. They were large, full, all white flowers with hints of yellow petals rounded out to perfection in a white basket with satin white ribbons on each side. I felt like a princess and even my ring bearer walked taller than he did at the dress rehearsal because he knew today was the day he escorted the prettiest girl with the prettiest flowers. Forget the bride, all the fuss was about me and my amazing bouquet.
Fast forward to Glenda’s wedding and not so much fuss was taking place. At first, I was filled with the same excitement I had for her sister. My dress was pretty and the ring bearer was cute, not as cute as the last one but that didn’t matter. I was the prize; just bring me my flowers please. I sat there patiently waiting for the bouquets arrival and when the gentleman came in with the long-boxed delivery, I was the first to rush to his side. An adult member of the bridal party walked over to sort them out. Together he and she opened the box. I scanned them over and my eyes fell on mine. Large beautiful long stemmed flowers, perhaps lily’s, with baby‘s breath and a huge ivory bow. My eyes were so glued to them as the flowers were being assigned, I didn’t hear or notice the bridesmaid handing me someone else’s bouquet. She finally got my attention by yelling out my middle name “DEE!”. I looked away from my bouquet to see what she needed. In her extended hand was a small bouquet of colorful flowers. “Here are yours” she said. I frowned while responding “But I don’t like those flowers, I want those” as I pointed back to the last bouquet in the box. “Those are for the bride” she said, and then forced me to take hold of the ugly bouquet. I was devastated. This couldn’t be happening, there must be some mistake. I cried for about an hour or so and told everyone who asked that the bride stole my flowers.
I guess you could say I always had a thing for grandeur. I continued to be chosen as flower girls, junior bridesmaid and bridesmaid all throughout my childhood well into college and beyond. By the time I was 18, I had planned out my entire wedding at least 50 times. But It wasn’t until I went to college that I started to contemplate wearing my hair natural and more importantly, resisting the embedded desire to straighten it for these larger than life events. No matter what role I had played in these weddings, I always wore a press and curl or a relaxed hair do. It was just policy for little black girls with virgin hair to follow when they attended fancy events like proms, weddings and the like.
I suppose this is the policy Michelle Obama followed when she straightened Malia and Natasha’s hair for the inauguration. During the campaign and leading up to the win however, they were seen with the braids, twists and other natural hair styles. So why is it that so many of us, including the first lady, still feel we need to turn up the heat on our tresses during our major milestones? Could it be that somewhere deep down inside we still don’t feel validated unless we look more like white? Are we more beautiful when our textures are hidden?
Perhaps the policy needs a bit of an update. Clearly Viola Davis, Teyanna Paris, Janelle Monae and Oprah provide great visuals to show that natural hair and elegance pair quite nicely together. I thought Natural Hollywood should make a strong contribution to the new policy as well and so I produced “A Night of Grandeur” a natural hair art exhibit and fashion show. It was the finale to all my previous shows in Baltimore, MD, a gift to my supporters and a fabulous way to say goodbye as I made my departure to New York City. The night was a dream, a feat and a revolution all wrapped up in grandeur.
A vision comes to life:
I round up the Natural Hollywood Models and express my vision to the NHM team. I inform designers and wardrobe stylists Re Belle of Re Belle Couture, Erica Bentley of Timekeepers, Julius Blackwell: TheVintage Collector, and Courtney Hayes of VIDA GLAM we are putting on a show and it is to be Grand. My long- time friend, Dionne Joyner Weems of Mommy’s Open Diary refers me to The Eubie Blake Center, one of the hidden treasures in Baltimore City. I call on LAMIK, our platinum sponsor for the makeup and schedule with Lauren Johnson of Lauren J Makeup for my own face to be glammed. Cassia Poet had just released her single “Comb Breaker” and she is available to bless us with her lyrics. With the support of my family, Joanne,Ebony and Dre plans are a full speed ahead. My girls, Tanette, Safiya and Priya are on board for natural hair styling. Big UP, we’re dressing up and no press combs are allowed!
“A Night of Grandeur” is unlike any other event I’ve produced in the past because it solidifies the vision of Natural Hollywood Magazine. If you are unsure of what the NHM brand stands for prior, this magical night makes it all crystal clear. Thankfully, we are blessed with beautiful weather and the valet service awaits the guests’ arrival. From their chariots, they are guided to the red carpet where photographer Cam of RachardWolf.com, with his auburn and brown sugar-colored, curly ‘fro, captures their freshest shot. Did I say fresh, perhaps I should say clean, elegant, sophisticated, magnificent and more. Oh yes, the guests traveled from NY, Toronto, DC and beyond to show off their gowns and tuxedos! Up the steps, into the Sag slate foyer, they are welcomed and greeted by Efua, the Ghanian beauty, wearing a coiffed frohawk with double strand flat twists on the sides. To the right of the gallery is another red carpet paired with the Natural Hollywood Step and Repeat. The Eubie Blake Center is filled with memoirs to Billie Holiday, grand pianos and The Memories of You glass wall. How fitting. Just a few feet past that is the green and fabulously architected courtyard where Coldstone Creamery serves its famous Sweet Cream flavor along with brownies and waffle bowls. Yum! Nearby, is Julius Blackwell, the distinguished gentleman, selling his high quality and well preserved vintage collections. Back inside the gallery to the left, The Craig Alston Quartet soothes our ears with live jazz melodies as the attendees feast their eyes on the bright colored art pieces displayed throughout the gallery. Just past the short hall our friendly bartender, Randy, serves the wine. Red, white, sweet or dry, you decide. But where are the models?
Shhhh, silence, here they come and who could that be in the yellow gown? Me, of course. Aysa, a huge fan of NHM, tells me yellow is my color and I must say, the girl knows what she is talking about! Finally, the long awaited assembly of eye candy, natural hair models makes their appearance. The first stop is Tiana, wearing a large flower-inspired, sculpted blow out matched with the all white and hot pink accented crochet dress by Re Belle Couture and fuchsia pink rock star pink earrings by VIDA GLAM. She steps out front and center! With the beautiful brick wall as her background, all eyes are on her. Next up is Princess Jaylyn, wearing a mint and white colored crochet dress by Re Belle Couture. She serves up some swervy cornrows and 2 ponytails–Pippy Long Stockings braids. She sits up poised in her exclusive glass chair located at the center of the courtyard, legs crossed of course. Together with Coldstone Creamery, the model’s bouquet of decadently designed natural strands, the trendy crochet fashion and leather accessories, such as pastel hats and gloves from the vintage vendor, make up an Ice Cream Fantasy Showcase.
The assembly of eye candy continues on to the first gallery room, where I place the fierce model Folasade, rocking a neatly tucked away golden up do and wearing a long, black, satin, vintage skirt from Erica Bentley of Teamkeepers. Her vintage off the shoulder top is purchased from Mina’s in Hamden. The all black ensemble complements the red carpet and our Natural Hollywood logo on the back drop; I am pleased. A little further ahead, I escort the graceful and sultry model Muthoni who crowns a modern day French roll. She stretchesher slender form to leanalong the length of a grand piano, her lacy, white 40s-inspired dress lined with mauve satin, softly glistening in the spotlight. I’m so captivated that it’s hard to move, but I must depart from The Vintage showcase. I still have more eye candy to display.
The Craig Alston quartet is joined by statuesque model Claudette, chosen for her inimitable golden earrings by VIDA GLAM and she wears her own long, black, body-fitting, floor length dress. A hint of the animal print brazier peers through and I approve. Her hair is kinky twisted and tucked up into a medium-high pompadourslightly skewed to the east. In the immediate middle of the floor is where I place the next four models, Quorren, Kiana, Kendra and Yaa for The Hard Edge Showcase. Quorren stands with her signature hand-to-hip pose in leather dress—a blank white canvass from Teamkeepersturned hardcore once hit with the metal studded piece—the belt, a charcoal masterpiece also fromTeamkeepers. Her hair is styled wildly, presenting a very full, loosely-curled Mohawk.
Jamaican empress Kiana plays coy and tilts her headlending attention to the intricately designed,diamond-adorned cornrows. The other section of her tightly-coiled natural hair is molded and shaped to perfection, creating a smooth wave. She wears a white fitted tank with a high waisted turquoise leather skirt, finished with a multi-gem embellished belt from Teamkeepers. On her feet is a pair of wicked wood-grained platform sandals, its strappyblack leather upper lined with studs.
Across from Kiana, is doll-face Kendra, wearing a striped,gem-colored vintage blouse from Teamkeepers and middle-split,red leather skirt from Cassia Poet. The hair is a two-dimensional design with small pompadour at the top crown leaving the remaining strands to be folded into a horizontal underhanded roll.
With the prettiest mahogany complexion, model Yaa glamorously upgradesa sweetheart tube leather dress ineggplant from Cassia Poet, as her legs gracefully stretch to the floor;tangerine platforms are glorified to support her gorgeous frame. Her hair is sculpted and molded into several triangular dimensions with sharp peaks, accented by gem appliqués as well. Each model is wearing hyper-colored, handmade accessories by VIDA GLAM. They stand still like perfect statues.
The last 3 models are escorted to The Avant-garde Showcase, where their high buns and ponytail puff stand connected by long, thick black braids. The first of the three is model Cori, a theatrical young lady with the most striking facial bone structure and believable pose a director could ask for. Next to her is Dominique who has large, beautiful almond shaped eyes and a chin dimple that makes her memorable. Finally, connected to her is Amina, an exotic beauty with hazel eyes and glowing skin. They walk in unison and stand as flawless mannequins for camera man Mark Dennis. Ladies and gentleman enjoy the scene while it lasts. We’re headed upstairs for the fashion show finale.
The elevators transport the guests to the fourth floor where Chelsea waits to directthem to their VIP seating. As the door opens they are gifted with more eye candy as Shanitta, the loc empress, lays luxuriouslyon the red velvet chaise in an all black sheer gown from sharlendipity.com. Her honey blonde and chocolate brown locs are spread across the arm of the chair. As the guests turn to find their personalized seat, they are mesmerized by the sight of Natural Hollywood princess, Endeah, who is elegantly propped up on the Grand piano wearing an ice blue 50’s gown provided by Mr. Blackwell. Her natural hair is a short fire engine red do, twisted out to perfection. She is so stunning; I put her on the cover. Somehow this teenage model reminds us of old Hollywood glam. Once the guests are seated Fashion Week-style, our host Avon Dorsey introduces Cassia Poet to perform her perfectly timed poetry.
Here it comes, the climax. On cue,Deejay Jonathan pumps the DJ Lil Mic mix created exclusively for Natural Hollywood. The models realize the time has come to provide just a bit more candy only this time, it’s to the runway. Dominique owns the opening in her red and pink sequins, low cut in the back, gown and huge 70’s inspired afro. Following her is Tiana, now wearing a red and white vintage sweetheart dress edged out with her signature animal print shoulder tattoo. Her floral inspired blow out is still in position. Behind them are the sisters. Cori wears a red and black satin and sequins gown from Mr. Blackwell while Quorren wears an all-black mermaid gown complete with subtle pleats, only revealed when she strikes a pose with hertheatrical hands. Mimicking her gown, her hair is mermaid-like. The double strand flat twists in the back are swept up, gathered with the rest and then wrapped up by recycled braids. A tiny bouquet of gems is added to the tower as an accent. One side of Cori’s Mohawk has now been released leaving her with a side to compliment her elegant dress and perfect model walk. Our next pair begins with Muthoni, who wears a 90s favorite, high thigh split, black dress and patent leather peep-toe heels. She dares you to take your eyes off of her as she bats her lashes with each step and turns heads with each pivot. Her hair is now blinging from a necklace accurately placed at the side of her modern French roll. Her partner Kendra steps out with a current cutting edge design provided by Cassia Poet. The knee-length, body-fitting, dark, velour piece is cut out in the back, complete with structured shoulder pads and diamond embellishments. The bottom roll in her hair has been let loose and now has the shape of a trapezoid. She is the millennium chic. And just when the audience can take no more, in walks the exclamation point to our pristine performance, Folasade! Her over-the-top, hand-crafted, gold sequined dress lays like a second skin and sparkles under the many venue lights. She sashays through the runway aisles with an unbelievable saucer like hairdo finished with bursts of white lights similar to those in a firework show. She. Shuts. It. Down. The guests deliver a standing ovation for the finale. This is certainly “A Night of Grandeur”.
I produced this night for all of the little girls who care alot about their flowers. The little girls who grow up to be event planners for weddings because they think on a grand scale and they like it fancy. Those are the girls that end up on red carpets like Solange and cast the news on CBS like Stephanie Satchell. You have to know that your hair is special and it is elegant, just as it is. Go ahead and style it for that special event with the texture you were blessed with and watch how the cameras flock to you.