A sea of kinks, curls and coils gathered together to celebrate natural hair and embrace their curly roots at Curlfest this weekend.
The annual festival, which took place this year on Randall's Island Park in New York City, has grown to become the largest natural beauty festival in America since its creation in 2014, drawing attendees from around the world to proudly celebrate their hair, fill their tote bags with hair product samples, take photos for the ‘gram, and enjoy positive vibes with curly-headed friends.
In truly monumental moments for the natural hair movement, Curlfest carried a special weight this year. California and New York recently signed bills that ban race-based hairstyle discrimination -- protections that the organizers of Curlfest have been working to secure for years.
The festival's founders have made it their mission to empower and embrace women of color wearing natural hairstyles.
"To see it culminate and come together and lead to something as important as a law feels empowering in itself,” Curlfest co-founder Melody Henderson told "GMA." "But we're also looking forward to when it doesn't have to be a law. I think it's still a step in the right direction, and speaks to why there's a need for what we've been able to build.”
“That bill happened because of these people here,” Henderson added. “People are listening and I think that's why it's important to have events like Curlfest because the world listens, legislation listens, politicians listen. That's why we're so happy it happened because we know we're a part of that.”
Read on to hear from women (and men) who spoke to “Good Morning America” about what Curlfest means to them and how they celebrate and embrace their natural hair.
What does Curlfest mean to you? Curlfest means having a space to be yourself. I love seeing all the representation, all the black girl magic. A space where your hair can be accepted and OK, and I feel like that's kind of rare.
Tell me about your natural hair journey. It was a process. I had a relaxer since I was 6, and then when I was in college I cut off all my hair and started growing it out, and I had no idea what I was doing. But it was worth it, I can't see myself any other way now.
If you could describe your hair in one word, what would it be? Fierce.
I've had to be as fearless as my hair as it is when it goes into a room.
Jennifer (aka Akushika GoneNatural)
Why are you at Curlfest 2019? It's just so much amazing-ness in one place. So much diversity and variety, color and texture in one place.
What does it mean for you to embrace your natural hair? It took me a long time to embrace my texture and color pattern because it's not something we grew up getting used to. When I was at the age of 24, I big chopped, and I was like, ‘oh my goodness how come we never tried this!' It was a life-changing experience for me, and I've embraced it ever since.
If you could describe your hair in one word, what would it be? Empowering.
What does it mean for you to be here at Curlfest? I'm pretty excited to be around people in my community who are curly heads, who are people who really understand that haircare is self-care, haircare is about feeling yourself and feeling beautiful. It's definitely a unique experience.
What advice would you have for people who want to embrace their natural hair? You have to understand that the hair that grows out of your head is a part of you, it's a part of who you are. Understand it from the perspective of self care.
How does your hair make you feel? Use one adjective to describe that feeling. Fearless. When I walk into a room, my hair is the first thing that people see, so there's no hiding. I've had to be as fearless as my hair as it is when it goes into a room.
Janai Norman, ABC News Correspondent
Why are you here at Curlfest 2019? I'm here for a story, but I was so excited when they reached out about it. Wearing my curls has been huge for me. But being here, the energy, seeing so many different ages -- especially seeing the little kids who are gonna grow up knowing that their natural hair is OK from the beginning -- means everything.
Talk to me about your natural hair journey. It was something that I wanted to do for a long time, and it has been amazing. The feedback that I've gotten has been amazing. I just like being part of the visibility. I'm obviously not the first person to be able to do this, there are so many natural hair trailblazers that came before me, but there are some who haven't gotten the great feedback that I have. Being on national television has given me a platform, so I'm glad I'm able to use that to not only be able to encourage curly hair, but natural hair of all types. It's about embracing natural hair in all it's beautiful forms and I'm honored to be a part of that.
Describe your hair in one adjective. My hair is sassy.
What does it mean for you to be at Curlfest? It just feels beautiful to be here. I live in L.A. now and experience all this love and melanin and the culture in general is just beautiful.
What has your curly hair journey been like? My curly hair journey has been crazy. It's been about four years now. But it's been a struggle, you don't really see that many people doing the 4c type hair. I must of figured something out with a lot of prayers, water, oil… I found what works for my hair now and I'm here for it.
Describe your hair in one adjective. Confident. Because it takes so much to walk outside with a natural afro, especially if it's in an environment where people aren't used to seeing that.
What does it mean for you to embrace your natural hair? Growing up in Puerto Rico, having natural hair wasn't really a thing. We all grew up kind of suppressing our curls. Being able to embrace my natural self is being able to embrace my Afrolatinidad, which is very important to me, so I'm all about it.
Why are you at Curlfest 2019? This is a festival that has to do with everything that has to do with who we are inside and our culture, so Curlfest is just an expression for who we are.
Describe your natural hair journey. It took me 2 years to completely transition. It was a disaster, 2 years later I think I finally got to where I want to be.
Journey Lee, Brooklyn Riley, Jae Baker
How does your hair make your feel? *Unanimously*: Happy!
What do you love about your hair?
Journey: I love how sometimes mine gets cold.
Brooklyn: I love how it grows.
Jae: I love when it gets curly in the shower.
What's one word you would use to describe your hair?