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LDP Client Feature | Miss Naturally Crowned Carolina

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LDP Client Feature | Miss Naturally Crowned Carolina

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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LDP Client Feature | Latoya Warren

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LDP Client Feature | Latoya Warren

One thing I never really expected when I started my photography business was that the beautiful people I was afforded the opportunity to photograph would be some of the most community-minded, influential, and hardest working folks in their field.

I've photographed entrepreneurs, community organizers, non-profit business owners, and artists. There's never a shoot I begin where I'm not asking a client about what it is that they do and not only that, but finding out WHY it is they do what they do.

So, I've decided to use this space to share with you all the wonderful things they've been sharing and hope their stories inspire you and maybe even introduce and opportunity for you to connect. First up is Latoya Warren

Marqus and LaToya Warren, Co-Founders of Reaching Our Youth - Upstate  Photo via Facebook

Marqus and LaToya Warren, Co-Founders of Reaching Our Youth - Upstate

Photo via Facebook

What is the organization and your role in it? 

I am the Co-Founder of Reaching Our Youth – Upstate, Inc. Reaching Our Youth – Upstate is an organization that was created by myself and my husband in order to assist and empower the underprivileged and at risk youth in our community. We want to establish a plan for each child which will help create a solid foundation for growth in education, financial literacy, health/wellness and youth mentoring.

Tell us a little more about how and why you became part of it. 

We created this organization because we noticed that there was a lack of knowledge when a potential high school graduate was preparing to enter college and attempting to understand the process of financial aid and how to borrow without accumulating unnecessary debt. I have 5 years of experience working in Higher Education as a Director of Financial Services and have encountered a number of families that were misled through the financial aid process. I did not want to continue to be a contributor to that cycle, so I decided to give back to my community and create a service that educates the family about the steps of completing college and leaving with the least amount of debt as possible. I am very passionate about this because I came from a single-parent home and my mother did not have the “how-to” knowledge necessary to complete the financial process.  I began to do research in order to obtain the needed funds for college. I applied for numerous grants, scholarships and continually asked questions that pertained to acquiring more free funding. This experience allowed me to understand the depth of financial responsibility and why it is important to have a holistic approach, so that the potential college student has the support from their family and they can help make wise decisions for their child’s future. 

Why is this important? 

This organization is important because we not only want to help the student, we also want to tackle the everyday issues that plague their family in order to help them progress in a positive manner. I understand that the first battle is getting the child engaged in the programs offered but the other battle is fighting the culture that is at home daily. We want to provide services for the parents, as well, so that they understand the impact that a positive foundation creates and both the child and parent can move in the same direction of advancing mentally and physically.  

Explain the impact that it’s had. 

This organization has impacted a number of high school seniors lives by helping them become exposed to college life and this year we will have two students graduate college and pursue a career in their field of study. I also have helped ten current college students obtain $70,000 in scholarships from the United Way of Greenville County through their “Jobs to Careers” program. We have also helped to build self-esteem in our students by encouraging them to use their talents and advance in life. One is currently pursuing a career in singing, another has become an actor in a few local plays, and another has just won her first pageant. These are just a few accomplishments of our previous students and it shows how changing one’s perspective on life can help propel them into positive outcomes. 

How has it allowed those involved (yourself, even) to become more simple, genuine, or expressive? 

I believe that being involved in this program has allowed all parties to become more genuine. According to Webster, genuine is defined as being sincere or authentic. These two descriptions are indicative of how we would like to be viewed in the eyes of the community, the children and their parents. With our genuine investment into our children’s educational future and mental well-being, this is a great “set-up” for replenishing our community with positive and productive future leaders. 

Where can we find you/your organization online? 

I can be found on Facebook  (LaToya Irby-Warren) and LinkedIn (LaToya Warren). 

Anything more you’d like to share? 

I would like to leave you with a famous quote from Nelson Mandela:

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

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