Master natural hair stylist Isis Brantley has been a vibrant spokeswoman for black ancestral culture for over thirty years. As an iconic adorner and educator in the beauty industry, Isis has maintained a presence in her community.
She has also been actively involved in the fight for preserving cultural identity for African Americans in her decade-long battle with the State of Texas regarding anti-braiding regulations. In 1997, Isis was arrested for braiding hair without a license. Although at the time, no laws in the state of Texas required braiders to be licensed, many in the community saw the arrest as an attempt by the state to intimidate underground braiders and subject them to the same requirements as cosmetologists.
Isis, who was targeted by the State because of her widespread reputation as one of the best braiders in the state, was not intimidated.
A firm believer of constitutional justice, Isis fought for what she believed was a violation of her civil rights by the state of Texas. Not one to back down from an adversity, Isis challenged the state and charged that the art of hair braiding had nothing to do with cosmetology and could not be taught in any existing schools of cosmetology at the time.
Consequently, after countless meetings and conversations with state officials, Isis was ‘grandfathered’ in 2007 by the State of Texas and received the prestigious noted honor of being the first natural hair care expert in Texas.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Isis in her eclectic salon and to say that I was inspired would be an understatement.
Here is our interview:
How long have you been working with Natural Hair & Locs?
Since 1979/1980 – 79 is where I discovered that I needed to be natural. The early eighties is when I got started.
What in your opinion is the most rewarding thing about working as a hair stylist and educator?
Being able to help my people to grow and to find their pride and self-esteem. And to reconnect with our culture.
What are the needs in the natural hair community as it stands now, what would you like to see more of?
Healthy lifestyles, understanding the importance of reading all ingredients before using them and being able to make an easy transition from relaxers to natural.
What is your movement about and how do you plan to bring your philosophy to the mainstream?
The movement is about economic liberty and freedom for braid entrepreneurs. The importance of passing generational wealth down. Incorporating cultural and beauty aesthetics and building a generational equity base for black people. We need our own institutions, our own hair schools, our own ways to educate and merge and connect into mainstream.
When you finally won your 20-year struggle with the gov’t, to deregulate the hair braiding industry in Texas, what was the moment like, can you describe your feelings?
I felt humbled, I felt joy. I felt a sense of relief. I felt freedom! Not only for myself but for every black woman I was advocating for.
I felt that I am really really ready to carry on this legacy of ancestral braiding for the next generation. It’s Time! I can be who I was born to be. My reality, my prosperity, the ancestors saying it’s your time!