By: Thad Angelloz
From the same south Louisiana community that brought the world athletes like New York Giants’ Brandon Jacobs, Green Bay Packers’ Tramon Williams and 2008 Olympic silver medalist Kim Willoughby, comes the town’s newest claim to fame: Aevin Dugas.
The difference between Dugas and her cohorts is what sits atop her head.
Dugas recently made the Guinness Book of World Records where she’s listed as the woman with the world’s largest female Afro, measuring 7.3 inches high, 7.7 inches wide and 4-feet, 4-inches in circumference.
“It’s actually a random type thing,” the 35-year-old native of Napoleonville said. “My sister posted some pictures of my Afro on Facebook. A friend saw some of the photos and told me I should check into Guinness.”
After finding information about the contest at Nappturality.com, Dugas said she was blown away when the British record-keepers contacted her. To qualify, no hairspray, mousse, gel or other products could be used.
Dugas said she submitted a bunch of hair-related pictures to Guinness officials in May 2010. Her record was authenticated three months later.
“The toughest thing is even though I was told I had the record in August of last year I couldn’t tell anyone about it,” she said. “I basically had to keep the whole thing a secret until last month.”
While Guinness would typically feature the world’s tallest man or heaviest dog, largest Afro is something new to Guinness.
“This is the first ever year that Guinness has recognized the largest Afro,” Michael Whitty, a Guinness photo editor who came to New Orleans last year to meet with Dugas, said through an email. “We looked long and hard around the world for suitable potential candidates with help from various hair consultants and specialists. Aevin’s photos lept out at us and she made the short list. Once we had everyone’s measurement evidence she was clearly our standout winner.”
Dugas said she was inspired to go natural with her hair 12 years ago as a way of protesting against chemicals she says, “are destroying African-American women’s hair.”
Deciding to grow an Afro that was similar to the one her mom had in the 1970s felt right for a person that acknowledges having a sincere love for vintage clothing and jewelry.
“I guess you could call me old school,” Dugas said. “I’m just a person that appreciates older fashions and hair styles.”
Tricia West said what’s amazing is how Dugas managed to grow her impressive “do” naturally without the use of any hair sprays or chemicals.
“When I saw a picture of her, my first thought was she’s beautiful and has gorgeous hair,” said West, a former teacher at Paul Mitchell School in Charlotte. “To think she’s been able to do what she has without even as much as setting foot in a salon is something that is absolutely incredible.”
West, a Thibodaux native currently living in Charlotte, where she works as a hair stylist and makeup artist for Groove Salon, said she’s heard of many African-American women taking a similar natural approach to their overall hair care, but noted it is obvious Dugas’ hair differs from others she’s seen during her career.
“She has a really good curl pattern,” she said. “That allows her hair to be more workable and easier for her personally to care for. The other thing I was blown away by was her hair color. From a stylist’s perspective, I can’t state enough about how impressed I truly am with her hair.”
Dugas said the comments directed at her have been overwhelmingly positive because “going natural” has become more commonplace in today’s society.
“When I was still in Napoleonville and decided to start the whole natural thing, people used to make fun of me, but as of late, that doesn’t happen anymore cause natural is what’s in right now,” she said.
On the day Dugas was contacted, her hair was actually down and braided.
“I don’t just go wearing my hair like that every day,” Dugas said about her record-setting Afro. “There’s a time and place for it, and even when I don’t pick it out all the way it can be a hindrance because it gets in my eyes and knocks up against people.”
Besides upkeep, Dugas said her hair has presented its fair share of problems, like the time she got caught up in a low-hanging tree that pulled her and her hair backward.
“My younger sister, Sarah, is always playing jokes on me,” she said referring specifically to the time when Sarah threw some coins in her hair. “I was able to remove all of them, but one. That coin fell out while I was taking a nap. When I woke it scared the heck out of me because I thought it was a roach at first.”
Dugas said her sister has even been known to put her Blackberry phone in her hair and call it repeatedly.
“I don’t like that too much,” she said with a chuckle.
Dugas, who works for her parent’s residential-care facility for adults with developmental disabilities, said officials with “2012 Guinness Book of World Records,” that hit store shelves in mid-September, flew her to London right before the book was released.
While there for a photo and video shoot, Dugas had the opportunity to meet some other world record-setters — like a woman with the world’s largest tongue.
“It was the craziest thing I’d ever seen,” Dugas said. “I mean here I am from Napoleonville riding in a cab with this woman with a tongue the length of an iPhone. This definitely isn’t something you see every day.”
Dugas said she still has trouble believing she’s a world record-holder.
“Before I left London, I saw the book in the airport and picked it up,” she said. “I had to look up my name again just to make sure that this whole thing was real.”
Dugas said she has a blog, afromaniacs.com, where she shares her experiences with products and styling.
According to Dugas, she takes vitamins, works out and maintains a balanced diet that has contributed to her achieving her Afro record.
She rarely heat-styles it straight, but when she has, her hair stretches down her back, nearly to her waist.
To keep her Afro looking good, Dugas goes through a multiday process where she shampoos, conditions, towels off, plaits it into two French braids and let’s it dry for a day or two.
When fully dry, she unbraids it, spritzes with a water-and-conditioner mix she keeps in a spray bottle, and picks it out.
Whitty said having the chance to work with Dugas was a rare treat.
“Aevin was a very popular record-holder and her fabulous Louisiana accent went down like a storm over here. She had great stories, a great message and a wonderful delivery style that did Louisiana proud!,” he said in an email.
“It is something I’m proud of,” Dugas added.
Staff Writer Thad Angelloz can be reached at 857-2207 or email@example.com.