This year’s Natural Experience sold more than 1,000 tickets online and hundreds at the door.
BY KARIN DAVIS-THOMPSON, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — Marcina Pride said it started with just a small idea. As the natural hair movement began to explode, she wanted to use it to share important information about more than just hair.
“I like to say that the hair salon was the first social media,” Pride stated. “It’s where people share all kinds of information, or folks would stop by with items they were selling.”
At first, Pride would take her show on the road, finding venues to talk about natural hair, using it to open up a dialogue on other topics she believed communities of color needed to talk about, from homeownership to healthy eating.
“They were like little meet-ups,” she explained. “We called it ‘In the Kitchen’.”
Pride had an even bigger idea as the meet-ups began to grow in popularity.
She grew up on Ebony Fashion Fair, a fashion show highlighting African Americans in fashion, and was often the first opportunity for Black models to break into the industry.
“I really missed it when it was canceled,” she recalled.
Pride decided that she could bring back the grandeur of the Ebony Fashion Fair days with natural hair at the center. She decided to call it The Natural Experience and focus on everything from natural hair to healthy natural eating
Last Sunday, she celebrated 10 years of the Natural Experience with her biggest turnout since bringing the event back after COVID. This year’s show had almost 100 vendors, some as far away as California.
This event, held at the historic Coliseum, included a variety of sessions all on the main stage, instead of the breakout rooms as they’ve done in the past.
“Some people didn’t want to leave the main stage to go the sessions because they thought they would miss something,” Pride said.
This year, along with the usual themes of finance, fitness, food, and fashion, Pride added a session on mental health, with a group of men discussing some of the trials they endure as Black men in the United States.
“It was so powerful,” she explained. “It was so important for people to hear. I was so proud; we had more men there than we’ve ever had in the past.”
Along with the sessions, attendees had the chance to purchase unique items from a variety of vendors, from candles to hats and African attire, watch the barbershop battle and the braid/loc competition, and the night culminated with a fashion show — just like Pride remembered from the days of the Ebony Fashion Fair.
This year, 1,000 event tickets were sold online, with hundreds more sold at the door. Pride said the way the event has grown has been more than she ever could have dreamed.
“To know that people saw the event online and thought it was worth buying a ticket, traveling to St. Pete, and getting a hotel room to attend, it’s such an honor,” Pride exclaimed.
But even though the event has grown, she isn’t done yet.
“I went to an event at Tropicana Field, and I started thinking that I’d like to sell that place out,” she laughed. “But for now, I just want the Coliseum to be full to overflowing, then onto the Trop.”
For more information about The Natural Experience, go to thenaturalexperience.org
2 Replies to “Largest Natural Experience event to date”
I am so proud of Marcina, her aunt Ellanora Dowdell was my dearest friend. ‘Nora’ as we called her would be over the moon happy about this venture.
It was an honor to walk in this show and ready for next year lets go thanks you again Marcina