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July 16, 2017 10:18 PM

Life After The Braiding Bill

Sioux Falls, SD

It's no secret... finding ethnic hair styling options isn't easy in South Dakota. Yet, the so called "braiding bill" turned law opened the door for change.

“It doesn't even seem real sometimes. It's kind of like oh I'm going to work. It just doesn't seem real,” Rachael Gorsuch said.

It's going to take some time for Gorsuch to get comfortable with her new title. She's now the licensed business owner of one of the only natural hair braiding shops in Downtown Sioux Falls. 

Business has been booming ever since Gorsuch opened the doors here on 6th St. and Main Ave. She works six days a week and she takes about six to eight clients each day.

"Sometimes it's hard to keep up especially on the weekends but I mean it's a good problem you know,” Gorsuch said.
 
Yet getting to this point was nowhere near easy for Gorsuch.

Six months ago she was making a living styling heads out of her basement without a cosmetology license.  Under the previous law, she was required to finish 2,100 hours of cosmetology school before she could charge for her services.

However, she didn't feel she needed a license for the craft because she doesn't use chemicals and only manipulates ethnic hair in its natural state. 

She and a few others took their concerns to lawmakers in Pierre last September.

"I think they just didn't realize. Sioux Falls doesn't have as many black people as a bigger city so they didn't realize it was an issue,” Gorsuch said.
 
The so-called "braiding bill" made its way through the legislature. Governor Dennis Daugaard signed it into law in February and it became official July 1st. 

"It's just like a really big weight that's lifted,” Gorsuch said.
 
Finding a hairstylist for three-year old Camaya Whitelock is one less worry for her mom.

 "It was a learning process for me as well to have my daughter who is of mixed race,” Abby Whitelock said, "It's helpful for me to have someone who knows what I should be doing with her hair.”
 
It hasn't always been easy for her to find someone who can maintain the type of hair texture her daughter has.

"My daughter goes with me when I go to the beauty shop and get my hair done. I want her to have that same experience. She gets that by coming to Rachael,” Whitelock said, "She's the truth when it comes to braiding your hair.”
 
Marlon Lobban is also a faithful client.  Before he met Gorsuch, he struggled to find someone to style his dread locks.

"It takes a unique person to do this type of hair, let alone do this many different styles. You can get it all done in one shop,” Lobban said.

Gorsuch might just be considered a pioneer for natural hair braiders in South Dakota. She's just glad to give people of color more hairstyling options.

"It means a lot. I also have kids of color and it means a lot to be in my own home town and be able to have changed something in my home town,” Gorsuch said.

Gorsuch is the only stylist working in her shop right now, but she plans to open the doors to other natural hair braiders looking for work in Sioux Falls.  

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