Celebrate Black Nonprofits: Frizzy By Nature

“I think it’s important to create a safe space like Frizz Fest to where we are just allowed to have fun and enjoy ourselves.”

Have you ever walked past Tower Grove Park on a warm September Day and witnessed bright colors, people laughing, and loud music? You might have just strolled past Frizz Fest, a community-favorite event that takes place in the park each year.

Frizz Fest is a yearly natural beauty festival hosted by Frizzy By Nature, a nonprofit whose mission is to encourage self-love and inspire confidence among  women of color. Frizz Fest features vendors, food trucks, music, youth zones, and—most importantly—a space for women of color to feel safe and empowered with their natural hair.

The most popular activities at Frizz Fest are beauty lounges, hair shows, and hair demonstrations. These activities spread awareness about how women of color can learn to take care of and love their natural hair. “There are so many obstacles that we face throughout the year, and I think it’s important to create a safe space like Frizz Fest to where we are just allowed to have fun and enjoy ourselves”, says Leslie Hughes, the Founder and CEO of Frizz Fest and Frizzy By Nature.

Josina and her family at FrizzFest.

Josina Greene, Director of Giving Strategies at the St. Louis Community Foundation and Frizz Fest regular, states; “Frizz Fest provides the foundation for people of color to come together in a way that shows off their ability to create, sell, design, perform, educate and all while still being entertained by local nonprofits.” Josina and her family look forward to attending Frizz Fest each year.

Frizzy By Nature was created in 2017 after founder Leslie Hughes experienced several extreme losses in her family, including her mother and aunts. Struggling to fill that gap of motivation in her life, Leslie talked with her brother and sister-in-law about possible ways to spread awareness of self love, including natural hair. As someone who suffered from low self-esteem and confidence, Leslie wanted to find a way to spread positivity. “My mother was my biggest supporter in life. I needed something to keep going and stay inspired,” said Leslie.

Leslie and her friends and family rented out a pavilion in Tower Grove Park in 2017 to have a roundtable discussion about the natural hair industry. They were shocked to receive over 600 RSVPs. Leslie said, “After the shock of this high turnout, I knew that it was something that I was meant to do and something that the St. Louis community needed. Being able to create opportunities and see my family live the life they deserve is the best part.”

Frizz Fest has been held annually in September since 2017 and continues to grow. The 2023 event welcomed a record-breaking 5,000 attendees.

Frizzy By Nature is busy all year long with creating events and safe spaces. These events include: Mother’s Day Sunflower Yoga, Frizzmas, Black Girls Spa Day, and most recently, Frizz Fest University, where Frizz Fest is taken to college campuses.

As the founder of a Black-led and Black-serving nonprofit, Leslie has faced many challenges. “The hardest thing is to get people to buy-in that this is a nonprofit that should be supported. We need to have access to the same resources as other organizations so that we can serve in the ways we want to,” she said. A 2023 report by the Young, Black, and Giving Back Institute reports that 86.5% of Black-led and Black-benefitting nonprofits always or often have trouble accessing a large and diverse number of funding sources.

However, this doesn’t stop Leslie from pursuing her biggest goal: to grow. “Last year was our biggest event, and it keeps growing every year. The more people we can touch, the better.” Leslie also hopes that Frizz Fest will continue to reflect St. Louis in a positive way and draw people in from all over.

The next Frizz Fest will be held on September 21, 2024. In the meantime, you can find out more about Frizzy By Nature’s event’s here.

Photos courtesy of Frizzy By Nature.