LAPLACE, La. (Andrew Yawn/The Advertiser) — Lynn Schofield first learned to braid hair as a child in Ivory Coast, where she watched her mother’s hands weave her sisters’ dark, wiry hair.
She turned a family tradition into a trade, and decades after immigrating to the United States as a 16-year-old, she opened the first of four African hair braiding salons in the New Orleans area in 2000.
But three years later, the Louisiana State Board of Cosmetology implemented a rule requiring those who practice African or natural hair braiding to obtain an “alternative hair design permit.”
The license requires at least 500 hours of training at a cosmetology school, which can cost between $10,000 and $20,000. With many young braiders unable to afford classes, Schofield found herself unable to retain the staff she trained and struggled to find licensed replacements. She closed three shops and entrusted the fourth to her niece,Ashley-Roxanne N’Dakpri, who also made a living braiding hair after moving to the U.S.
Now Schofield works in real estate. Despite decades of experience, it’s still illegal for her to braid hair for profit in Louisiana without a license.
“I wanted to be a franchise owner, but they killed my dream right there when they pursued the license,” Schofield said.