(Los Angeles Times) – Comer Cottrell, an entrepreneur and philanthropist who turned a small Los Angeles operation into a multimillion-dollar success story by catering to the hair care needs of African Americans, died Friday at his home in Plano, Texas. He was 82.
His death from natural causes was confirmed by his son-in-law, Eric Brown.
With $600 and a broken typewriter, Cottrell opened Pro-Line Corp. in downtown Los Angeles in 1970. It was not the first black hair care company but it became one of the largest with the Curly Kit, an at-home hair relaxer that made the loose, gleaming Jheri curl — a style popularized by celebrities such as Lionel Ritchie and Michael Jackson — available at a fraction of the salon price.
“That’s when his company went from $1 million to $10 million in sales,” said Lori L. Tharps, co-author of “Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America,” published in 2001. Through his company, Tharps said, Cottrell “democratized the Jheri curl.”