Hair Braider Wins Fight Against Utah’s Hair-Braiding Requirements

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A mother of three wins her case against the state of Utah

A hair braider in Utah has won a federal lawsuit against the state over its licensing process for her hair braiding profession, arguing the state regulations violated her right to earn a living. Jestina Clayton, who braids hair to supplement her family’s income as her husband attends school, sued  Utah last year after she discovered it would be illegal to run a hair braiding business without a without acquiring a cosmetology license.

The state requires that anyone working with hair, including hair braiders, take approximately 2,000 hours of coursework for a cosmetology license. The state argues working with hair requires knowledge of sanitation and sterilization to protect public health. A federal judge ruled this week stating Utah’s requirement that Clayton get a cosmetology license to braid hair was “unconstitutional and invalid” because regulations are irrelevant to Clayton’s profession. “I’m excited. I can’t believe it,” Clayton said of the ruling. “You go in with the hope, but sometimes things don’t go your way.

U.S. District Judge David Sam in Salt Lake City, Utah, said the state couldn’t prove a cosmetology license for hair-braiding is needed to protect public health. He also added Utah has never investigated whether any health or safety threats are associated with the practice.

Utah attorney general’s spokesman, Paul Murphy, said Friday that lawyers are reviewing the case and have not decided whether or not they’ll appeal the judge’s ruling. The state acknowledged the curriculum and exam it requires for cosmetology license do not deal with hair-braiding. Clayton said she wouldn’t have minded taking classes to get a license, as long as they’re relevant to her work. “I would definitely do it, but that’s not what they were saying,” she said. “They were saying,Waste your time on something that you’ll never use.’”

Clayton, 30, learned how to braid her at the age of five in her West African home country of Sierra Leone.


  1. Reneegede

    August 12, 2012 at 11:49 am

    Wow. If she’d been a black American woman, she’d never have won that case.

    • sheila

      October 29, 2012 at 11:13 pm

      My beloved, she is a descendant of our African ancestors! She is your sister, it’s obvious that you do not recognize that we, Black people are all interconnected. Be proud that she was willing to stand up for her rights just like Rosa Parks did! We can now ride at the front of the bus, and, read BOOKS to enhance our understanding of self.
      Please read about West Africa-Sierra Leone, know your history and your people! Love

      • Christie

        May 30, 2013 at 8:00 pm

        I think she won it for Americans living in Ultah not Africa. I’m thinking something similar happen here in TX which is causing a review of cosmethology requirements to practice. I agree there are errors and issues with someone doing our hair and I still prefer to sit in someone kitchen over spending 5-6 hours in a salon that still might not get it right.

    • Michael Benjamin

      November 3, 2012 at 11:09 pm

      You are a sad moron! And you’re not an African American. You’re a racial provocateur trying to sow seed of dissent among the children of the African diaspora. We’re not buying what you’re trying to sell.

      The Mormons of Utah disrespect black people because they still believe that the mark of Cain and the curse of Ham are upon dark-skinned people. See what we do to Mitt on Tuesday. He’ll certainly curse the day.

    • BigWill

      November 4, 2012 at 12:39 pm

      Racist caucasians have created a stock pile of dangerous weapons with the intent of killing you know who! The only response from AA’s to this serious threat is to continue buying more gold teeth, tattoos, hair extensions, alcohol, tobacco products, crack and other BS. Caucasians created a fake god- a white man to whom black ppl pray to each day and night. The book associated with this fake god- the Bible instructs black ppl to “Love thy enemy” and “Slaves obey your Masters”. Black people, your enemy is planning to wage an all-out war against you and your response is to- Love and Pray for them. Black ppl, please realize you must overcome your fear of cacasians which is responsible for your paralysis to this eminent violence. The time has come for black ppl to stop being slave minded drones to this wicked nation and fake religion.

  2. SpecialK

    August 12, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Reneegede, are you looking at a different woman than me??? The woman I am looking at IS black! I am glad she won the case because it is true! There is no threat to public health braiding hair. These laws are ridiculous for the braider.

    • FromParker'sPen

      August 12, 2012 at 9:10 pm

      [Friendly note: SpecialK, Reeneegede was saying an American woman who is Black, as opposed to this victorious woman who is a Black, African-American from an African country. Reference the closing sentence, which states: “Clayton, 30, learned how to braid her at the age of five in her West African home country of Sierra Leone.” ]

      VICTORY: Hopefully, this ruling will help women and men across the country who have been braiding hair from the “front porch” since childhood. (I remember the days 🙂 There are similar cases or changes in regulations pending decisions in other states. Thanks for fighting for everyone’s rights, Ms. Justina Clayton! You have set a legal precedent that will have a positive effect on other defendants’ cases.

      • dadyer

        August 12, 2012 at 10:10 pm

        This woman’s case was handled, pro bono (that means for free), by an outfit called the Institute for Justice ( that fights against unnecessary and needless rules and regulations and licensing requirements that prevent entrepreneurs from being able to start or engage in business activities.
        Who do these government rules, regulations, and licensing requirements hurt the most? Immigrants such as Ms. Clayton and minority-would-be-entrepreneurs who may not have much money to invest in a business startup!
        Anyone who believes in liberty and freedom and opportunity for all (white, black, immigrant, whatever) should be voting for small government candidates to get rid of all these obstacles to achieving the American Dream!
        (By the way – the Institute for Justice is mostly a bunch of white guys!)

        • A.P.

          November 3, 2012 at 11:42 am

          Preach It!

  3. Emmett Bowers

    August 13, 2012 at 5:39 pm


    • Tamara

      August 13, 2012 at 5:46 pm

      Thanks Emmett for your wisdom. I’m sure she washes and sterilize the combs she uses while some of them in the government & those posting have never cleaned their combs or brushes for decades and they are talking about sanitation.

  4. Tamara

    August 13, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    It does not matter where she originated from as long as she was doing something legal to support her family. Her skin color or nationality has nothing to do with her standing up and doing the right thing. Braiding is a talent or gift and using it in a positive way, is what we should all, including the government be happy about. She is not depending on them for foodstamps, or cash assistance and she needs to be commended for that. And by the way, thanks to the lawyers/lawyer who provided the pro bono services.

  5. mmdccbslm

    August 14, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    good on her and her legal help.

  6. Braid Queen SaBrina Fisher Reece

    August 18, 2012 at 11:12 am

    Congratulations!!! Very proud of you. I fought this fight fot the state of California in 1998. Im stunned they are still coming after braiders. Enjoy your Victory!

  7. Yolanda

    September 3, 2012 at 1:10 am

    Congrats. Way to Stand

  8. Andrea Barber

    September 8, 2012 at 2:23 am

    Congrats to CLayton and her legal team!!! Keep doing what you are doing!!! Her clients probably shampoo and oil their own hair and bring their own brush and combs. Instead of going after braiders they should be ensuring that all salons that use any type of hot irons have exhaust fans. I have always hated the smell of fried hair!!!!

  9. Pecola

    October 27, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    Great Work I congrad you and thanks..

  10. Kim

    November 3, 2012 at 9:58 am

    The laws are for the state to collect for thier pockets. I don’t blame this sister. Afterall, there are no jobs that ANy state is producing for any of us and then they want to control the gift that God blessed one with. If I bake a cake and sell it do you think I am going to report this to the IRS? Hell no! Would they? We have to do what we have to do in order to survive. At least she is not selling drugs. I mean damn give people a break and LEAVE them the hell alone. I wish I knew how to do hair. I do know many that do hair from thier homes. No one has time to get a license unless they want thier own shop or goes to work in one. These days, if you got skills to pay the bills GO FOR IT!

  11. Donna

    November 3, 2012 at 12:40 pm


  12. highfivesix

    November 3, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    VICTORY! Victory! I am happy that she stood up for her principle’s and what she believed was still goes to prove that David can still slew Goliath…

  13. Miss T

    November 4, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    I just have three letters…IRS…ya better watch yourself!

  14. MsRebelAgainst

    November 4, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    My 2 cents, I think that some of the problem is in the fad or fashion that we, African-American women are wearing now. That is, we are going NATURAL again. which if we go natural and don’t use chemicals in our hair, etc. we will have natural styles, such as braids, eliminating the need for some stylist with license. hence, eliminating the need for state boards, etc. State is not getting their share of the pot, it it all about the money.
    Utah you have enough bigamist in your state that you need to go after, with out messing with the sistah’s making a living for themselves and not asking the state for anything.

  15. Regina

    November 4, 2012 at 5:09 pm


  16. D.A. Daniels

    November 10, 2012 at 7:33 am

    Memorandum to POTUS Re-Elect Barack H. Obama.

    TO: POTUS Barack H. Obama
    The White House – 1600 PA Avenue, N.W. – WDC

    FROM: Black Americans
    America Nationwide

    SUBJ: Black American Unemployment & Youth Violence

    Mr. Obama African American unemployment at 14.3% for black adults and over 40% for black youth is shameful, unacceptable, dangerous, and also undeniably the first major problem with the second being youth violence that Black America needs and expects you to urgently and effectively address.

    There is something else that must be mentioned to you in possible correlation to disproportionately high African American unemployment as a pertinent reminder and a fact that also can not and should not be ignored. The overwhelming vast majority of large employers and business owners in America are still White Americans.

    President Obama as you must or should well know already, extremely high and long term unemployment in the black community nationwide is not only devastating, but also fast breeds a host of other extremely serious and grave problems for many African American families, young adults, youth, and older citizens in every former income class across the board ranging from the formerly upper-income and middle-class to moderate and low-income. Herein we remind you of those problems.

    The serious and grave problems from extremely high and long term African American unemployment includes wiped out life savings and college tuition funds representative of rapid complete and irrevocable loss of years earned financial gains, home foreclosures, forced sale of other valuables to pay utility bills and purchase bare basic necessities, tremendous anger, depression, domestic violence, poverty, increased government spending for Food Stamp, Medicaid, and Homelessness social service programs, increases in divorce and broken families, alcohol and drug use, suicides, homicides, other crimes, re-occuring and first time jail and prison sentences, and absolutely quite full and unmitigated despair and hopelessness.

    President Obama with all due respect, Black America hereby trusts that you get the picture. We also know that a sincere congratulations to us and to you for your re-election is in order. Congratulations to you President Obama. Black America now for a second time again much hopes, looks forward to, and indeed very fully expects to see rapid emergency results of your new out-of-the-box-thinking to seriously address a powder keg of already 14.3% and steadily rising disproportionately high African American unemployment on both our and this nation’s behalf.

    Undeniably, African Americans nationwide faithfully, graciously, and overwhelmingly helped you to not only gain, but to also keep your job. Please do something bold to ensure that we are not repeatedly denied the same opportunity. Thank you.

    Black America

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