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'My Hair is Beautiful' Workshop Encourages, Empowers Arizona Girls

By Tiara Vian
Published: Friday, December 14, 2018 - 2:47pm

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Arlette Pender
Tiara Vian/KJZZ
Founder and creator of the My Hair is Beautiful workshop, standing outside Burton Barr Central Library on Dec. 9, 2018

Every three or four months in Arizona, there's an event for school age girls designed to empower and encourage them that their hair is beautiful.

The "My Hair is Beautiful" workshop was held Dec. 9, 2018, in Phoenix.

Arlette Pender is the creator of the workshop and she owns a natural hair salon in Scottsdale.

Pender described the mission statement of the event.

"My Hair is Beautiful is an event that I created for young girls between the ages of 5 and 18", Pender said. "To love themselves by what they see in the mirror; to inspire them to create jobs for themselves; to empower them to follow their dreams; and to educate them."

Miss Arlette, as she's known professionally, has been doing this for seven years. She pays out of pocket so the girls and their parents can attend for free. Typically she averages about 35 girls, but on this day there were nearly 75 girls and teens packed into the Pulliam Auditorium at Burton Barr Central Library.

And even though it's called My Hair is Beautiful, Pender said, "It's not just about hair. It's about the all-around confidence level, responsibility, self-awareness, protecting them from bullying — it's about self-esteem."

For one 10-year-old girl  — it’s about straightening her hair.

Jasmine Pettis
Tiara Vian/KJZZ
Jasmine Pettis (right) sits with a friend at the the My Hair is Beautiful workshop.

"With my hair being curly — it's hard to kind of control, because you can't really run your hands through it. I don't get as many compliments as I usually do when I wear it straight. I just feel good in my hair being straight."

Jasmine Pettis has been here twice before. She’s here with her mom, Jalia, who owns 3 Jay Productions, a makeup and production studio.

Jalia Pettis is one of the speakers at the workshop and thinks Jasmine needs to be here.

"She was going to a Scottsdale school and majority of everybody didn't look like her so when I did straighten her hair it was for fun not thinking anything of it. But some of the things that she would come home and tell me made me uneasy. So I feel like it's important for her to be around other girls that look like her," Jalia Pettis said.

Inside the auditorium, Arlette Pender and the volunteers make sure each girl has mirror.

The first activity of the day was reciting the My Hair is Beautiful Creed.

The girls spoke to themselves in a mirror and said the following: "“I am beautiful. I am me. I have self-confidence you don't define me. I am beautiful. I am free. My spirit is like the sunlight — it shines throughout me. I am beautiful. I am me. I am my ancestors — they live within me.”

Then, they said their name and I am beautiful. After each girl had a turn the parents and other girls applauded.

Some girls were having trouble accepting the words, but the parents were there to help them through it.

After the creed, the younger kids scurried to the back of the auditorium to make pictures.

A 5-year-old used purple hair on her picture. Lots of the kids glue curly hair and jewels to paper and draw rainbows and shapes that represent who they are.

A 7-year-old said, "I like to be happy, but I’m kinda mixed like a rainbow, so that’s why I drew a rainbow."

Karsen Serenity Moore at My Hair is Beautiful Workshop
Tiara Vian/KJZZ
Karsen Serenity Moore, 9, creator of K.Serenity Co. natural deodorant business, waiting to speak as a junior mentor at the My Hair is Beautiful workshop.

At the front of the room, mentors shared their stories of growing up black, or light-skinned, or homeless and how they overcame stereotypes, or went to college, or started their own business. The girls asked candid questions of each of the speakers.

Almost all of the speakers are 19 and older, but Karsen Serenity Moore is only 9. She’s a junior mentor and has her own business.

"It’s an all-natural deodorant business, and it's called K.Serenity Co." Karsen said. "I made this business because there is some kid-friendly deodorant businesses out there but they like might have chemicals in it like aluminum, and it's not healthy for their arms."  

Moore wants everyone to feel that they can use her product and brought enough to the event to put in the girls' swag bags.

At the end of the afternoon, singer-songwriter and mentor, Camille Sledge, coaches the girls through the "Walk of Confidence" so they can strut their stuff down the aisle.

Camille encouraged the girls when she said, "We need to know how to walk with our heads held high right? Moms, you too, right?!"

Each girl, mentor, and parent in attendance took a turn strutting down the aisle before grabbing a swag bag filled with goodies.

As for Jasmine Pettis she said, "I feel a bit better, but it's just some things that I still need a little bit more stuff for it — but I feel better"

Jasmine's mom said that is a good start.

I feel like there's definitely some conversation that still needs to be had between the two of us but I'll take that little win. I'll take that."

The next My Hair is Beautiful workshop is in February in Phoenix.

Micaela Dickens My Hair is Beautiful Workshop
Tiara Vian
Micaela Dickens poses with her photo she created at the My Hair is Beautiful workshop.
The Show