This archived article was written by: Jennifer Jarrett
If you’ve been on the CEU campus at all you more than likely have seen students walking around with braids in their hair. Jessica Nakai, a sophomore from Blanding, Utah has been braiding hair for students ever since she arrived in fall 2002.
“I first learned how to braid when I was in grade school. I would watch my older sister braid my other sister’s and my hair.
“None of my siblings would let me practice on their hair, so, I taught myself with my Barbie dolls, and I just kept practicing. I wanted to be like my older sister because she was always getting praised for the beautiful job she would do on our hair,” Nakai explained.
“Once I got to middle school, I was sick of asking my older sister to braid my hair, and had a lot of time on my hands after school.
“I started to teach myself how to braid my own hair. My hair wasn’t as long then. It was only three inches below my shoulders. Once I got the hang of it, I would stay up all hours of the night so I could go to school with braids in my hair.
“My older brother started to ask me if I would braid his hair. Later my sisters asked me to braid their hair.
“In high school, I started to experiment with braiding a little more, I taught myself how to put designs in my own hair. On bus trips for cross-country, track and basketball, the girls would ask me if I would braid their hair, so I did.
“After high school I came to CEU. No one knew that I could braid hair. Well, my older sister came to school here the year before me, she knew a few of the basketball players and had braided their hair. One in particular, PJ Stinnett, asked her if I knew how to braid, She told him I knew how to braid but I wasn’t that experienced.
“One day I was walking through campus and he asked me if I would braid his hair. At first, I was skeptical about it, but agreed. I did tell him I had never braided a black-person’s hair before and that I wasn’t very quick at braiding.
“He said that was okay, he just wanted his hair braided. It took four hours just to do straight backs; that was really sad, but he didn’t care. Then a week later he asked me again and I braided his hair, the third time he brought over one of his teammates, Chris Langhorn to ask if I would braid his hair too, I agreed.
“Slowly, and I do mean slowly, my braids started to look better. Then I asked if it was okay if I could try to do a design on their heads, they agreed. The designs took longer than the straight backs, in the least seven hours.
“After learning how to do designs in someone else’s hair other than my own, I was beginning to get asked more frequently if by my roommates’ as well as other students on campus to braid their hair.
“This year Langhorn returned and needed his hair braided and then once others on the team saw what I could do with hair, a few started to grow their hair out so that I could do braids in it.
‘There is a difference between braiding straight-fine hair and braiding nappy-coarse hair. With straight-fine hair, to keep the braids tight the hair has to be wet. But when braiding nappy-coarse hair, it needs to be dry or greased. It cannot be wet. The hair will be really loose and it takes longer for the hair to dry.
“I was enjoying braiding hair and was considering going into the cosmetology field. I enjoyed it because it was another form of art with me. It let me be expressive with hair.
“I was creating my own designs. They would sit down and I would let my hands go to work. I just started to braid and that’s when the creating took place. I have gotten much quicker than seven hours. I still take a long time but I think I do a great job.”
Nakai has come far since she started braiding and has received much praise from the people who have had her braid their hair. Students that have gotten their hair braided usually end up coming back to her to get it braided several more times.
Nakai is graduating from CEU this year and will be moving to Logan and attending USU majoring in Family & Child Counseling.