So You Think You Can Be a Hair Braider?

[The New York Times] Jestina Clayton grew up in a village in Sierra Leone where every girl learns traditional African hair-braiding. Then, when she was 22, she moved to Centerville, Utah, a place where no one learns traditional African hair-braiding. So Clayton was pleasantly surprised to find a niche in the market among a small group of Utah parents who had adopted African children but didn’t know how to style their hair.

Clayton moved to the United States as an 18-year-old and headed out to Centerville to be near her in-laws. After graduating from college, she considered getting an office job but decided instead to start her own hair-braiding operation and began advertising on a local Web site. “It’s not like it was bringing me millions,” she says, “but it was covering groceries.” At least until a stranger who saw the ad e-mailed her a demand to delete it. “It is illegal in the state of Utah to do any form of extensions without a valid cosmetology license,” the e-mail read. “Please delete your ad, or you will be reported.”

Jacob Goldstein details Clayton’s efforts to circumvent the $16,000 in tuition and two years of cosmetology schooling in Utah – where African braiding wasn’t being taught.