There's an unspoken sisterhood among women with curly hair.
Could it be the early memories of straightening maintenance? Probably. The all-too-familiar annoyance of strangers reaching for their hair? Absolutely. The lack of products on the market embracing natural curls? Definitely.
Miko Branch and her sister Titi took the latter issue to heart. Inspired by their grandmother's dedication, entrepreneurship, and sassy spirit, they launched the Miss Jessie's natural hair products brand and salon in Brooklyn in her honor.
But in January, Branch uprooted the company and relocated its headquarters to South Beach. Titi passed away in December 2014, and Branch decided it was time for a change professionally and personally. (The Miss Jessie's salon remains in New York's SoHo neighborhood.)
Branch says the move to Florida was a no-brainer. The multicultural diversity Miami offers reflects the audience her brand serves. Miami's climate and clientele have inspired her to launch products such as Curls So Fresh, a moisturizing spray; and Honey Curls, a styling emulsion made with honey. She also notes that more women are open to wearing their hair natural in Miami because of the intense humidity.
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"Hair has less to do with ethnicity and more to do with texture, so Miss Jessie's focuses on all curly hair. It's not uncommon for a Latina to have the same texture as a Jewish woman, or the Jewish woman to have the same texture as a black woman," Branch says. "We find that making products for just black women or Latinas is not what it is. We live in a multicultural world, and it's not uncommon for a Latina to have a kinky curl."
Branch says she's pleased to see how the natural hair movement has grown since she debuted the business in the early 2000s. Women should be proud of their natural beauty despite what they've been conditioned to think, she says.
"Many of us didn't even know we had curly hair. Many of us were told that straight hair was the beauty standard, and my sister Titi and I worked very hard to change the opinion of beauty. We encouraged women by making products like Curly Pudding, Curly Meringue, and Baby Buttercreme, to inspire women to work with what God gave them," says Branch, who's scouting locations in Miami and Fort Lauderdale for a new salon. "Now, over a decade later, we are seeing in the media people that are curly, kinky and wavy, and we think all of our efforts to change the beauty standard have taken form. We believe it is here to stay."
For more information, visit missjessies.com.