By Ariel Worthy
The Birmingham Times
For Adrian Latham, the reigning Miss Natural Hair and Health Expo Beauty the crown is about more than hair. It is part of a personal journey.
In 2016, before entering the pageant Latham said she was trying to figure out who she was.
“I was trying different things, I was straightening my hair, then I was like ‘okay I’m just going to leave my hair alone, just do the natural thing and see how it goes,’” she said. “When I started doing that I felt more empowered and being me. So I kept on with it and learned the different things my hair liked.”
She also learned about healthy things for herself.
“Each day I was just more in love with myself and building my self-esteem,” she said. “When I did the pageant, it was more of a leap of faith. I hadn’t done one since middle school.”
The leap of faith paid off and Latham, 28, became the second person to wear the crown which she will relinquish at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center Exhibition Hall on March 10.
The Natural Hair and Health Expo 2018 features celebrity guests, fitness and lifestyle experts, along with the best of natural hair care, skin care, body care, cosmetics, and fashion.
Hair And Self-Esteem
There is a connection between hair and self-esteem, Latham said.
“A lot of people like to just play around with their hair, but a lot of people see what is done on social media and because they want to fit in they will take what they see, whether it’s wearing a certain type of weave or coloring their hair a certain color,” she said. “They see other people doing it, and they want to be that person so they do it, instead of doing what works for them they want to mirror what they already see, and a lot of times they bury who they are behind whatever they see off social media.”
Latham said more curls works for her.
“The bigger my hair is, the better I feel,” she said. “I love the way it looks. It really says, ‘hey, look at me, I’m here. I’m strong, I’m beautiful, I am commanding your attention right now,’ and I love it.”
Lathan said he was on this journey “to love who I am naturally. So I decided this would be the biggest step to take in my personal journey . . . I took a leap and applied” for the pageant.
As a contestant she wanted her hair to show her personality so she tried a new style, she said.
“Normally I do it myself. My style that was done at the pageant was done by myself and my sister, Jessica O’Neal,” Latham said.
“I can be very business, very straight-forward, but I know how to have fun,” she said. “How can I bring that ‘business in the front, party in back,’ vintage style into one? That’s when I came up with the style.”
The pompadour in the front, and curls in the back, she explained.
“I’m very bubbly,” she said. “I don’t mind making friends, but I can flip and be business, and be caring as well.”
Latham, who works at the City of Tuscaloosa Fire Department, missed the first expo, and after seeing what she missed out on, never skipped one again.
“When the next year rolled around I would get the email blast about all the good things they would have at the expo,” Latham said. “I saw about the pageant and I was like ‘okay I need to enter this.’”
She was hesitant at first.
“I didn’t immediately apply because I was nervous,” she said. “Once I did the application I came to Birmingham for preliminaries. We did an interview, we did our walk. We also did an interview for IPUSH Magazine.”
The previous year’s queen, Jazmund Walker, then came into the room to give the women a pep talk. Afterwards, the Divine 9 – the nine women chosen to walk in the pageant – were announced.
A sisterhood began after that, she said.
“These were girls we would see for the next few months until competition day,” she said. “We did promotional things for Coca-Cola, social media posts for viewers choice, a live interview from IPUSH Magazine, and we had pageant practice.”
On the day of the pageant, the ladies did an opening number, introductions, the gown portion and the natural hair portion.
“We basically had to show a different way to rock your natural hair,” she said. “Just show it off.”
The top five were then chosen and asked questions. Latham’s was to give a three-minute commercial promoting the expo and its sponsors.
“Each contestant had a different question,” she said. “My question actually came from America’s Next Top Model’s Eva Marcelle.”
‘Whirlwind of opportunities’
The past year has been a whirlwind of opportunities, she said.
“The first event I went to was Sheen Magazine Legendary Weekend in Atlanta,” she said. “I got to speak in front of people I never thought I’d speak in front of. Black business owners, Steve Harvey’s daughter.”
That night was a black-tie gala, where she met actress Vivica Fox, she said.
“This is someone I [watched] on TV and I got to meet her,” she said. “I went to the 85th birthday celebration of Andrew Young. I got to meet Van Jones from CNN, [actor] Anthony Anderson, [artist and musician] Wyclef Jean, [R&B star] Usher, [actor] Chris Tucker. Little ol’ me from Tuscaloosa is in the midst of all these influential people.”
In December, she traveled to the Bahamas, her first international trip.
“I went with my sister, who is Miss Massachusetts,” she said. “We had an amazing time.”
As queen, she has to make appearances.
“It’s letting people know . . . how I’m staying healthy, and promoting products,” she said. “You see a lot of Design Essentials (hair line) on my social media.”
After she passes her crown, Latham said she is moving forward.
“I have people who have reached out to me on different things they want me to do,” she said. “I want to continue to light a fire in other women, no matter the age. I notice a lot of people going natural but don’t know what to do, especially in the business world. I want to let them know they don’t have to lower their standards for society’s standards of beauty. They can be themselves.”
Some advice for future contestants: be yourself.
“That was my main thing,” she said. “I was second guessing myself going in, trying to measure myself up to other people. It was until I decided to be myself, be me, show who I am. And it wasn’t about winning the crown, it was really about the experience.”
Registration is open for women 18 years and older who have a desire to share their passion and beauty with the rest of the world and love to flaunt their natural hair to become the 2018 Miss NHHE Queen and compete for over $5,000 in cash and prizes.
The deadline to fill out the application is Monday, Jan. 16, 2018. Preliminary contest is Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Legends, 230 18th Street North, Downtown Birmingham, AL. Top 10 pageant finalists will be determined on scoring from preliminaries. For registration, application and more information visit www.naturalhairandhealthexpo.com