Salamata “Sally” Sylla is originally from Senegal. She moved to the United States in 1999 in search of economic opportunities and a better life. Salamata has been braiding hair since she was a girl. She learned hair braiding the way many African girls do—by practicing on her family, friends and herself.
Salamata learned the business of hair braiding in New York City, at her sister’s Harlem salon. There she taught herself African-American hairstyles, improved her English-language skills and learned how to run a successful hair braiding business.
In March 2005, Salamata moved to Renton, Wash. and began working in a Seattle hair braiding salon. Salamata recently relocated to Kent, Wash., where she raises her three children as a single mom.
In 2012, Salamata opened her own salon, Sally’s Africain Hair Braiding, in Kent. (Salamata and other Senegalese prefer to use the French spelling, “Africain.”) Salamata exclusively practices African hair braiding. She does not cut hair. She does not curl hair. She does not use any chemicals, adhesives or dyes. She does not apply makeup or nail polish. The only thing that Salamata does is African hair braiding. African hair braiding is the only service available at her salon.
Almost a decade after IJ successfully sued Washington state over its irrational hair braiding laws, officials once again tried to force natural hair braiders to become licensed cosmetologists.