Mandela, the black Rapunzel

POSTED: 07/16/13 12:22 PM
asha mandela
Asha Mandela displays her record 21 feet dread locks during the ‘Summer Edification’ program which was organized by the Freedom Fighters Foundation at the Belair Community Center on Sunday. Milton Pieters Photo.

St. Maarten – With hair weighing just over 40 pounds and measuring 21 feet in length, Asha Mandela who has earned a spot in the Guinness Book of records and was a accepted on Ripleys ‘Believe It Or Not’ made her presence felt on the Friendly Island over the past few days.

The summer ‘Edification’ program which was organized by the Freedom Fighters Foundation at the Belair Community Center on Sunday afternoon attracted a small but appreciative audience who could hardly wait to set their eyes on the lady with the longest hair in the world up close and personal.

Mandela, who was born in the twin island of Trinidad & Tobago, migrated to the USA some 29 years ago, is currently a US citizen and married with a 10 year old son she calls Zion. During her informative speech, Mandela spoke about her hair, her tragedies and her journey.

“We are not here to talk about my locks, we are not here to talk about Rastafarian, we are here to talk about my journey and how it can help others,” Mandela said in her opening remarks. With her 21 feet ‘Cobra’ (given name) carefully tucked into a sac on her back, despite her absence of height, she still managed to look very imposing, after all she was the Rapunzel of the 21st century.

However, Mandela’s hair did not just grow over night; this was a process of the past 25 years. In 2008, she had a record of 8 feet 6 inches long and in 2009 it was updated to over 19 feet long. However, that journey was not without cross roads and serious injuries.

She was hospitalized after she was kicked in her stomach by a patient and for 14 pain-full years, she underwent over a dozen surgeries which included a bilateral mastectomy; she suffered a mild heart attack and a stroke.

But her will to survive at all costs was stronger than her illnesses and she allowed her strong sense of spiritually and self-belief to overcome all that confronted her in and out of hospitals. “I was told that if I did not cut my locks, I would die and I said I would rather die every time I had to go to surgery,” she noted.

According to Mandela, having locks is a calling; it’s about motivation and identity. She took the opportunity to urge those in the audience to stand firm in their beliefs and love themselves. “If you grow your locks, you can still be a professional. Look at me, I am a professional, I am a public figure, I am a minor celebrity, but the journey is going to be precarious and it’s going to be hard,” she added. Mandela now has her own personal line of hair products called ‘Zulu Earth Solutions’ and an array of costume jewelry and she travels extensively.

The wow factor was evident when Mandela finally unveiled her long hair which was carefully laid across four sets of white sheet. For a rare chance to get closer, most of the people in the audience got up from their seats and moved to the edge of the stage.

Those with cameras and phones took the opportunity to snap away and some capitalized on the opportunity to get a picture with Mandela and that by all standards was an opportunity of a life time.

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