The last name, Mandela, is undoubtedly one of the most famous last names in the world, thanks to the exploits of the South African global icon, Nelson Mandela. But there is one other reason why it is a recognizable name, and it is down to Asha Mandela, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, the woman with the world’s longest dreadlocks.
Often referred to as the Black Rapunzel, Asha Mandela achieved international recognition when the Guinness World Record awarded her the title of the World’s Longest Dreadlocks in 2008. Since then, her name has drawn awe and curiosity from millions around the globe.
Meet Asha Mandela
When Asha Mandela was born in 1963 in Trinidad and Tobago, one could say she did not imagine she would go on to own the world’s longest dreadlock. We don’t know much about her background, and it is difficult to determine the social circumstances that inspired her on what she has since described a ‘spiritual journey.’
But at the age of 25, Asha decided to grow her locks after she relocated from the South American island to New York. Her reason, at the time, was to have a more natural hairstyle. During one of several interviews she granted after she hit the milestone, she described it as a spiritual journey, one that has now lasted more than 30 years.
In 2008, that journey reached a significant milestone when the Guinness World Record awarded her the World’s Longest Dreadlocks. At the time, the hair won the title at an official length, 19 feet, 6 inches. However, the unofficial size was put a massive 55 feet, 7 inches, and weighs up to three stones.
According to the world record holder, she washes the dreads once a week, using up to six bottles of shampoo, and it takes two days for the locks to dry, weighing up to 25 pounds when they are wet. A lot of the maintenance expense comes out of a hair product business she owns.
It would have been fair to put scissors through the hair after receiving the title, but Asha has no plans of doing so. After more than three decades, she claims the hair has become a part of her, and cutting it would be like taking her life away.
Asha feels so attached to her hair, so much that she panics when she sees a piece thinning or breaking off. The Trinidad and Tobago-born record holder says losing a part is like losing a part of herself.
However, keeping her hair isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, especially for her health.
Her Hair has Health Implications
Asha Mandela’s extraordinarily long hair inspires awe, but it also has a couple of medical implications. According to her, visits to doctors have revealed a curvature in her spine due to the impact of the length and weight of the hair. Diagnosis suggests that her neck has collapsed at the back, and she is in danger of having spasms in her spine, which could eventually lead to paralysis.
But the medical effect of her hair is being mitigated by her partner, who has been training her at the gym and helping her strengthen her back muscles. Since she began the exercise, Asha has reportedly lost more than 65 pounds, finding the balance between staying healthy and keeping her jaw-dropping hair.
She is married to a Kenyan
Despite the awe and attention that comes from having an unusual body figure, one significant downside is the lack of a romantic partner. Considering many see them as a freak, having a successful relationship becomes quite the challenge. However, Asha Mandela has been lucky in that regard.
The Trinidad and Tobago World Record Holder is married to Emmanuel Chege, a hairstylist from Kenya. The two of them reportedly met each other online after he found pictures of her famous dreadlocks on hair websites. They bonded over their love for hair, and after eight months of online interaction, met when she visited Kenya for business.
The couple found physical chemistry and quickly began a whirlwind romance that turned into a marriage after another eight months in 2014. Since they got married, Emmanuel as resumed a full-time role as Asha’s hairstylist, having worked as one for 15 years before meeting the world record holder.
Not only is Asha Mandela’s husband dedicated to nurturing her hair, but he is also growing his hair. He hopes to one day claim the world title for the longest male dreadlocks.
So far, based on available information about the couple, the couple is yet to have a child. Asha and her husband say, however, that if they are ever blessed with a child, the child will be their ‘cute little Rasta baby.’
Finally, if you are wondering if the hair plays a negative role in their sex life, it doesn’t. While the couple admits the hair can sometimes be a hindrance, it is more of a positive than a negative. According to them, the hair shares the bed with them, giving the feeling of having a third partner. The couple lives in Florida, where they manage her hair business together.
Asha Mandela might be the Last Record Holder
Asha Mandela’s unintentional rise to stardom may very well be the last time someone achieves the feat. Not because no one will ever attempt the feat again, but the official measurement may never exist again.
According to a spokeswoman for Guinness World Records, the company decided to retire the World’s Longest Dreadlocks record a year after Asha won it. The company claimed it is impossible to measure the authenticity of the locks due to the widespread availability of expert methods for the attachment of hair extensions.
When the news reached Asha, she was unbothered, insisting her hair will forever be apart of her, record or not. While this might be a blow to those who wish to follow in her footsteps, like her husband, it is essential to remember that only change is permanent.