RUNGRL x Essence Festival Panelists to Discuss Black Women's Hair and Fitness



This Friday, RUNGRL will kick off the Essence Festival Lifestyle Stage with our event, Miles + Mimosas: Back to Your Roots, a Conversation With RUNGRL about Black hair as a Barrier to Wellness. We’ll share refreshing 'mocktails' as our panel of experts discusses the biggest issues women face today with hair maintenance and staying active, answer your questions about natural hair care and lifestyles, and view demonstrations from a talented stylist on ways to style hair protectively for even your most active days.

Friday, July 6th, 10am

Essence Festival Lifestyle Stage (Hall B)

Ernest N. Morial Convention Center


Jasmine Nesi RUNGRL headshot

Jasmine Nesi | Running Expert  | Co-founder, RUNGRL | @j_nesi

Jasmine Nesi is co-founder and COO of RUNGRL. Since moving from North Carolina to D.C. in 2012, Jasmine has continually sought to create spaces for D.C.'s women of color community by establishing an online community and hosting dozens of events to connect with and celebrate one another. Combined with her running journey, this led her to co-found RUNGRL and create a community to change the narrative about what it means (and looks like) to be a distance runner.

When she's not at work in public relations or training for her next race, Jasmine enjoys brunch, reading anything by Roxane Gay and watching women win.

Kristian Henderson headshot

Dr. Kristian Henderson | Founder, BLK + GRN | @drkristianh

Kristian Henderson is a professor of public health, a natural lifestyle enthusiast and the founder of BLK+GRN, an all-natural marketplace by all Black artisans.  Here, products are curated and sold in categories like skincare, home, and bath and body to meet the needs of wellness seekers who want to buy Black and live green. The fundamental hope in buying Black and living green as a non-compromising choice is what connects her journey to the community of women who also want to craft and consume products consciously.  

In its infancy, BLK+GRN has already been featured in publications like Essence, Blavity, Glamour, and Teen Vogue. Kristian attributes the early success of her company to the artisans and customers who remain authentic and intentional about health, wellness and community cultivation.

When she’s not sampling new natural products for BLK+GRN or discovering up-and-coming artisans, you can catch her at the farmer’s market picking out the latest and greatest edible plants for her soon-to-be husband to transform into something magical at home.

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Taliah Waajid | Founder, World Natural Health Lifestyle Event | @taliahwaajidbrand

For 20 years, Taliah Waajid products have set the standard in the natural hair community. That includes the largest consumer trade show that celebrates natural hair, health and beauty, known as

Natural hair isn’t a trend for Taliah Waajid, it is a lifestyle that encompasses everything the consumer cares about. Her journey began when her mother refused to give in when Taliah begged her for a relaxer. She learned to manage and style her hair in creative ways that quickly attracted a following and styling requests from friends and neighbors, launching her hair care business at age 14, and quickly collecting a solid client base.

She went on to open her first natural hair salon in Harlem, NY, in 1988 and continued to build a reputation for healthy, creative, natural styles. Her dedication to healthier products lead to her becoming an instructor, offering private classes. Her classes became so popular that she eventually launched the World Natural Hair, Health & Beauty Show™. The wildly popular show has gone from 25 exhibitors and 150 attendees, to now over 200 exhibitors and 40,000 attendees from around the world.

Taliah’s passion for natural products has led her to create several product lines to help fill what she first identified as a gap in the market for chemical-free products in the 90s. This includes Black Earth Products™; Curls, Waves and Naturals™; as well as a line for children, Kinky, Wavy, Natural™ and the recently-added Uncle Jimmy gentlemen’s line under the Taliah Waajid umbrella. Her products are sold in national retail stores and local beauty supply stores. They are chemical free with absolutely no parabens.


Ashlee Lawson RUNGRL headshot

Ashlee Lawson | Co-founder, RUNGRL | @ashleesimone

Co-founder and CEO of RUNGRL, crew leader for District Running Collective, a diverse running community based in Washington, D.C, and an RRCA certified running coach, Ashlee has found herself at the forefront of transforming running culture with a specific focus on creating safe spaces and experiences for Black (women) runners to connect and thrive.

An Ann Arbor, Michigan native and University of Michigan Alum, Ashlee has bled Maize and Blue across D.C. since 2013. When she’s not out discovering the newest event venues or connecting with creatives, you’ll find her training for her next marathon or snuggled up in front of a TED Talk with a glass of red wine.

Stylist, Hair Demonstration:

babybangz panelist

Anastasia Ebel | Owner & Lead Stylist, BabyBangz Salon@babybangz504

Anastasia Ebel is owner and lead stylist at BabyBangz Salon in New Orleans, LA. She prides herself in making her salon a safe haven for her clients. It is a priority at BABYBANGZ to be transparent with clients, keeping them informed and helping them gain and expand their knowledge of hair. The salon encourages clients to be self-sufficient and confident in caring for their own hair as they guide and advise.

Anastasia considers herself a natural hair coach and aims to help clients and others understand that natural hair is part of who they are. Developing true acceptance of each individual’s curl pattern is her goal.

“Returning to natural isn’t easy, and, as most of you know, it’s more of a mental adjustment than a physical one. This humbling journey teaches us patience, self-love, and most of all it forces us to take a look into our lineage and thank our ancestors, “ she says.

Be sure to RSVP to let us know you're coming, and read more about all the RUNGRL events happening at Essence Festival 2018 in New Orleans, July 6-8.