Marcelle Allen’s permanent smile lights up the small, even somewhat cramped stall, the first as you enter the door of the Big Apple on Robb Street, immediately west of the editorial offices of the Stabroek News. Not even the bewildering array of hair treatments and oils cramming the shelves and glass cases can crowd out her personality. When we told her what our mission was she grinned at us self-consciously from behind her counter.
Not too many years ago barely teenaged schoolgirls were ‘up in arms’ against plaits and pigtails, ‘treated’ hair having come to be seen as an opportunity not just to mimic their trendy seniors but to throw open the door to ‘turning heads’ amongst the boys and perhaps even appearing sufficiently grown up to gain admission to Night Clubs where they could ‘really party.’
Over time the practice has grown. These days, fashion conscious females are ‘shelling out’ hefty sums on high-priced hair, one of the largest sub-sectors in the beauty sector. There are those and there are myriad chemicals which, after sustained use, have saddled women with severe ‘hair issues’ which then require more significant, more costly remedial investments.
So profound has been the impact of the treated and false hair industries that Marcelle is focused on her role as an advocate for natural hair and a strategic helper in the broader business of remedial beauty treatment.
When we spoke with her she was celebrating Check Me, Natural Hair’s first Anniversary. As a businesswoman she has been involved in various ventures, her mostly self-taught skills also taking her into the world of skin care. She walked us through her range of products pausing to show off her stock of Cream of Nature Honey, All Natural Hair Treatment, African Black Soap and Jamaican Black Castor Oil among others. There was a quaint corner with costume jewellery, lipsticks, and subtle scents. Every so often she would interrupt our interview to allow her time to entertain inquiries from visitors to the shop about one product or another or to pass on natural hair tips. It was not without significance, we thought, that the vast majority of the visits appeared to be inquiries associated with ‘hair issues.’
Midway through her telling us about her current focus on natural hair two schoolgirls came through the door. They seemed like close friends and looked to be about fourteen years old. You could tell that they were frequent visitors to the shop. Their hair was combed in identical fashion………pulled upward away from the tops of their heads head then crowned with small thick tufts pulled even further upwards and resembling small dark buns It is a style that has become overly fashionable with school-age girls these days. It was not difficult to tell that they were converts of natural hair and that Marcelle was serving as a sort of mentor in that department.
After they had left she told us that it was pleasing to see that there appears to have been a positive revolution in hair styling among schoolgirls. Not so long ago they were fretting when their mothers drew a line in the sand about straightening and the effects of chemicals. In so many cases that she had been recently that challenge was now behind the girls.
What she has seen persuades her that all is far from lost as far as restoring the ‘sanity’ of natural hair is concerned. She believes that good sense is finally kicking in and thinks that sooner rather than later Check Me, Natural Hair could find a coveted place in the hair sector’s sun.