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Naturally Criminal: Interview with Isis Brantley

Isis Brantley has been arrested, jailed and a plaintiff in a federal civil rights case. But she’s not a whistleblower or a political dissident.

She teaches how to braid hair.

For almost 20 years, Isis has fought Texas over her right to braid hair and to pass on her knowledge to others. Her struggle recently culminated in a major federal court decision earlier this month, which shined a spotlight on occupational licensing. Today, millions of Americans, like Isis, have to seek permission from the government—or fight back—before they can do their jobs. 

I interviewed the illustrious Miss Isis Brantley about her fight to deregulate African braiding in the state of Texas. Until 2016, it was a criminal misdemeanor to practice ancestral braiding without a hyperbolic state license in cosmetology. We discuss her thoughts on natural hair care, entrepreneurship in the black community, cultural appropriation, Erykah Badu, and what's next for this trailblazer.

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