ST. LOUIS — The straight hairstyle you normally see Today in St. Louis' Allie Corey wears on-air takes her about an hour each morning to do. Allie is just one of many women who are starting to embrace their natural look. In fact, there's a salon in St. Louis' Shaw neighborhood that's changing women's lives one appointment at a time.
Six women gathered inside the Uhuru salon on 39th Street in St. Louis to share their natural hair stories.
"Before it was like you couldn't go to shops, I got my hair braided in the kitchen," the ladies laughed.
They sound like old friends, but they just met and bonded over hair.
"It's okay to walk around with a fro, it’s okay to have your little curls, it’s okay to do it all. It’s okay," said Tinyetta Gandy.
It’s a part of themselves, that for some took longer to accept than others.
"I didn't like my hair. It was a month ago I walked in here and I had a problem with one of my wigs and she took it off and my hair was messed up and she was like baby we got to do something we got to save you,” laughed Gandy.
Her hair savior is Erica Bennett. She’s run The Uhuru Salon for the last 15 years and only does natural hair.
Bennett explained, "We felt it was our duty to open a natural hair salon so that we can give that support and encourage those people that were afraid to step out there and just do it. I’m going to be natural, I don’t care what society thinks."
It wasn't an easy transition for 30-year-old Gandy
She explained how she used to view her hair, "It was nappy. It wasn't straight. It didn't look right. It wasn't how everybody else’s was."
Gandy admits she spent a lot of money and time trying to get that straight hair.
"When I first saw my hair when she chopped it all off I thought on my god I’m going to die. I don't have no hair," Gandy said.
But with Erica and the salon's support, she's found new confidence.
"I was like this is the real me and I’m loving it. Ever since then I just love my hair the way it is," smiled Gandy.
It’s how all of the ladies feel when they're at the salon.
"It means everything to me, I love being black," said one woman.
The Uhuru Salon is a safe place that challenges what we see on T.V. and the magazines.
"When they see me they feel so good because they're like she doesn't have hair and she’s confident and she feels good yes!" said another woman.
"We look beautiful whatever we do with our hair my goodness," said another woman.
A reminder that hair, whether curly, straight or none at all, is a part of us and whatever you have you should rock it!
"Representation matters and that’s what helps to continue to see the beauty in us is seeing that representation all around us," one woman said.
"No matter what, you are beautiful," said Gandy.
The Uhuru Salon also has it’s own natural hair products by one of the stylists, Idara Umana. The products, which she formulated herself, are part of her Joyberry Health and Beauty line. She’s will be selling her products at the St. Louis African Arts Festival in Forest Park Memorial Day Weekend.