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Is she 'fro real?

IMPRESSIVE: Aevin Dugas holds the record for the world's biggest afro

THE WEIRD and wonderful characters featured in Guinness World Records have fascinated the public for years.

But when the new list was published earlier this year it wasn't the dog with the longest ears or the woman with the longest tongue that boggled the mind, but the woman with the world's largest afro.

Why the natural hairstyle has caused such a sensation and provoked so much press coverage is puzzling. After all, the 'fro enjoyed huge popularity in the Sixties and Seventies as a symbol of freedom and pride among African-Americans during the US Civil Right Movement. And who can think of the Jackson Five without thinking of their huge hair?

Perhaps half the problem is that the afro’s glory days appear to be behind it. Sadly, in these modern times, the afro in the mainstream has become a symbol of ridicule – more likely to be worn by drunk stags at bachelor parties than soul sisters in killer heels.
Step forward Aevin Dugas, the proud owner of an impressive head of hair.

Standing at a very petite 5-feet and 2-inches tall, the 36-year-old from New Orleans in the US can say with confidence that the circumference of her crowning glory – one metre and 32 centimetres – is almost as tall as she is. And she loves it.

While the social worker’s hair may have provoked patronising comments like "How do you sleep with it?", "Can I touch it?" and "How long did it take to grow?", she has also become the new pin-up for a generation of black women who are fed up with chemicals, wigs and weaves, and are choosing to just wear their hair natural.

Dugas has made it clear where she stands on the issue.

"It depends on who is looking at it. Whose opinion. For me, I love natural hair. If you want to take it like a joke, that's your problem. Afros are sexy," she says.

"As a woman, you're told that straight hair is beautiful hair. This is crazy. The afro is my natural hairstyle, and there can’t be anything more beautiful than that," she adds.

Dugas started on her path to world hair domination quite by accident around 12 years ago. She was inspired by a photo of her mother as a young woman, deciding that when she ditched relaxers, she would bring the afro back.

"My mom has a picture from before I was born. It was so cute and it looked really like me. Now my hair is three times bigger than hers. It basically snowballed," she remembers.

Despite a series of incidents, such as slamming it in car doors, picking up straws in people’s drinks, and even getting threatened at a concert due to her hair, Dugas said she has absolutely no plans to cut it beyond a regular trim.

"I wouldn’t change a thing about it," the self-confessed product junkie says firmly.

Dugas was contacted by Guinness World Records after a friend sent her Facebook picture to them.
The team measured it, and the rest, as they say, is history. They funded a five-day all-expenses trip to London for interviews, including one with the BBC.

The one question on everyone's lips: how do you manage it?

Dugas' hair gets three trims a year and requires five bottles of conditioner after shampooing. She then puts her hair into two French braids and leaves it to dry – a two-day process.

"After that, I moisturise it, pick it out and spray some water on it, to help it kink up a bit," she explains.

Of course, wrapping it at night is essential to avoid a bad case of the tangles.

"I don't always wear it like this, especially not in the summer, because it gets pretty hot in New Orleans, but I usually opt for a more 'quiet' style, like braids, twists or a donut," she says.

There is just one rule, says Dugas: "I hate it when people touch it without asking my permission first."

"Don’t touch it. Don’t smash it. Don’t pull it."

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