UWC Hair Show elevates Black culture, brings hair to life

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Collegian | Avery Coates

A model smiles as she walks the runway at the United Women of Color Hair Show Feb. 20

CTV News: JJ McKinney

Kota Babcock, Arts and Culture Director

After last year’s fully virtual show, Colorado State University United Women of Color and the Colorado State University Black/African American Cultural Center partnered to bring the Hair Show back to its former glory this year. With vendors, stylists and a variety of models, the event offered a way to feature Black hair as an art form.

The event was held in the Lory Student Center Theatre Feb. 20 and brought in a variety of vendors and audience members to enjoy creative styles and community. In addition to showing off a variety of hairstyles, the event always brings in diverse businesses.

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“I think what I most like about having it in person is that the energy is there. … We can like, feed off the crowd — we can see that they’re enjoying it, (and) we can hear that they’re enjoying it.” –Taya Hancock, President of CSU United Women of Color

Before the start of the event, UWC’s leaders emphasized the importance of Black hairstyles as part of not only modern Black culture but also of Black history.

A model flips her hair as she walks the runway.
A model flips her hair as she walks the runway at the United Women of Color Hair Show Feb. 20. (Collegian | Avery Coates)

“We just find (that) it’s very important for the Black community at CSU to see Black hair be shown in a positive light,” CSU UWC President Taya Hancock said. “For me, I like seeing the model’s personality and the way they kind of bring the hair to life.”

With the event returning to an in-person format, Hancock said the energy of the crowd came back to the event.

“I think what I most like about having it in person is that the energy is there,” Hancock said. “We can, like, feed off the crowd — we can see that they’re enjoying it, (and) we can hear that they’re enjoying it.”

Hancock and emcee Jordan Khalfani said the event’s origins are not totally clear but that the event has continued due to how necessary it is for Black students and community members to see hair like theirs represented in a fashion event.

UWC’s annual Hair Show is a unique opportunity not only for Black students and community members to see creative styles on their hair types, but to show off Black students’ styling talent.

Two models show off their hair styles.
The final two models show off their hair during the freestyle category of the Colorado State University United Women of Color Hair Show Feb. 20. (Collegian | Avery Coates)

Two contestants, Jasmine Retland and Bereket Gebru, competed by showing their skills in three categories: “Back to Our Roots,” “Unity” and a freestyle round.

Retland worked with three models — two women and one man — while Gebru worked with all male models due to his experience in barbering rather than other styling traditions.

Most of the event was planned by UWC, and Hancock introduced emcee Khalfani and celebrated the return of the in-person event with her.

“We’re a three-woman team and put this together,” Hancock said. “It was tough, but I’m really proud of (us).”

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While vendors like apparel brand Bringing the World to You and jeweler GroovyThingz were most excited to get out and meet people at the event, others, like Destiny Brown of B.A.D. Productions and Sultan Elixir, were most excited to see the show itself. Business owners shared a sense of joy for the opportunity to enjoy art and give people an immediate option for engaging with hair.

“I sell wigs and hair accessories,” said Sharma Threatt, owner of Sharma’s Hair and Accessories. “(I’m excited that) I get to see ladies walking around with nice hairdos and sell my wigs as well.”

Anatolia Russo of Anatolia Crochet was one of many vendors to build their business during the COVID-19 lockdown. Russo and La’Donna Jones of BrushBox.Arts expressed gratitude for being able to build community at the Hair Show.

“I started in 2020, when the world went crazy, and decided to make art out of everyday items,” Jones said.

Jones’ artwork includes coasters, magnets and other everyday items made from resin. Many of the vendors offered handmade products, with Jae Jordan offering handmade clothing and Brown offering nose cuffs and other jewelry.

Taya Hancock, president of the United Women of Color, speaks to the audience.
Taya Hancock, president of the Colorado State University United Women of Color, thanks audience members for coming to the Hair Show Feb. 20. (Collegian | Avery Coates)

After audience members got to indulge in some of the vendors’ items during intermission, Hancock and Khalfani announced Retland as the winner of the 2022 Hair Show. In the “Back to our Roots” round, she styled her model with a half-down crown with Bantu knots, and for “Unity,” her model wore braids with highlights and wooden beads. As a tribute to Black history, she gave her last model cornrows for her freestyle.

“Her models were closer to the narrative, the subject matter,” said James “Hanns the Barber” Holland, judge of the Hair Show and owner of XAAK’s Barbershop in Loveland, Colorado. Holland said he enjoyed being able to judge and was excited to have been at the event.

He referenced Retland’s traditional styles and her model’s interaction with the crowd as having heavy influence on her success. Another judge, Adeola Awolaja, who studies psychology at CSU, is starting barber work herself and used her experiences to judge the competition alongside Holland and Rima Cowherd.

“I have been styling hair since senior year of high school (or) freshman year of college,” winning contestant Retland said. She referenced the cost of styling as a huge reason for her interest in the art. Prior to her starting styling others, she began styling her own hair in middle school after her dad told her he would not pay for her to get it done.

Thanks to the energy offered by UWC’s leadership — along with the crowd and models — the event brought back a much-needed display of Black artistic expression as Black History Month comes to a close.

Jevon “JJ” McKinney from CTV contributed with additional reporting.

Reach Kota Babcock at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @KotaBabcock.