THIRTY-FIVE years ago, in a dream, Asha Mandela was told by Hindu deity Lord Shiva of a greater calling and purpose to her life than being a mere beautician and hairstylist. The Trini-born woman who lives in the United States, then embarked on a journey transforming to Rastafarianism and preaching peace and love.
“After rebelling and fighting off the calling for about six months, I surrendered,” Mandela said yesterday during an interview. She said she cut off her weave, dumped the braids and horse hair, the wild make up and pum-pum shorts. Then, she said, the cobra baby (the root of her long hair) was born.
Some 27 years after she left her homeland, Mandela is back home on a short vacation with celebrity status as being in the Guinness book of world records for having the world’s longest hair. She said her dread locks measure 98 feet long and weighs 30 pounds.
She said she has been growing it for the past 35 years. All wrapped up and in a huge bundle, Mandela carries her hair tied to her body.
Speaking from the home of her friend Junior Bisnath, Mandela was all smiles yesterday saying it was good to be back home.
Of her locks, Mandela said, “It gives me a lot of positive energy and a lot of positive vibration. My hair is like my antenna to the spiritual realm. It’s part of my creation and it’s part of my body.”
At the time of her awakening, 35 years ago Mandela started reading about Lord Shiva whom she says is the father of all Rastas. She is a follower also of the Orisa faith.
“For me it was living in harmony with man and finding the inner most peace from deep within,” she said, noting that when one can find his or her self, then the journey of life becomes easy.
But for Mandela, the past few years have been anything but easy.
She has survived double mastectomies for breast cancer, two strokes, two heart attacks and now has Type II diabetes. Amid the pain, Mandela said what frightened her the most was the thought of losing her hair, so she developed hair products to protect her hair while she was in therapy.
She developed Peppermint Shampoo with ingredients she trusts to keep her hair healthy and now has a line of hair products which she markets online and which are in several stores around the world. She markets Kurly Lox Butter and Growth Renew Oil. She also owns and operates a jewelry shop in Florida where she makes ornaments and symbolic charms to go with modern day fashions.
Known as the Rasta-Rapunzel, this Florida resident said she has a love-hate relationship with this country. “Since I became the woman with the longest hair I have been waiting for the authorities in my home country to recognise me.
But that has not happened as yet,” Mandela said. She added that in Jamaica, she is very well known and has a huge market to sell her hair product. This is not the same story in Trinidad, the land of her birth.