News Channel 5 reporter Rochelle Ritchie’s drastically changes her hair and reports on the black hair care industry. View this video and read her story below.
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla – It’s a nine billion dollar industry. From hair relaxers, to extensions and now the popular lace front wig, black women are the biggest target for hair companies, known to spend large amounts of cash on their hair no matter how much the economy flips.
“I asked my stylist if he was worried about the recession, he said no because black women will always get their hair done, ” says Peta-Gaye Watson.
Hair relaxers promise to take the “kink” of black hair and make it bone straight and whether they are glued in or sewn in, hair extensions give black women the shine and length they want while wigs make it possible to do all three in less than five minutes. Dr. Larry Shapiro, a dermatologist in Delray Beach, has been doing hair transplants for more that 20 years. He says all this manipulation black women do to their hair is causing it to fall out.
“It’s going to pull your hair out and your going to have permanent hair loss, I see it all the time in my practice.”
Most black women know the unpublished rules to follow before getting a relaxer.
“Your not suppose to scratch,” says Laurendia Rabeau, ” you can burn, get scabs, some people cry.”
And traction alopecia can be a result of braiding and wearing extensions for long periods of time, causing the hairline be pushed back or disappear. But despite the harmful health effects those images of long, straight hair have taken a toll on young black girls like Gianna Louisma. Gianna is all smiles while playing at home but her mother, Joe-Hannah, says it’s a different story when she goes to school.
“She would voice to me that her friends would tease her about her hair.”
Joe-Hannah says because young black girls, like her daughter, have been conditioned to believe beauty is having long, straight hair they develop insecurities as youngsters.
“She wanted that straight flowing hair, she wanted hair like her friends and she also mentioned she wanted hair like mine.”
Joe-Hannah says she’s been getting her hair relaxed for over 10 years but never thought her hair habits would affect her daughter so deeply.
“I tried to reassure her that her hair was beautiful like her mommy and daddy,” Joe-Hannah says.
“After seeing her first grader being teased on the playground and watching her insecurity build, Joe-Hannah decided to take a big step.
“One day after school I picked her up and went to the barber and chopped it off, she loved it she was like ‘oh my gosh mommy you look so beautiful you have hair like me!’ ”
And this is where the story hits home for me. When I started in television news I was told I needed to get extensions, so I did and began to almost immediately move up the news ladder. For six years I faithfully wore extensions and wigs, but like these women I was tired of the damage being done to my real hair. It grew but was weak from all of the pulling and I began losing it. So after years of manipulation I took the brave step of going natural. It’s a big change for the women who take this path.
Peta-Gaye Watson says while she feared the stereotypes of going natural she let go and also made a drastic change.
“I’m seeing myself for the first time ever in my life,” says Peta-Gaye.
“I don’t care what other people think, get used to it because this is the way it’s going to be from now on, ” says Joe-Hannah.
Since cutting of her hair Joe-Hannah says her daughter has a new sense of pride in watching mommy’s hair grow like hers.
“I did it for my daughter and it makes me feel good inside.”
“I love my natural hair. It’s like my mom’s and it’s beautiful,” says little Gianna.
Courtesy of wptv.com.