WDRB goes inside illegal hair braiding shop as owner awaits change in state law
It's a beauty business often working in the shadows of local homes. The owners say they have no choice.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It's a beauty business often working in the shadows of local homes. The owners say they have no choice.
On Tuesday, WDRB went inside an illegal hair braiding shop and discovered why the owner's waiting for the state to change law so she can pay taxes.
It's the middle of the day, in the middle of the week, and Kine Gueye is working as fast as her fingers will allow.
"I do cornrows," Gueye said. "I do micro-braids, I do Senegalese twists."
Gueye has a braider at every chair. Two of them are working on one woman's hair. But the business has a big problem.
"This shop is technically not legal," explained her husband Papa Gueye.
The Gueyes work with the fear of a fine hanging over their heads as Kentucky law requires a cosmetology license for an African braid shop to operate legally.
"I've braided hair since I was like 10, until now," said Kine Gueye.
It's a license which can cost up to $20,000 and take a year of training -- training that doesn't include the African braiding skills.
"Why I don't have a cosmetology license is because we don't do any chemical," said Kine Gueye. "Only thing I do is this," she said tugging at a cornrow on a customers head. Kine Gueye said, "They don't teach us how to braid because the braiding is like a culture."
The Kentucky Hair Braiders' Association estimates at least 100 women twist, curl and sew from their homes.
"It's very important," said customer Zipporah Smith-Warren. "You don't want just anyone in your hair."
Gueye worked from home for 17 years until moving into a shop off Watterson trail for safety.
"One day we do a lady's hair, and afterwards, she gets a knife and says she's not going to pay and you can do nothing about it," said Kine Gueye.
It's part of the reason the Kentucky legislature passed a bill carving African-style hair braiders out of the state's cosmetology license requirements.The bill passed with bi-partisan support.
"What we want to do is see these ladies open businesses, open shops, pay taxes, and be on the legal side," said Papa Gueye.
The bill still needs Governor Matt Bevin's signature to become law, to fully untangle the state's regulations.
Until then, the Gueyes will continue to work in the shadows.
"I feel like we're hiding and I'm tired to be hiding," said Kine Gueye. "I want to be out and be free."
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