ABOUT VINNA BEST
CURLYTREATS CEO and Founder
Pronoun: she/her

Getting unstuck! How the ups and the downs of Vinna's hair journey led her to create CURLYTREATS & CURLYTREATS FEST, the most popular and respected natural hair event in the UK.

At aged 7, Vinna got her hair relaxed for the first time, it's the process of applying a chemical cream to hair strands to permanently straighten it. It was a memorable experience for all the wrong reasons. Why? Because the cream was kept in for too long before washing it out of her hair. As a result, her scalp was sore and scabby, clumps of hair fell out, and she was traumatised.

Growing up, it was part of Black culture for most Black women and girls to relax their hair. Relaxing afro hair meant relaxing the curl pattern. In the Black community, it was seen as a way of making black hair "manageable' and 'less coarse". The chemicals in relaxers reduce the curl pattern of each hair strand, by breaking down the strands and permanently altering its texture to appear straighter.

As a child, Vinna was not aware that many Black women preferred straight hair because it was considered more attractive than afro hair, by white beauty standards.

She thought it was just another awkward thing that girls had to experience such as the menstrual cycle, shopping for bras - and making sure new hair growth was straightened every 6-8 weeks. Relaxing her hair was not a one time experience, as the new hair grows out of the scalp, a relaxer was applied to make those new curls straight.

From her first relaxer until her last relaxer, Vinna suffered from scalp issues. Over time, her Mother learnt to apply vaseline to her scalp before applying the cream.

As a teenager, her friends would relax her hair and she would relax their hair, no one in her friendship group wanted "two-textured hair." - referring to black hair that was straight and thin at the ends but afro-textured and thick at the roots.

Although Vinna liked the look of her straight hair at times, she did not like the experience of relaxing her hair and the frequent scalp issues. Vinna suffered from dry scalp, flaky scalp, itchy scalp - her scalp was "tender".

In her teenage years, Vinna tried to combat her scalp issues. Other than the medication prescribed by the Doctor, she used Sulfur 8 Medicated Anti Dandruff Conditioner and Virgin hair Fertilizer. All were unsuccessful.

At aged 14, Vinna decided to stop chemically straightening her hair - for the first time. She disliked having thin hair, a tender scalp, and began to wonder what her natural hair would look like. That was the start of her natural hair journey.

One day, after school, Vinna had a conversation with a friend whilst watching a TV show called Hangin' with Mr Cooper. Her friend mentioned, "You can blow-dry your hair and wear it curly like hers if you don't want to relax it". That Black actress was Holly Robinson Peete. It made sense to Vinna.

As Vinna transitioned from relaxed to natural hair, her scalp began to heal. At aged 15, Vinna loved her afro hair, it was full, thick and lush. Growing up in the '90s, natural hair care products did not exist in London. So she used generic products created for all black hair. Her favourite haircare products were Lusters Pink Moisturiser Hair Lotion, Lets Jam Hair Gel and Men's Lusters S Curl Activator.

Her Mother's friend, Claudette Paul taught her how to properly detangle and blowdry her hair from tips to roots. Plus, Vinna enjoyed switching up hairstyles but the afro puff was her favourite style.

In the late '90s, Lusters changed the formulation of the Pink Moisturiser Hair Lotion. It made her hair greasy, Vinna searched for a replacement product with no success at the time.

More and more black hair salons were opening, so at aged 17, she decided to visit a black hair salon for the first time. Vinna wanted to cut her hair short, in her mind "short meant shoulder-length since my hair was long."

Fully trusting the hairdresser, Vinna was excited about the new style, but the results were not expected. Not only did the hairdresser chemically straighten her hair, but also kept on cutting her hair when she asked him to stop. He told her "I know what I am doing, trust me".

Vinna left the salon feeling vulnerable, she said: "The front of my hair was one inch in length and the back was shaved - it was relaxed". Vinna was disappointed and began her natural hair journey, again.

Vinna loved her afro hair, but she did find it difficult to take care of, as: there were few hair products for her hair texture, most hairdressers did not know how to care for natural hair, and she felt the lack of support from friends and family.

Between the ages of 18 to 24 years old, Vinna experimented with different hairstyles including weaves, wigs, extensions and hair colours. Also, she relaxed her hair again, transitioned to natural hair again, then relaxed her hair once more, before deciding to "big chop" at the age of 25.

Being a Black woman who used to have straight hair was seen as "acceptable" but having natural hair in the corporate workplace revealed more issues. Vinna experienced hair discrimination at work, hearing comments describing her natural hair "dirty", "messy", "wild" and "Vinna needs a comb for Christmas."

In 2007, when Vinna decided to keep her hair natural, with no intention of chemically straightening her hair again, a lot of change had happened in the world and the UK - since she first went "natural" at 14.

The creation of social networks, forums and video blogging provided the opportunity to connect online with like-minded people, she felt heard, seen and understood.

It was the first time that Vinna experienced connecting with Black women locally and internationally who enjoyed having afro hair, discussed afro hair issues, shared tips and advice, as well as being informed about new products dedicated to natural hair.

With the decline of relaxers, existing and new brands launched products to cater exclusively for natural hair. Finally, she felt as if her haircare needs were somewhat catered for. Products from American brands Miss Jessies and Kinky-Curly worked wonderfully but could only be found in Asian beauty shops, just like other black hair products. There was a lack of variety in mainstream shops - Black women's hair care needs were not thought of.

Vinna enjoyed watching hairstyling videos, reading how-to haircare articles and connecting with the online natural hair community. But connecting in real life with real people who share the same interest in natural hair was missing!

Excited about actually connecting with real people, Vinna visited black beauty events across the UK, where she hoped to learn so much more about natural hair. But these events focused on selling weaves, wigs and extensions - so she was left wanting and needing to still connect with the natural hair community in real life.

“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” - Angela Davis.

Over time Vinna mustered up the courage to create what is now CURLYTREATS - a female-led, social impact-driven, organisation committed to creating a platform where women and young girls with natural hair can feel safe, empowered and celebrated.

Since 2013, Vinna and her team have organised over 20 natural hair events, helping tens of thousands of Black women and young girls to be confident wearing their natural hair with pride and recognising the beauty of their melanin skin in a world where racism still exists.

CURLYTREATS Fest has become the most popular and respected natural hair event in the UK.

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