NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – Champions for the CROWN Act are celebrating National CROWN Day with an awards ceremony.

July 3 commemorates the inaugural signing of the first CROWN Act legislation in 2019, which protects students and workers, specifically people of color, from discrimination based on their hair style.

Hosted by Dove and the CROWN Coalition at The Westin, Sunday’s star-studded Second Annual CROWN Awards honored black women who have paved the way with contributions to culture, community, entrepreneurship, entertainment, and the advancement of beauty.

“For me, natural hair has been a part of my journey, has been a part of my identity, so to be here celebrating that, to be here working to make sure that the country celebrates it and respects it means a lot,” said actress Issa Rae.

So far, seventeen states, including Louisiana, have enacted their versions of the CROWN Act.

CROWN honorees say before the current legislation, wearing your hair naturally as a Black woman was looked down upon.

“A lot of, like my grandmother, mother and great grandmother, they did it for survival, right, they had to conform, but we don’t have to do that anymore,” said actress and journalist Tabitha Brown. “Honey, we are free, right, so being able to wear your hair this way, it expresses yourself and expresses your freedom.”

Some women say they were taught at a young age that some people may not like your appearance.

“My mom taught us from the time that we were young to just show up confidently, show up beautiful,” explained Jeannell Darden, the founder and CEO of Moisture Love. “They accept it if they do; if they don’t, smile and keep it moving.”

CROWN Awards host Tashara Parker, an anchor and reporter at WFAA in Dallas, says it’s an indescribable feeling to be able to show up as your authentic self. She also has advice for those who may want to judge a hair style.       

“So, when you see those people and something seems so off-putting to you, or you may view it as unprofessional, take a step back, listen in to what people have to say and really understand the history behind why our crowns and why hair is so important to us,” said Parker.