Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to Isis Brantley. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.
Alright, Isis thanks for taking the time to share your stories and insights with us today. Did you always know you wanted to pursue a creative or artistic career? When did you first know?
I first knew I wanted to pursue a creative artistic path when I was still in elementary school. I loved singing and speaking before people, and my mother strongly encouraged me to perform. I participated in plays at school and then later in high school I was in oratory and drama. I went off to college at North Texas University with a major in theater, which led to me creating historical stories and performances about culture and history, which we performed out in the community. My creative interest led me to begin hair braiding, and soon I had opened my own hair braiding studio in my home. So, one can see that my entire early life was wrapped up in creative activities.
Isis, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
As I mentioned already, my creative nature led me into the braiding business. However, I truly believe my talent as a braider was a gift from my African Ancestors. I have owned and operated my braiding business now for over four decades, and for more than thirty years I have operated the Institute of Ancestral Braiding, my school that teaches aspiring braiders the craft and gives them the knowledge to become entrepreneurs and operate their own natural hair salons. In 1997 I was arrested for the “high crime” of braiding without a cosmetology license. I was carted off to Dallas County jail, strip-searched, and thrown behind bars. This experience began my 20-year legal battle with the State of Texas licensing board, culminating with my winning my federal lawsuit in 2015. That same year the Legislature passed House Bill 2717 which removed braiding from the cosmetology laws. This opened the door for economic opportunity and freedom for all braiding entrepreneurs. Throughout my entire life as a braider and teacher, I have developed and applied holistic and natural ways in the process. I call this “healing through the hair.” I developed lines of products called Sisters of Isis, that are all-natural and highly acclaimed by my customers. My school, I wish to say, is the only natural hair school in Texas that offers certifications that now are recognized across the USA and abroad.
How about pivoting – can you share the story of a time you’ve had to pivot?
The time that I was arrested as traumatic, and definitely the point in my life when I had to pivot and become the warrior queen that I had to be in order to save my family’s livelihood. An injunction was put on my salon building so I could not use it, and for a period my family, meaning myself and my five young children were homeless. It was then that I realized that I had not choice but to fight for my rights, which was vindicated by my lawsuit win years later. The judge at that trial ruled that my rights under the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution had been violated by the State of Texas. This 20-year period was extremely difficult and taxing on me in so many ways, financially, emotionally and so hard on my children. However, this whole experience brought me to where I am today, an internationally known stylist in the natural hair business, and owner of my school that attracts students from everywhere.
What do you think is the goal or mission that drives your creative journey?
Ultimately I want to share my life story as a major film. I truly believe my story would be a real inspiration to young girls fighting for their Crowns.