In almost half of the country, natural hair braiders are free to ply their trade and do their hair trick, Tennessee not included. That is because in Tennessee, stylists need a license to do their thing, otherwise they will face hefty fines for hair braiding.
An investigation by the Institute for Justice found that the Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners since 2009 levied almost $100,000 in fines against dozens of braiders and about 30 natural hair salons across the state. All the violations have nothing to do with sanitation or health offenses but only due to unlicensed braiding.
The fine is usually around $1,000 in a civil penalty for each instance of performing hair braiding without a license. The Board is not only going after those hair braiders who work from their homes but has also gone after licensed salons like the one run b local woman Fatou Diouf, who’s been in the braiding hair business for nearly two decades running now.
Diouf said that in the recent years alone, she coughed up a whopping $16,000 in fines for having employed workers who didn’t have a government license to practice hair-braiding. Diouf is from Senegal and finds the fines “stressful” considering all the costs she has to shoulder on her personal life, be it providing for her two kids, working on her divorce and sending money back home to her native land.
Diouf entered a payment plan agreement with the state for her most recent offenses. She pays around $830 a month to Tennessee.
In order to get a license to practice hair braiding in Tennessee, the state requires at least 300 hours of coursework. Beauty school tuition can range from $1,500 to a high of $5,000. Diouf finds such schooling “ a waste of time.” She said: “We don’t need 300 hours how to wash a clip or a comb.”
Diouf is working, along with other advocates, on having a bill passed that will stop the policy of requiring hair braiders to get a license before operating in Tennessee. She argued that doing so would mean more employment for people like her in the hair braiding business.