On April 16th, the biggest natural hair event in the state of South Carolina will return to the Capital City for the 3rd year in a row-- Miss Naturally Crowned Carolina. The Miss Naturally Crowned Pageants is South Carolina's first natural hair beauty pageant, founded in December 2013 by a pair of then 26-year-old Columbia natives and "bestie-preneurs."

 Designed by The Gild Agency

Designed by The Gild Agency

 

The community event began as a fundraiser for the founding duo's dream natural hair beauty supply store. But after taking on a life of its own, Naturally Crowned is now recognized as a global pioneer of the natural hair beauty pageant concept. It's inspired events in Brazil, Paris, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere in the United States. It's even caught the attention of media giants like Black Enterprise, Madame Noire, and NaturallyCurly.com.

This year, Miss Naturally Crowned Carolina hired me to capture the contestant head shots.  The photo shoot took place shortly after the contestants were notified that they were chosen to run for the title. As Co-Founder, Jessica Boyd stated, the photoshoot is when everything becomes real.  The ladies all met for the first time and got to shake off their jitters in front of my camera. 

But what really drew me in to the Naturally Crowned movement was the overwhelming BOSS-status of Co-Founders, Jessica Boyd and Maureen Ochola. 

What are your roles in MNCC?

Co-Founder and Finance Manager (Maureen); Co-Founder and Pageant Coordinator (Jessica)

Greenville SC Photographer Latoya Dixon Photography

Maureen Ochola

Greenville SC Photographer Latoya Dixon Photography

Jessica Boyd

 

Tell us a little more about what motivated you to bring the idea to life. 

Miss Naturally Crowned began as a creative fundraiser for a startup natural hair beauty supply boutique we plan to open in Columbia. Fed up with the lack of customer care and product knowledge in local beauty supply stores and mass retailers, we decided to solve our own problem and have put the wheels in motion to open what we consider to be the future "Starbucks of Natural Hair." 

We introduced the pageant with the sole intention of fundraising for and promoting this store concept in the local community, but then, Naturally Crowned just grew wings of its own. Miss Naturally Crowned is now recognized as a global pioneer of the natural hair beauty pageant concept and has been the catalyst for similar events in Paris, Cuba, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere in the United States. We've caught the attention of media giants like Black Enterprise, Madame Noire, xoNecole, and Naturally Curly, and just confirmed an interview with a major nationally syndicated radio morning show next week! To say that the rate of growth was unexpected is an understatement, but we're motivated everyday by the proof that this pageant certainly serves a need that was going unmet.

 2016 Miss Naturally Crowned Carolina contestants | Latoya Dixon Photography

2016 Miss Naturally Crowned Carolina contestants | Latoya Dixon Photography

Why is MNCC important? 

Miss Naturally Crowned is important because of the impact it has on both the contestants and even communities beyond our immediate reach. The experience is less a competition, and more a transformative process that offers the participants an opportunity to develop their confidence, pursue their passions, and build healthy relationships with other women. On top of that, the pageant also awards over $5,000 in scholarship money, business assistance (the big differentiator for our pageant), and other fabulous non-monetary prizes annually.

Greenville SC Branding Photographer Latoya Dixon Photography

Explain the impact that it’s had. 

Many of the women who have participated in the pageant have gone on to earn graduate degrees, start new businesses, launch modeling careers, and even create their own powerhouse events for celebrating the transformative power of building confidence through sisterhood. This is not only beneficial to their personal growth, but it also helps strengthen the local community. 

India Hill, our second runner up in 2014, was a digital content manager for a local news station when she entered the pageant. Soon after placing at Naturally Crowned and winning a $500 startup investment in her dream business, she quit that job and began pursuing her blogging career full speed ahead. We're excited to report that since that time,  she's been featured on numerous guest blogs, in Southern Weddings magazine, and more than once in Teen Vogue! A simple $500 investment in someone else's dream has had huge payoffs for us all.

 2015 & 2014 Miss Naturally Crowned Carolina, Tra'Shon Howard & Chanelle Johnson | Latoya Dixon Photography

2015 & 2014 Miss Naturally Crowned Carolina, Tra'Shon Howard & Chanelle Johnson | Latoya Dixon Photography

How has it allowed those involved  to become more simple, genuine, or expressive? 

Naturally Crowned places a strong emphasis on re-defining normative standards of beauty, which allows both participants and others involved to love themselves more completely and genuinely.  Hashtag unapologetic authenticity.

At the end of the day, our contestants are everyday women with everyday dreams and everyday struggles. Watching them bloom out of their comfort zones and perservere through all kinds of circumstances, all while taking part in this crazy idea of ours, has encouraged and inspired us both to do the same in our own lives. As black women, the world can require us to be strong and impenetrable at times. We're just glad to provide an opportunity to grow in peace and grace and dignity.

 2016 Miss Naturally Crowned Carolina contestant | Latoya Dixon Photography

2016 Miss Naturally Crowned Carolina contestant | Latoya Dixon Photography

Follow Miss Naturally Crowned Carolina on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter! As if their message wasn't enough to WOW you, Naturally Crowned Carolina Pageants will be headed to Charleston this summer to host its first pageant in the Holy City! Stay tuned.

If you're a business or event in need of head shots or branding photos, head to www.latoyadixon.com and contact me to schedule a consultation. You could be the NEXT LDP Client Feature! ;)

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