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Why I’ll By no means Wear Hair Extensions Once more, By Pop Star Jamelia
Standing inside a Hindu temple in Chennai, India, I watch horrified as a two-yr-old woman with long, darkish tresses has her head shaved.
She screams as the clippers buzz round her ears and her hair tumbles to the ground.
She is clearly terrified and no doubt has little comprehension of what is occurring to her.
Beside her, her mom is having her head shaved, too.
Religious sacrifice: Jamelia saw ladies having their heads shaved as thanks for a kid’s recovery from sickness or to save lots of the family home from repossession
It is a religious sacrifice: the shaving represents a last-ditch plea to the next energy to avoid wasting their residence from being repossessed.
But to me, it appears to be the last word in exploitation.
Their hair is casually tossed right into a bin, but it surely will never really be thrown away.
Although they don’t know it, quickly their pigtails and plaits will likely be sold to hair sellers after which shipped on to the salons of Western Europe.
As I watch the lady and her daughter shuffle out, hopeful that this enormous sacrifice will make hair swooped to the side some tangible distinction to their lives, I make a promise to myself that I will never put on hair extensions again.
Splitting hairs: In the Indian city of Chennai there are so many ladies ready to chop off their tresses that factories have sprung as much as course of it
My hair has at all times been essential to me.
As a schoolgirl, I used to rise up at 5am to ensure I had sufficient time to do my hair earlier than school.
Though for a black girl I could be described as having ‘good’ hair – because it’s lengthy and straight – naturally, it is not luxurious, thick or sleek enough to fulfill the demands of the limitless photograph shoots and live shows I am involved in for my profession.
That is why, in most of the photographs you see of me, I’m carrying hair extensions.
For me, placing in my hair extensions seems like a confidence booster, like a hair swooped to the side man placing on a smart swimsuit.
I put on them to bring out the most effective in me and to remodel myself from busy mum of two into my alter ego, Jamelia the pop star.
And I am not alone.
Throughout Britain, girls are clipping, glueing and sewing hair into their heads.
Current figures show that British girls spend a staggering £65 million a 12 months on hair extensions.
As a nation, we now spend five occasions extra on lengthening our hair than we did 4 years in the past.
Shorn: The pop star with Tatiana, a 13-year-outdated Russian who offered her waist-size hair for simply £100 – roughly a month’s wages
Yet most of us give little or no consideration to the origin of our hair extensions.
Indeed, till I labored on this BBC investigation, I’m ashamed to admit I would by no means once stopped to consider the place the human hair I had pinned or sewn into my head had come from.
I used to be so ignorant in regards to the products I used to be utilizing that I can’t even say how a lot they have been costing me each month or every year.
Then I heard from a pal, earlier this year, that the hair used in the extensions could possibly be taken from corpses. I was horrified.
How did I know I wasn’t sporting a useless individual’s hair
And if I used to be, had they agreed to that before they handed away, or had they merely had it shaved off in a mortuary without their family’s loose knowledge
Farewell, long tresses: Jamelia has given up her flowing extensions
And if the hair wasn’t taken from the useless, who have been this military of girls and women from whom it was taken
I realised for the first time that there might be a really real human price to the magnificence fad which allowed me to feel more confident on stage.
I wished to know who on earth was chopping off other individuals’s hair within the identify of our Western vanity, and whose hair I’ve truly been wearing
My journey to search out out took me via a few of London’s most upmarket hair salons and into the heart of rural Russia and India.
What I found was actually shocking and distressing.
Do you know, for example, that in Russia, ladies as young as thirteen are cutting off their hair to sell for just a few pounds
This is even though within the UK, a full head of extensions of the best quality European hair would set you back £2,000.
There is a staggering profit to be made from this trade, and you’ll wager that none if it is handed again to the girls at the beginning of the chain.
I begin my journey by visiting Russia with Tatiana Karelina, a Russian hair-extension expert living in London.
She does 1,000 units of hair yearly for private shoppers, and is thought for offering high-quality tender and high quality hair.
She ceaselessly travels to her homeland to supply prime-quality hair straight from dealers.
We head to a distant rural space three hours from Moscow, the place we meet Alexander, a hair supplier.
He tells us his hair is offered to him from collectors, who go round small villages and towns persuading women and women to sell their hair.
I have plenty of questions for Alexander. I ask him if he is aware of whether the ladies whose hair he sells are being handled fairly.
I ask him if he ever gets hair from useless folks. He’s cagey and evasive.
He says that he knows the hair does not come from the lifeless, however he won’t elaborate further.
But after i press him, he lastly confesses that he doesn’t know exactly where the hair he is shopping for comes from.
And by the use of illustrating that, the girls who promote hair are treated fairly, he simply states that they know the value of their hair and would not sell it until they have been getting paid properly.
I depart the meeting feeling deeply uncomfortable.
This man is not sure that the hair he sells isn’t from lifeless individuals, and I’m starting to be convinced that somebody is being exploited along the way in which.
Let’s face it – the wealthy ladies tottering around Red Square in designer heels and carrying Louis Vuitton luggage do not need to sell their hair.
Next, Tatiana takes me to her residence city of Kashin, one other rural space, where we meet a 13-year-outdated woman, additionally referred to as Tatiana, who has lengthy hair which reaches her backside.
She tells us she needs to sell her hair as a result of she has been told she will probably be paid for it.
To my mind, it is a travesty – this woman’s hair is gorgeous and she seems too young to essentially know for sure whether or not she’s making the appropriate determination.
Normally, this full head of luxurious hair would have value simply £20. Immediately, perhaps as a result of I’m watching, Tatiana pays the girl £100.
It’s the equal of most individuals’s month-to-month wages right here, and the lady is over the moon.
But I feel extremely uncomfortable about the complete process – there’s something so deeply private about your hair: it ought to be every woman’s pleasure and joy.
What British teenager would ever dream of doing the same
For the subsequent stage of my investigation, I travel to Chennai, certainly one of the largest cities in India.
As a part of the documentary, I’ve had among the hair I put on in my extensions scientifically analysed. The outcomes recommend it comes from this area of India.
In Indian tradition, a lady’s hair is her magnificence, and the longer your hair, the higher your marriage prospects are.
Why then, with such worth placed on hair, would anybody even consider promoting it
Yet, extremely, there are so many ladies ready to chop off their hair here that factories have sprung up to process it.
On my visit, I go to see one where the employees sort through, shampoo, brush and blow dry the shorn hair of greater than 200,000 girls a 12 months. To me, it is a macabre thought.
So why precisely do these girls do it
Well, as I have mentioned already, there are the various Indian women who shave their hair voluntarily at Hindu temples as a sort of religious sacrifice.
And although some of these women know the hair can be offered, most don’t.
One girl I come throughout is having her head shaved to give thanks for the very fact her baby has recovered from a life-threatening sickness; another to avoid wasting her property from repossession.
They clearly consider this is one of the simplest ways to indicate their faith and gratitude, and I’m told that tens of millions of pounds raised from selling their hair is spent on the homeless and maintaining the temples.
And yet solely a quarter of Indian hair bought on the worldwide market comes from Hindu temples, which means that most of it’s coming from women who are simply trying to make a bit cash.
I also journey to an impoverished village to see how poor-high quality hair – the sort that sells on our market stalls in extensions for £5 – is collected.
There, I witness women and men working the rubbish dumps, truly searching for and accumulating hair that has been pulled out of hair brushes.
Quite merely, that is their household enterprise. It’s, they inform me, a job their fathers and grandfathers have finished before them.