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Phaedra High: Flowing Naturally with the Movement

Phaedra High, director and co-founder, Colorado Urban Naturals.If you live in the Denver metro area, you will be hard-pressed to hold a conversation about natural hair without saying the name Colorado Urban Naturals, quickly followed by the name Phaedra. 
A self-professed “natural networker,” Phaedra High, is all about making natural hair and skin care products easily available to Coloradoans, particularly with the state’s dry climate.
A few years ago, the Denver native noticed that there was a high demand for natural hair care products in Colorado, but few resources. She and one of her associates, Andrea Grady, started investigating what was available locally, and then started the process of adding to and centralizing these resources. 

The result was Denver’s first Natural Hair Care Expo held at Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theatre in June 2014. It has been non-stop education and networking for the Urban Naturals since that time. Now as the director and co-founder, High is preparing for the third annual expo to be held  on Oct. 23. The fair-like event will feature workshops, demonstrations and entertainment. More than 500 people are expected to attend. 

A business administration graduate of Colorado Christian University, High has tested her wings through a few business ventures from branding, grant writing, event planning and financial planning. Not one to waste an experience, she has built on her background to help make the Urban Naturals the go-to resource in the state for men and women needing natural products, services and education.

The interest in the beauty industry did not come early for High, who was raised by her dad from the age of 10 years old. “My dad wasn’t into vanity,” said High, who has two sisters and three brothers. 
But, he was into cars. “We used to watch Auto Week on PBS. It’s still one of my favorite shows,” says High, who can list some of the vehicles from her younger days. There was the steel blue 1983 Buick Skylar, the first car her father purchased for her. It didn’t run. They had to push it out of the parking lot. There was the family car, a dark maroon Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciara that they took on road trips from Denver to Baltimore. She laughs when she remembers that the kids at school called it the hooptie. The first car she ever purchased for herself was an off-white 1992 Acura Legend from Craigslist for $400. She paid an additional $400 for a clutch. She learned how to replace the starter on that car, and it ran for about two years. 

The Conversations
Her eagerness and excitement about learning a new process and finding solutions has served her well. It’s no secret that the natural hair movement, often recognized as the shift from relaxers to natural hair, has become a lucrative endeavor. But it’s about more than money.

It spurs conversations that address a number of topics from the standards of beauty to making healthy choices. “I enjoy being natural, being expressive with my hair and being comfortable in my own skin,” says High, who captured others account of going natural through a video called, “Colorado Urban Naturals on the Streets Black Arts Festival.” 

The video, filmed at the 2015 Colorado Black Arts Festival, is a compilation of interviews she conducted while mingling with the crowd. She simply asked people why they chose to be natural. The answers were deep and practical. One person said she liked the convenience of it. “You are fine all the time when your hair is done,” she said. “You wake up fine. Go to bed fine.” 

The testimonials were a sign of more to come. 

The Colorado Urban Naturals is sponsoring an exhibit at the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library entitled, “The Art of Being Natural.” The portrait documentary series, highlighting Urban Naturals in the Denver area, was co-created by artist Tya Alisa Anthony and the Urban Naturals, who coordinated the shoots, model casting and organized the first feature show. The people in the series, which runs through April 8, have chosen to live organically through nutrition, lifestyle, and personal hair style. 
Following the exhibit run, High will flow right into International Natural Hair Meetup Day, an annual event celebrated in more than 50 cities across the globe. This year it will be on May 21. The meetups are events designed to share information, techniques, inspiration and products to aid individuals in their natural hair journey. Each city does its own event in coordination with the day. Colorado Urban Naturals will be hosting a hair and fashion show on that day at AfrikMall in Aurora, Colorado. 

High’s decision to continue “kicking the tires” and investigating Colorado’s natural hair and skin care industry has turned out to be a worthwhile investment, locally and beyond. 

“I’m learning that if I just trust the process everything will be okay,” said High.
For more information, visit Colorado Urban Naturals.

“Black Women: Celebrating the Road Less Traveled” is a weekly online series published by Canady’s Corner to honor Black women who are making a mark in the world in their very own way.