Hot! Interview with Asha Mandela

 

Greetings, my Brothers and Sisters, I am Asha Zulu Mandela, the Guinness World Record Holder for the Longest Dreadlocks measuring 19ft 6 1/2 in. I have been growing my crown for 21 years. I did not plan to grow them this long. I really did not think of how long I wanted to grow them and what length I thought would be good for me. They just grew and the time went by before I began to realize that they were not so easily manageable anymore. By that time, I had become so attached to my “baby”, I just continued to do my best to care for my locs while keeping them controlled by tying knots to shorten them.

My hair does hold great significance to/for me since it was the beginning of a new me…a new journey. Soon after I migrated to New York 25 years ago, I found that I was faced with a very different type of struggle especially with hair, race and culture. Chemically treated hair was no longer my thing as I began my spiritual journey. I decided to grow locs during my spiritual awakening and soon found an inner strength and peace that not only allowed me to be myself, but to also be an inspiration and example to others struggling with the idea of growing locs regardless as to the reason… be it spiritual, a fashion statement, or an overall connection with culture.

When I had told my mother I was growing locs, she said “Not that mop thing….after all the years I brushed your nice curls. Why do you want to look ruff scruff with wild hair?” I said mom this is my calling and I would appreciate your support. She hung up on me! A few days later she called and said “Well, I thought about what you said, and although I don’t approve of it, if that’s what it will take to bring you closer to God to live a spiritual and decent life, then I guess it’s ok”. Once my mom recognized the new growth and strength in me, she became my biggest supporter and greatest fan… now after 21 yrs, every chance she gets, she tells me “Daughter Gold” (that was my pet name in growing up) I am so proud of you.  I will NEVER cut my locs…. my crown is my life and my baby. ‘Never’ is a strong word, but I mean it when I say I will never give up my crown.

 Hair Regimen:

My hair regimen is really simple as in the basic shampoo and conditioning of which I do 3-times a week. I do have a product preference, however I am not able to comment on it at the moment since I am working on some projects for the said product. Besides this product, I have used Olive oil from the birth of my locs til the present, since for me, olive oil works really well in my scalp for massaging especially in the winter season when my locs are drier as opposed to the summer and I think it is brilliant for heat treatments of which I get done once a month. Any brand will do. Supplements are my best friends (smile) .I swear by cod liver oil capsules along with a hair, nail and skin combo supplement I take twice daily.

Washing and Drying  Hair:

My locs take quite a few hours to dry. On my wash days, I try to do it no later than the mid afternoon since it allows enough time for my locs to get aired out. After washing, I wrap them in a huge bath sheet/towel for about 20 minutes. which absorbs the water really well. Then I sit back and read or watch TV or even get work done on the PC while they lay out on the floor on a towel or sheet to air dry. The ends take a bit longer to fully dry so most times they are very damp at bedtime, so I lay on the bed with them dropped on the floor on a sheet and just go to sleep like normal.

Styling/Maintaining Her Locks:

I have never been one to style my locs. If I do, it is either in a bun wrap or just let down. I guess it’s because I took care of them myself and never really got creative with styles. For the first 10yrs of growth, I enjoyed tying them in a turban which gave me that Nefertiti look that I absolutely loved. I have never been to a hairdresser in my life except for the 2 times my locs needed to be verified and adjudicated by Guinness World Records and one other time to have years of knots untied to free its length. I care for my locs while keeping them controlled by tying knots to shorten them.

I don’t re-twist my locs anymore since they are a bit heavy, and I need the full bodied roots to maintain the weight. I groom just a little like once a month to keep some neatness at the front.

Sleeping:

At night, except for when its damp from a wash day…I lay my locs beside me on the bed to sleep….it’s like another person laying next to me (smile) or sometimes I bundle them up behind my neck for use as a pillow.

Experiences With Hair Damage:

All hair types, be it processed or natural, go through breakage. I started experiencing weak points and breakage when I got injured 13 yrs ago and thus began a medical struggle which prohibited me from being able to maintain my locs properly. I spent so much time between the hospital and a nursing home dealing from complications from a bilateral mastectomy that I just couldn’t quite handle them, so they started weakening and some broke off. Family and friends suggested I cut them off, but there was no way I was going to lose my crown. So, I just started tying them in knots to protect the weak ones and before long, I was tying most of them to control the length since they got in the way a lot. I tied knots in my locs for 13 years. Its only last year September that I decided to sum up the courage to have a loctician go through my hair to see how best we can untie the knots. Now that I look back, and though it was a struggle, I realize that I was very creative in finding a way to protect my crown of which for me, was well worth the struggle and has been a blessing in disguise.

Winning the Record  for the World’s Longest Locks:

I have held the Guinness World Record for two years. I received the first record in November of 2008 at 8ft 9ins. Right after receiving the record, I realized that I was so overjoyed and excited, that it didn’t even click to me that I should consider untying 13 years of knots for its full length. The more I thought about it, the more I became curious as to how long my locs really were, but didn’t know how, where and when to begin trying to untie them. It was like mission impossible! I was referred to a loctician in the Caribbean who decided to take on the challenge of unknotting my locks. It was a long and tiring almost 12 hours of careful unknotting, and boy was I surprised to see the bulk that lay before me! Glorious! Simply glorious!

I returned to Florida, and after a few weeks of getting used to carrying this much locs,I swear it felt like I was carrying another body!!… All the time!!… It still feels that way (smile), so I decided to measure them out of curiosity since they just seemed endless. I was totally shocked to realize just how much growth and length had been hidden for 13 yrs! It was an amazing discovery! I contacted GWR and explained to them what I had done. They advised me to re-submit a new application and go through the process all over again to have my locs examined and verified before its length can be updated or modified in their records. Although I am not a fan of hairdressers and don’t like strangers hands in my locs,I surrendered to a 3rd examination and after submitting the evidence to GWR, was approved and adjudicated on the CBS Early show in November of 2009 where my crown was officially measured at 19ft 6 1/2 ins!! Whew!! What an exciting and nerve-wracking day it was!! But so worth it! After I won the first record, I really did not do anything different since I was still having re-constructive surgery. As a matter of fact, later on that day after I received the record in 2008, I flew to Miami for surgery at Jackson Memorial. So I really didn’t have a chance to bask in the moment since I was still very much in a medical crisis facing 3 more surgeries. It’s really not until I had the locs untied and re-applied to GWR that I thought, well maybe I can actually make my hair work for me, since I worked so hard for it for so many years (smile). I was blessed with being invited to GWR live TV shows in Italy and also did interviews for Greek and Poland TV, both of which were a brilliant experience. I am now working on my hair care line, appearances, hair shows and other projects.

What Has Changed Since Earning the Title?

Realizing and manifesting that deep inner strength I beheld but did not know I had. From the birth of my locs journey to the present, has been filled with joy and some sorrow, however, the greatest lesson and gift. I have learned is that patience and perseverance is virtue. My faith my in God is even stronger. For faith is the substance of things hoped for. The evidence of things not yet seen. To some, my locs may just be a huge mass of hair. To me, it’s my baby and my heritage… the foundation of which I stand on today. The benefit of this change is knowing that I am an inspiration for many people of different races, background and cultural blends and that I have made my brothers and sisters all over the world proud of me as I feel blessed and honored to represent all natural hair…locs and Rastafarians and important part of Afrikan Culture.

To My brothers and sisters all over the world. “A CHAIN IS AS STRONG AS ITS WEAKEST LINK”. We must unite and stand as one with each other…….

One Luv,

Queen, Asha Zulu Mandela ***

Video of Asha washing her hair

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Thanks for sharing your story! You can visit Asha Mandela’s website HERE


35 Comments

  1. Amazing! I love how you hold your baby at the end!

  2. I thought this was ALL of this women’s continuous growth but it turns out it is not and why the GWR dismissed her claim last year. I was disappointed. I have seen many African American men and women grow some very long locks past their feet so I know our hair can grow quite long if left natural, but I can’t support what Asha Mandela is doing. Gossip and rumors aside, I saw this woman just before she tried for the GWR title and her hair was much much shorter, thinner locks, and brown with one like that looked like about 7 ft long. Then just in the same year she returned to go for another title and her locks were thicker, black and 3 times as long! Obviously extensions. Now the hair may be all human, but not a continuous growth from her own head and I am certain that any DNA test would prove this so. So I don’t understand her goal with continuing to claim something that she doesn’t truly have. today there are some very talented and skillful locticians that can put in lock extensions that are virtually undetectable by even some of the best beauticians so it is easy for Asha supporters to insist that her locs are genuine.

  3. shektia woodruff

    OMG this is an amazing story I am a Hairstylist and ppl like you motivate me so much to care for our hair in a natural state so much. I do love my olive oil too and I do not even have loc’s. I would like to know more about your products as well and a fyi I do feel 2-3 times a week of shampooing is too much. you are actually stripping the natural oils from your scalp out and drying it out even more. I really enjoyed your story and keep in touch thanks for your inspiration.

    • SHEKTIA, Thanks for reading my story…I have changed from washing my locks 2-3 times a week …down to once a week. It was a tough decision to make since its a regimen I had for many years.Ijust thought it would be dirty if I did not wash it 3 times a week…

      I have a better understand now and am grateful for everyone’s love and support…

      Stay blessed and please do check out my website

      http://www.ashamandela.com

      One Luv..
      Asha Mandela…

  4. What a story! I am so glad you said that even healthy hair goes through periods of breakage. I have been growing my locks for almost 13 years and have 14 very thick waist length locks. I started getting worried recently because I am experiencing a period of breakage and thought it was because I was doing something wrong. I only wash once a week or every other week because my scalp is so dry, but the olive oil is a good tip. I don’t plan on cutting my locks either, in 10 years when they hit the floor I’ll just get creative as well! Thanks for sharing your story!

  5. Tanyahdg.. I do have my whining days too cuz every day cannot be sunday so i do have my off days and moments…I try to make my whining positive since I love my locks so much and am very dedicated to each one loveinly…even when I whine…lol..lol.. Thanks for reading my story..
    Blessings.

  6. Wow and I was whining about washing my little bit of hair. It’s really beautiful thankyou for sharing you story.

  7. I wish she would come to Houston and be part of the longest Locs competition at the Nzuri Natural Hair Show in November. That would be amazing.

  8. Queen may the Creator continue to bless you with abundance in all ways. I have been growing my locks for 23 yrs and have had at least 4 trims. The first time I cut my locks they were below my butt, that was after 7 yrs of growing. I live in NY and at the time locked hair was not as popular as it is now. The attention I received from people wanting to touch it and know if it was all mine, along with the weight and getting it caught up in doors was more than enough to move me to cut at least a foot off. And it was still very long. Since then I have never allowed it to get too far below my waist. Washing and grooming my hair takes 3-4 hours and a great deal of product. I do love my locks but every time a cut a bit off it is like a release. I feel lighter in spirit.
    I style my locks but can only bear the weight and pull on my scalp for a few hours. I once counted about 120 individual locks on my little head. That was when my hair was at it’s fullest. Now that I’m older (55) it is not as dense but it’s still a lot of hair. I can’t see myself at age 70 with all this hair to care for.
    I was apart of the natural hair industry for about 9 years and my hair was styled, colored, curled, crinkled, cut and photographed. It always took hours of work time and more often than not 2 other stylist including me to re-twist from root to scalp. My hair regiment consist of washing every 4-6wks with moisture rich shampoo (as natural as possible), steam treatment conditioning, moisturizing hair pomade(I have my favs) and re-twist with clear non alcohol gel,using the Locksmyths method of grooming. In a salon it takes 1-2 hrs to dry, at home it takes at least 24hrs.
    I understand the sacrifice and commitment to growing 19 ft of hair locked or straight. Your hair has taken on a life of its own and seems to give you a sense of comfort. 19ft of hair is not for everybody aaagghhh!!! I sure couldn’t do it, but Queen do your thing.
    I salute your crowning glory and wish you well on your journey.

    • QUEEN DEENA, Blessings to you to in the name of the most high…….

      I apprectiate you taking the time to write on my story. Yours is just amazing as well..you are 2yrs ahead of me..lol..lol .

      I have felt more than frustration and weight from my locks tru the years, but never bring myself to trim them.
      13yrs ago, right before i got creative and started knoting them to keep them short…i almost took family and friends advise and trim them since i got injured and could not cope with them…but i couldn’t.

      So you could’nt see yourself turning 70 with that much hair…lol well i sure don’t know what i will do at that point cuz even on my bad hair days…i hold them up and kiss them…well on the good hair days…i kiss them too..lol.

      I understand everything you say about the Journey and whether the hair is your length or mines…its still a lot of work that takes serious discipline.
      Its very confusing though…you say you wash your crown every 4-6 weeks. Well i think that time frame is fine, especially in the winter….but i got hooked on washing my crown 2-3 times a week because when i first started, i was told thats the right way….now lately i have been hearing that i wash my locks to much. I have never really been to a hairdresser for personal treatment so i have never been under a dryer nor do i have any idea what is “palm roll, twist rool, or the locksmyth method” I get laughed at all the time but am only learning about these things lately. My locks are home grown old school.

      Recently i was introduced to a well known Locsticion from New York.. his love for locs and his work is brilliant so now i will be getting that special pampering and grooming every few weeks so when people say to me..have you tried this or have you tried that, i can smile and say yes…lol.

      My Sis, My Queen….stay blessed and sweet and please do keep in touch.

      One Luv

      Asha Zulu Mandela

  9. I dont know why, but this almost made me cry. I’m proud of her! God bless.

    • STACEY,

      Thanks for reading my story.

      I know what you mean. I cried for 13 of the 21yrs of this Journey .. for with it came more sorrow than joy.

      I survived and feel really blessed…thanks for your blessing too.

      One Luv,

      Asha Zulu Mandela

  10. wowwwwwwwwwwwwww #2. A-mazing!

  11. I am inspired! Her hair looks so healthy! Three years Sisterlocked with a life time to go!

  12. LOVE the interview! I think it is amazing that she has grown them that long. Her hair looks great. In the days of “Is that your real hair?” I think that is a fantastic feat! She must talk to strangers on a daily basis about her hair!

    • Batise…Gurl, every day i go out…no matter where i go, i get the “dropped mouth” look and then the pics and questions come rushing in…lol..lol. I love my Locs and am always willing to chat about my Journey to anyone who asks….there is 95% positive…than negative…i am learning to take the good with the bad….lol..lol

  13. Cooool !!! Great article, really enjoyed reading it:)

    Take care

    zainab1
    AuNaturale007.blogspot.com

  14. Awesome story, thanks for sharing!

  15. I know that must be so heavy. That is a lot of hair.

    • JP…it sure is a lot of hair…lol..lol it is a bit heavy but am to it and have found creative ways to tie them on my back to keep the weight and pressure off my neck and back…

      One Luv

  16. I agree with Crystal. Simplicity is the way to go. I try to keep my regimen as simple as possible. Loved the article. Thanks.

  17. Amazingly, her hair regimen is what we’ve all been discussing since I went natural over 1 year ago. It is rather simple if you ask me, olive oil, supplements, cod liver oil, and well care and love. Wow! so proud of her committment and love for all things natural! More than that, thank YOU for finding her and sharing this with us. Now I know what it really takes to care for my natural tresses and really grow them. Although my hair is not locked, it is natural and needs moisture all the time. Loved the article, thank you!

    • Crystal, though my hair is full and sometimes heavy (depending on how i balance it) Really its actually easier than it looks. The products i use now is from a brilliant line…but i still hold on to my old school best friend “olive oil” ,,,lol…lol won’t turn my back on good old Olive ….lol.lol.

      I found the Suppliments about 2 yrs ago and decided to try them…i noticed the difference with everything after about 6 weeks…i was hooked since then…lol..lol

      One Luv..

  18. That is such a commitment to take care of all of that hair. I applaud her for having the patience.

    • Sis, it sure is a huge commitment…but i enjoy every minute of it…even on my bad hair days…yes i do have those days when they get unruly and won’t wrap the way i wish them too….lol

  19. Woooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwww!!!!

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