SheaMoisture encourages women of colour to ‘Be Your Beautiful’

The Unilever hair and skincare brand spoke to an underserved market with events in the lead-up to the Toronto Carribean Carnival.

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Outside the SheaMoisture pop-up shop last weekend, there was a big mural with a woman rocking her natural hair and a confident smile. It was similar to the vibe inside the airy building, which smelled of coconut and was filled with smiling women (and a few men) wearing their hair however they pleased on a sticky early August day.

In the lead-up to the Toronto Caribbean Carnival grand parade, the hair and skincare line held four days of events with the aim of inspiring anyone who entered the downtown Toronto to “Be Your Beautiful!”

“Our purpose is to over serve the underserved and to advocate for women of colour. We are trying to encourage women of colour to define beauty on their own terms,” says Bobby McMaster, brand manager for SheaMoisture Canada.

McMaster and his SheaMoisture Canada fellow brand manager, Abimbola Rafuah, say many Canadian brands are failing to speak directly to women of colour at all, creating an underserved market.

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“Every day we’ve sold out. The reaction has been so phenomenal, from day one people would come in and say ‘we appreciate you,’ it’s been an outpouring of love,” said Rafuah. She attributes the palpable excitement inside the pop-up to fellow women of colour wanting “a space where they could come together and talk about issues and sisterhood, and we created a space for them to do that.”

The hair and skincare brand has long been a favourite among women of colour in the U.S., which was purchased by global behemoth Unilever in late 2017. SheaMoisture was launched in Canada following the acquisition, and this pop-up is one way to get the word out that people no longer have to go south of the border to stock up.

“We’ve heard so many people come up to us and say for years we’ve had to get everyone in the car and go up to Buffalo,” said McMaster. “By launching into Canada in a really big way… we’re really trying to democratize products for this type of hair.”

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The brand’s first-ever pop-up activation in Canada featured everything from a salon and style bar to yoga classes to after parties with female DJs, DJ Rosegold, Killa Kels and Dre Ngozi. There was also a keynote speech by Tracy Moore, the host of Cityline, a workshop by Sister Talk Leadership Academy’s Karlyn Percil, as well as musical performances by Jully Black, Ammoye and Domanique Grant. Artwork showcases by Benny Bing and Alexis Eke, as well as a natural hair masterclass with “cosmetic chemist” Sister Scientist rounded out the activation.

The event hashtag, #BeYourBeautiful was seeded by influencers donning a range of styles from shaved heads to belly button-grazing braids to corkscrew-tight curls, encouraging people on Instagram to pop by the pop-up shop.

SheaMoisture signed on as an official sponsor of Caribana, North America’s largest cultural festival, back in March and has been holding activations at or near Toronto Caribbean Carnival events in the lead-up to the annual festival.

Langton Communications handled public relations, while Unilever’s internal agency U-Studio led the creative and Adept handled the production.