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Healing Through Hair: Isis Brantley is an Icon for Natural Beauty and Empowerment

Much like the Egyptian #Goddess of healing and love, Isis (Dana) Brantley is an icon for natural beauty and sacred artistry. Known as 'Yeye' or "Good Mother", Her fearless spirit works as a prominent force in communities of color all around America. Isis has continuously inspired us through her battle with the state of Texas to keep her ancestral hair school open; teaching many ancient practices of hair braiding without chemicals and harmful additives. Her story has already touched many lives as she is breaking down the mainstream trends; altering our ideals and values when it comes to true, Nubian beauty.

Isis was born in Dallas, Texas; raised in the projects by her hard-working mother who provided her with strong values of work ethic, independence and honesty. She attended the University of North Texas; however in 1980 she realized that her true passion was ancestral braiding and natural hair.

Isis was inspired to research her ancestors and where her roots laid. She came to discover that she is a descendant of the Malinke Mandigo Empire based out of West Africa. In 1996, Isis embarked on a spiritual journey which led her to become a Priestess of Oshun, an orisha (or deity) of the Ifa/Yoruba tradition who's centered in creativity, sensuality, beauty and healing. Her continual spiritual journey guided her into mentoring young women seeking spiritual, cultural, and independence in their identities as Nubian African women in the United States.

Isis has raised five beautiful children; two girls and three boys. She's instilled Afro-Centric morals and values teaching them the importance of family life, unity, music, and ancestral aesthetics. Much like their mother, Isis's children are all ambitious, talented, and artistic; all pursing their dreams as students, artists and entertainers.

Isis maintains her Institute of Ancestral Braiding School and salon in Addison, TX; where she graces the minds and hearts of her customers with wisdom. The natural styles that she crafts are mirrored to represent high standards of beauty in the African community; although today most of these styles are either appropriated or absent in most mainstream media outlets. Isis intends to change the way we feel and think about natural hair.

"All over the world, black hair has been looked at as inhumane and uncivilized. I want to change the whole way we look at Black hair. The strands of our hair are not a curse from God; it's a blessing. My purpose is to undo the 400 years of enslavement of our natural hair one person at a time. My motto is healing through hair."

Isis isn't just a talented natural hair stylist and teacher, she's also a multi-dimensional performing artist. She is an amazing poet and vocalist, performing unique African spiritual pieces. She begins with a prayer and offerings to the ancestors; giving her audience a sense of empowerment and serenity.

Brantley is widely known for styling the hair of neo-soul artist, ERYKAH BADU. She began braiding her hair when Badu was nine years old. As a braiding instructor and natural beauty specialist, her primary passion is to instill self love and the embracement of true natural beauty.

Isis' clientele base extends much further than the customers in her shop. She also makes appearances in senior homes and centers to style and braid natural hair and to provide entertainment and good conversation. Many of her customers and friends refer to her as a spiritual god-mother. She encourages young women and girls to accept and celebrate their natural hair and features; introducing them to the latest braiding care and grooming techniques.

In 1997, Isis was handcuffed in her salon and put in jail by a squad of undercover cops for braiding without a cosmetology license. At this time, the state had begun to enforce laws requiring hair braiders to complete three hundred hours of training to obtain a cosmo license.

"Seven cops came in, in front of my clients, and arrested me and took me to jail like a common criminal. The crime was braiding without a cosmetology license."- Texas Tribune / Isis Brantley

Isis was freed from jail within hours, and she refused to complete any license training for several reasons:

  1. Hair braiding was something that had been culturally-instilled in her since she was a child.

  2. No one in the state of Texas was more qualified to train her.

  3. The state had violated her right to work by imposing on her crippling regulations.

The state ruled in 2007 that her braiders required only 35 hours of training for certification, and Isis was 'grandfathered' in and awarded a license as the first natural hair care expert in Texas. Despite this small victory, her legal battle with the state was far from over.

According to the state regulators, she would also need an additional 2,250 hours of instruction required to open a barber's school and follow all Texas barbering administrative regulations because she had been teaching hundreds of people by the year 2013; even though she wouldn't be doing anything related to barbering or using sharp hair tools.

Isis sued the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation and succeeded in January of 2015, proving that it went against the 14th AMENDMENT. The regulatory laws on hair braiding were struck down by a federal judge. The judge concluded that it was unconstitutional for the state of Texas to regulate an ancestral art form and to require Isis Brantley to be certified before she is able to run a natural hair school.

In an interview with Cosmopolitan interview, Isis mentions how crucial being able to braid hair for business is for women in the Dallas community and how crippling regulations are for these women who are trying to make enough money to live.

"Hundreds and hundreds of women have been starving and asking the government for help, on welfare and food stamps because they could not allow themselves or appear to be making money as a braider. So they would hide and do it in the kitchen or at home. And many women in Texas have had their doors kicked in by police, knocked on, beat on, and [the police have] come into those apartments in Dallas, Texas, and fined those women because they heard that they were in their homes braiding."

Throughout Isis' struggle for her right to run her natural hair salon, she was able to achieve much exposure online and in various news/media outlets. Another recent case, similar to Brantley's - JESTINA CLAYTON from Utah, who braids hair to supplement her family income while her husband was completing school.

She, like Isis, was also bombarded by regulations to obtain a cosmetology license. Also similar to Brantley's case, Clayton won her battle against the state of Utah to braid hair without a license since obtaining such a license would be unconstitutional and invalid to her profession. She had learned the art of ancestral braiding when she was five in Sierra Leone, and it has been part of her cultural heritage since then.

Several articles have surfaced online and in print media about Isis' victorious battle with the state of Texas. Reports of her motivational story have been featured in Forbes Magazine, Cosmopolitan, The Huffington Post, and the Texas Tribune to name a few.

If we've learned anything from Isis Brantley's story, it's to be true to who you are and fearless in the face of adversity. Know that moving with a purpose, especially to help and heal others will always be favored by the Most High. Isis has taught us the importance of sacrifice and stepping up to injustices.

You can support Isis and get more info about her products, classes and braiding practices by visiting her website: You can also follow Isis on Social Media: @naturallyisis.



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Image by Jessica Felicio