Cosmetology association threatens lawsuit over Kentucky's new 'h - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Cosmetology association threatens lawsuit over Kentucky's new 'hair braiding bill'

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky's new braiding bill is splitting hairs. The law just signed by Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin carves out natural braiders like Kine Gueye from cosmetology license requirements.

"I am free now, and everyone else," Gueye said. "Sisters, aunties, and anyone else braiding hair all over Louisville: you are free to open your shop."

Many were working illegally from home, saying expensive cosmetology schools don't teach their African cultural craft. 

But the Kentucky Congress of Cosmetologists is lobbying the state to revise its new law, claiming it's dangerous for customers. 

"Hair is hair," said Stephanie Hicks, of the Kentucky Congress of Cosmetologists. "It doesn't matter who you are, you're supposed to know how to do all hair."

"Education is the key to everything," Hicks said. "They're braiding with the lack of knowledge in caring for the scalp, scalp disorders, skin disorders. They're sending people out into the world with who-knows-what."

A cosmetology license can cost around $20,000 and take 1,800 hours of schooling. 

Lisa Wilson says her school does teach braiding and it's about 300 hours of the curriculum. Wilson said," I tell students often that your education is just the baseline you learn to work by doing the job...but that doesn't mean it's not necessary." 

Wilson fears the worst. "So many more people with infections, so many more diseases, and then so many more people saying, 'I'm not going to do anything but braid,' so the education will be compromised," Wilson said.

"The problem is we are not doing the same thing," Gueye said. "I'm not doing nails or makeup. The only thing I'm doing is braiding hair."

The bill passed the legislature with bipartisan support. 

The Kentucky Congress of Cosmetologists -- which represents hair dressers, barbers and nail technicians -- has contacted the Attorney General's office, started a petition among licensed salons and is threatening to file a lawsuit against the state. 

"Basically, it's like discrimination," Hicks said. "You are singling out one group from the rest."

"The hair industry is a constant changing business, so what's going to come along next that you're going to say, 'This is culture to this group of people, so they don't have to be licensed,'" Hicks added. 

Gueye says she's ready for the fight. 

"We are not doing nothing wrong," she said.

It looks like weaving together one of Kentucky's newest laws is tangled in a mess. 

With time running out in the legislative session, the soonest the state could even consider any changes to the braiding bill is next year.

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