By Jane Nambi
50-year-old Asha Mandela holds the title of having the world’s longest dreadlocks.
Her locks are longer than a bus according to Daily Mail and according to her, it was the locks that helped her when she suffered two heart attacks, cancer and two strokes. “Cutting it would be equivalent to suicide. It would be like being a zombie,” she said.
Mandela lives with her husband and son in Atlanta. She stopped cutting her hair in her 20s. “I started growing my hair 25 years ago, when I started having certain dreams and visions,” she said. Part of those dreams and visions was achieving a certain form of spirituality which included growing the dreadlocks. Mandela now says because of her locks, she has countless fans who call her a “living legend” and the “ninth wonder of the world.”
Her hair weighs 39 pounds and she has to carry her it in a cloth baby sling when she goes out. It was however not an easy journey when she decided to grow her hair. “My mom told me to remove the mop from my head before I am welcomed in her home again,” she recounted in an interview. “She said to me, ‘Imagine, I put nice Vaseline and lard in your hair and groom it so nicely … now look what you did to it.’”
Although doctors have told her cut off her hair due to health issues, Mandela says, “My hair has become part of me. It is my life. I will never cut it.”
“The doctors seem to think I have a curvature of my spine and that it’s the length and the weight of my hair that’s making me curve. Some have said my neck has collapsed at the back and that I need to be careful because I could start having spasms in my spine and probably be paralysed.”
Despite all these recommendations, the mother of one said her hair has helped her love life. “My hair has never caused a problem with intimacy. I think it adds a little spice on top.”
Mrs. Mandela, who is happily married to her third husband, was born in Trinidad and Tobago. She washes her locks once a week and conditions them with natural oils. After washing, her hair can take a whopping two full days to completely dry.
Though she underwent a bilateral mastectomy followed by chemotherapy in the late 1990s, miraculously, her hair didn’t fall out. According to a 2010 interview, Mandela tied her dreadlocks up into knots in order to preserve them. She obtained the Guinness World Record for longest dreadlocks in 2008 and a year later, she broke her own record with a strand measuring 19 feet, 6 inches. In 2010, Guinness decided to retire the category, since dreadlocks can be lengthened by twisting in extensions, making Mandela the first and only record holder.
But 19-and-a-half feet of hair is nothing. Last week, one of Mandela’s strands was measured at 55 feet, 7 inches — almost three times the length of her official record.