If you ask me to tell you my favorite event of Essence Fest 2019, it might surprise you. While I still can’t believe I got to be a part of the amazing energy in the Superdome when Michelle Obama appeared or had a front row seat to see Kamala Harris chop it up with straight-shooter Jemele Hill for Spotify, my favorite moment of the weekend came courtesy of SheaMoisture’s “House of Hair” during Essence Fest.
Though I’d seen each speak before, I will never forget the intergenerational, memoir-to-memoir chat between fellow groundbreakers Valerie Jarrett, former Obama senior advisor, and former Teen Vogue Editor-in-Chief (and current Project Runway judge) Elaine Welteroth. Even at the still-young age of 32, Welteroth, in particular, dropped gems that had our equally intergenerational audience nodding in agreement and tearing up with empathy.
“I think the experience of being first or the only one who looks like you in the room can be really isolating, really daunting,” was one such gem dropped by Welteroth. “And we often don’t have space to talk about that...we don’t have space to talk about the scratches and the bruises that come with breaking glass ceilings.”
That’s right, we can now all declare to the world that we’re “More Than Enough,” either with one of Lingua Franca’s embroidered cashmere pieces in colors inspired by the book jacket ($380) or a very reasonable goldplated name plaque recreating the title font ($65 and en route to my house as I write this).
And if you find the $380 price tag of the sweater off-putting, perhaps the sticker shock will be softened by the fact that $100 of the proceeds from each sale will benefit The Lower Eastside Girls Club in New York City. The acclaimed center supports underserved, predominantly black and brown girls through mentorship, training, and programming that allow them exposure and access to possibilities and career paths that broaden their scopes and goals for the future.
“As a little girl, I knew what it felt like to look through magazines and not see myself reflected, and I know what that did to my self-esteem,” Welteroth said during her appearance for SheaMoisture, noting that she’d written the book she’d needed to read as a girl.
“The reason I called [my book] More Than Enough is I realized that so many women of color are on this similar trajectory, where we are born into the world with this like, limitless sense of confidence and potential, and then, at some point, the world starts to chip away at that confidence,” she continued. “And and if we’re lucky, we get to a point where we can fight to reclaim those pieces of ourselves; to really become the person we were born to be.”