The Tresses and the Tea: Everything We Learned at the 72nd Annual Bronner Brothers Hair Show

A general view of the 2019 Bronner Brothers International Beauty Show at Georgia World Congress Center on August 18, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Photo: Paras Griffin (Getty Images)

It’s hard describing what many of us know as the infamous Bronner Brothers Hair Show to those who have never attended. Twice a year in February and August, it goes down—almost always in Atlanta—and the summer show is by far the most popular. Since it started in 1947, a little bit of everybody has rolled through the show, and “everybody” means even Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. himself. And admirably, to this day, the show remains family-run.

Believe it or not, Chris Rock only caught a glimpse of the show’s creative madness in his 2009 film, Good Hair, which obsessed over the hair weave industry. Truthfully, the Bronner Brothers International Beauty Show, as it is now officially titled, defies categorization. Yes, in recent years, the show, which closed out its 72nd year Monday, has tried to come back to center and focus more on actual hair classes like “The Business of Natural Hair and Braiding,” “Weave Help!” and “Beard Shaping” for professional hairstylists and barbers. Still, it’s hard to live down “helicopter hair” and some of the other zany styles that fuel the legend of the show’s Fantasy competition, which this year saw veteran stylist Kevin Carter from Detroit win first and second place with flower-inspired designs.

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Although this year’s show was a little lighter on big-name black hair and beauty trailblazers, famed make-up artist Sam Fine, Hollywood hairstylist Kim Kimble, Queen Bey’s hair magician Neal Farinah, longtime Oprah hairstylist Andre Walker and Johnny Wright, who took care of Michelle Obama’s tresses for two glorious terms, are just a few who have been spotted at the show in recent years. In other words, put some respeck on thy Bronner Brothers Hair Show name.

But as regulars know, it’s not a show just for hair folks, so you can never be sure of what and who you might see—especially selling books because everyone seems to have one now. On behalf of The Glow Up, I made the rounds at the Bronner Bros. show and here are a few of the sights on-site, as well as folks I bumped into who spilled a little tea:

Keke Palmer Loves Her Hair and Steams It Herself

“In 2016, I did the big chop. Before then, I always felt like my hair had to be a certain way in order to be good or to look right. I think it was sort of the cycle that we all go through,” shared Palmer, who was at the show as a musical artist, but was also ready to dispense hair advice. “Since then, I’ve been just gagged beyond belief and just so happy about so strong and beautiful my hair is, how resilient it is and just how to take care of it. And also realizing that, man, when you show your hair love and you show it attention, it really does respond to it.

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“So that’s been a fun journey for me. I got my steamer; I be steaming my hair twice a week, Chile. It’s just a blast,” she added. “The relationship that I now have with my hair is so much different than it was when I was a kid.”

Keke Palmer
Photo: Paras Griffin (Getty Images)
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Praying and Charging Your Phone Go Together

One of the famed Bronner brothers, Bishop Dale Bronner—who leads the megachurch Word of Faith and is infamous for supporting Trump—tends to souls at the biannual show. Case in point: on Sunday, there was a two-hour service at the World Congress Center. Throughout the show, however, folks could duck into private spaces to pray as they—get this—charged their phones. “You can charge your phone while you charge your spirit” was the message.

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Anthony Hamilton Has Published a Book—and Is a Barber-Stylist!

The North Carolina soul singer was at this year’s show selling and signing copies of his book, Cornbread Fish ‘n Collard Greens: Inside the Music, a smorgasbord of backstories to many of his best-known songs, including “Charlene,” “Ain’t Nobody Worryin’” and the song for which the book is named, with some memoir and recipes tossed in. Since Hamilton was once in the profession himself, he told us he felt right at home at the show.

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“I’m a barber-stylist; I went to school for barber styling. I cut in the shop. I did ladies’ hair in a shop in Charlotte, North Carolina,” he shared. “I still cut. I got six sons. I saved a lot of money on barbershops.”

Childcare Has Always Been A Fixture at the Show

It’s no secret that working moms are well-represented among hairstylists and now, hands-on dads have joined them. Unlike many other conventions, Bronner Bros. has long offered childcare. This year, for $30 a day per child, stylists got to make their dollars make sense without worrying about who will watch their kids.

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“Glitter Kisses” Are A Thing

Walking the show, glittered lips in colors like green and, of course, red were everywhere. Makeup artist Nachera “Cherry” Smith literally ruled the show with her bevy of models flirting around with their glittery lips, branded “Glitter Kisses.” It’s not a once-a-show thing either; scoop yours at her website for $35.

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We Spotted Zane: She Now Lives In Atlanta!

“I’ve been here for four years. I just needed a change. I used to go to high school here. I love it. I am glad to be back. It’s a much slower pace,” bestselling author Zane explained, briefing us on her next big adventure. “Next, I’m going to be a director of a movie called Deceptive Behavior. I wrote the script. I’m directing it and producing it.” When asked about her most popular book to date, to no one’s surprise, she said it’s still Addicted.

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Kristina ‘Zane’ Laferne Roberts
Photo: Paras Griffin (Getty Images)

Reality Stars Reign

If reality TV is your thing, especially of the Love and Hip-Hop variety, look no further than the Bronner Brothers Hair Show. Safaree, Scrappy and wife Bambi, Shekinah, Yandy Smith, Karlie Redd, Lil Mo, Momma Dee and Keyshia Ka’oir were all spotted; so were “Real Housewives” Marlo Hampton and Gizelle Bryant promoting a new hair line and book, respectively. And, for legit measure, Amiyah Scott, “Cotton” of Star fame, was one of the lone working actors in the bunch.

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Tanya Sam (left) and Marlo Hampton
Photo: Paras Griffin (Getty Images)

Surviving R. Kelly’s Lisa Van Allen Backs the Arrest of Kelly’s Crew, As Well

On a more serious note, the Surviving the Pied Piper author, who testified in the 2008 trial against the crooner, shared that things have been very positive for her since the Lifetime series aired. As Van Allen prepares for the Emmys in September, she was careful not to speak too in-depth on the subsequent arrest of members of her former tormentor’s entourage, so as not to jeopardize the case.

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“What I can say is that I’ve been waiting for them to hold his team accountable,” she shared. “And the reason why I say that is because the things that he’s been able to do—we all know he cannot read, he cannot write, he hasn’t been able to do them alone. It took his team to get the young ladies back and forth. It takes his team to maneuver everyone around. They know their ages. They know the names. They know everything.”

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About the author

Ronda Racha Penrice

Ronda Racha Penrice is a freelance writer who resides in Atlanta. She is the author of "African American History for Dummies."