The Crown Act was established in 2019 to promote natural hairstyles and protect against discrimination of natural hairstyles in the workplace.
According to the Crown Act, 80% of Black women said they feel pressure to change their natural hair in the workplace.
Illinois State University senior marketing analytics student Ashley Garrett is driven by her passion for entrepreneurship and embracing her natural hair.
Garrett created her own start-up, “Curlave,” a line of hair extensions for Black women to promote self-confidence and self-acceptance of natural hair and natural beauty.
“I know when I was little, seeing a lot of Black women around me, they weren’t always too confident in their hair. Our hair is somewhat hard to do and a struggle to do at times,” Garrett said.
“This product was made to be more of a convenient way for us to wear our hair but also a way to embrace our own natural textures as well.”
Garrett initially had the idea to create “Curlave” when she was 14-years-old.
She went to a predominately white high school and said many people treated her and other Black girls the same, disregarding their individual experiences and uniqueness.
She said most of the girls in her school who were not Black still felt the need to fit in and wear their hair straight.
“It was kind of like being an outcast, almost. They generalized all of us into this one category, basically called us by the same name and not really paying attention to us at all,” Garrett said.
“That’s kind of just how it is being the minority student at a high school, especially being a minority female in high school. That experience — it wasn’t the best. But it definitely shaped who I am now and being more accepting of myself now and my differences from others,” Garrett continued.
One day, Garrett decided enough was enough. She wanted to stop struggling with her hair and trying to “fit in” with her appearance.
“So, I just went all out and had my hair in the biggest afro one day. People looked at me crazy, but I felt so confident in myself,” Garrett said.
Since then, Garrett said choosing to love her natural beauty has not come without discrimination from others, mainly in high school.
“African-American hair hasn’t always been accepted. I’ve definitely received criticism from teachers and even my other peers like ‘Why are you wearing your hair like that? It’s unflattering. It’s unprofessional,’ and stuff like that,” Garrett said.
“I definitely received flak from it, but it’s more of a statement for me. I’m going to embrace myself, and I want others to do the same.”
Garrett has not stopped putting herself first and has continued to wear her hair natural, spreading that same passion to others.
“She’s very supportive, very inspirational. She gives great advice. She’ll tell you everything you need to know. Me starting college next year, she’s already guiding me through the process. To see her stick to something and push so hard to be and represent Curlave and come up with the brand, it’s great to finally see her get her recognition.”
Dasha Garrett, Ashley Garrett’s sister
Garrett said the COVID-19 pandemic made her truly sit down and evaluate her passions and what she hoped to do in life.
That is when she chose to create “Curlave” during her senior year of college at ISU.
Garrett said after studying marketing for the past four years, she feels more willing to take a risk to connect her passion to her career.
Curlave will offer curly hair extensions in the form of wigs, clip-ins and ponytails in different textures and lengths. Garrett said the textures will resemble type three to type four levels of waviness in the curls. There will also be different colors.
“This company was made to create an impact on the world, just to change the narrative in society of natural hair as well as make other Black girls feel more comfortable with themselves and be accepted worldwide of us showing our awareness of our natural hair and being more proud to wear it,” Garrett said.
“I want to create an impact and promote self-love and self-acceptance and making people feel good about themselves.”
Garrett’s family has stood right beside her throughout the entire process of establishing her own start-up.
Garrett’s mom, Beverly Garrett said Ashley is the type of person who when she puts her mind to something, she achieves it.
“I’m just ecstatic that she took a different approach, and it’s something that I feel strongly about, that we don’t kind of push the youth enough to creating their own businesses and becoming entrepreneurs, so I am so ecstatic and happy that she’s taking that avenue,” Beverly Garrett said.
Beverly Garrett said when Ashley won first place and a $6,000 prize toward “Curlave” at the start-up showcase Nov. 12, the entire Garrett family did a “happy dance.”
“She worked hard. She stayed up. She did her research. Just seeing all that hard work pay off was like, ‘Wow, look at God.’ It was such a blessing,” Beverly Garrett said.
Ashley Garrett’s father, Antwone Garett, said Ashley has always been a fast learner, easy to get along with and a hard worker.
“It encouraged us to [be] like, ‘Wow, maybe something we are doing is really rubbing off on our kids.’ So, it’s good to see her takeoff,” Antwone Garrett said. “The sky is the limit with her brand, so we encourage her to go full steam ahead and knock it out the box.”
Not only does Ashley Garrett’s dedication to pursuing her passion leave an impact on her family, but her drive and caring attitude toward her family also leaves an impact.
“She’s very supportive, very inspirational. She gives great advice. She’ll tell you everything you need to know. Me starting college next year, she’s already guiding me through the process,” Ashley Garrett’s sister Dasha Garrett said.
“To see her stick to something and push so hard to be and represent Curlave and come up with the brand, it’s great to finally see her get her recognition.”
Garrett is on track to release “Curlave” before her May graduation.