ST. LOUIS — Leslie Hughes has desired to attend popular out of state festivals such as Essence Fest in New Orleans and Afropunk in Atlanta, Brooklyn and Paris.
“St. Louis is such an amazing place and this is where I’m from,” Hughes said. “We have super amazing people, talented artists, business owners and entrepreneurs here. Since I love this city so much it only made sense to bring [a festival] here to give my hometown something positive and uplifting to look forward to.”
What started as an idea to host a Black women’s brunch and panel discussion about hair care and concerns surrounding natural hair blossomed into something much bigger than her original plan.
Established in 2017, Frizz Fest, Hughes’ annual festival that celebrates beauty, hair care, self-love, confidence, and unity, runs from 1-5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 28 at Tower Grove Park. It operates under Hughes’ nonprofit, Frizzy By Nature, LLC.
“I remember the first one. I kept saying ‘if only my family and friends show up I’m good,’” she said.
“So many people showed up for the first event, and I was shocked. Then, to see how much it has grown from year-to- year, that’s how I know there’s a reason God gave me the vision to do something like this in St. Louis. People wanted it and they really enjoyed it.”
What would have been the festival’s 5th-year anniversary last year was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, she hosted an in-person and virtual event ‘Walk The Walk’ in collaboration with Dear Fathers, a multimedia platform dedicated to celebrating fatherhood, brotherhood and mental health awareness among Black men.
“We actually pivoted to Walk the Walk. We were able to create an event on a smaller scale. The [WHAT PARK] park still allowed runs and walks in the park because it was a safer way to gather than having so many people like we usually do.”
Frizz Fest returns to its normal in-person operation this year. Typically, Hughes and her “small but mighty” team including her brother, Ricky Hughes, and his wife, Valerie Hughes, assist her with planning and preparation. Its blueprint usually begins as early as January, although it started later this year as they awaited confirmation from the city that the event could take place.
Once receiving approval in June, Hughes admits the organizing was rushed compared to its normal rollout.
‘It's been a rush but everything has come together like it normally does and we’re just excited to pull it off this year.” she said.
This year Frizz Fest has about 25 vendors, the most in its history. Almost all are local, small Black-owned businesses displaying body care, jewelry, clothing, nail polish, art, adult coloring books, hair care products, art and other products.
There will also be a variety of food vendors and food trucks on sight. For the first time, adult beverages will be available, through local brewery 4 Hands Brewing Co.
Alonzo Townsend, founder of TownsendX3 Agency LLC Artist Management and son of famed Blues legend Henry Townsend, will oversee the festival’s music and entertainment. R&B vocalist Lydia Caesar, Blues singer Little Dylan and saxophonist Rhoda G will grace this year’s stage. DJ Nico Marie will DJ the event’s music set.
There will also be numerous activities for children, including free pony rides.
“I really invite families to bring your kids out because it's important for our Black children to see Black people in a positive light; especially since St. Louis gets a bad rap a lot of times,” Hughes said. “This showcases that’s not the full trajectory of who we are.”
Mayor Tishaura Jones is scheduled to speak and Alderwoman Shameem Clark-Hubbard will discuss The CROWN Act (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair). This is the law that prohibits race-based hair discrimination in the workplace and educational institutions.
“I’m really excited about our really amazing community leaders believing in the mission of Frizz Fest.” Hughes said.
While the festival has always had sponsorships from natural hair care providers, this year will mark the first time a brand representative will attend. A representative from Mielle Organics will have a booth providing information about their products and giving out samples.
“The festival has grown so much,” Hughes said.
“We have so many exciting additions that we’ve incorporated this year. It keeps us motivated that we’ve created an event that is necessary and needed here within the Black community in St. Louis.
“We really want the community to come out and support this amazing event so that we can continue pouring back into the community that we love so dearly and that is so close to our hearts.” she said.
There is a $5 admission fee, and registration is required through the Eventbrite app. All children 15 and under are free.
For more information about Hughes and her festival, visit her website: https://frizzybynature.com/.