Asha Mandela, 46, is going for the Guinness World Records. Her hair, or more precisely her dreadlocks, is her pride. She has been growing them for 20 years. They are longer than she is tall. Mandela has submitted her hair to Guinness World Records as the Longest Dreadlocks, the first entry in a new category.
In order to qualify for this category Mandela had to have her three longest locks measured and verified by witnesses. One such witness was Ryan Spinella, executive assistant to Longwood's city administrator. He watched the unfurling and measuring of Mandela's hair.
"I couldn't say what to compare it with. Just a lot of hair," Spinella said. "You don't believe it until you measure it, really."
Her longest dreadlock was measured at 8ft 9ins - it would have been 11 inches longer if she had not accidentally stepped on it and broken off the piece that she still carries around in her purse. In fact her dreadlocks is longer than the tallest man in the world - Leonid Stadnik, who is 8ft 2ins tall.
Asha Mandela of Davenport, Polk County, Fl. started growing her dreadlocks 20 years ago when she decided that she would no longer use chemical in her hair. Mandela, who is originally from Trinidad but was living in Brooklyn at the time, shaved all the hair off her head. When it started to grow back she began corkscrewing it into curls that in turn were twisted together into dreadlocks.
Mandela is really proud of her hair but there is one person who is no fan - her own mother. As her dreadlocks started to grow she sent a picture to her mother. Her mother told her not to send anymore pictures, complaining that Mandela was spoiling her hair:
'I took such good care of your nice curly hair, and this is what you are doing with it?'
Nevertheless Mandela is pleased with her hair. She calls it her baby, comparing it to raising a child from infancy to 20 years old. But caring for almost 9ft of hair can be burdensome. It takes one bottle of shampoo and one bottle of conditioner every time she washes her hair. She started off by washing it 3 times a week but because of the time and energy involved she now only does it once a week.
She wrings out the water as you would a wet beach towel. When the days are hot, and she takes it out by the pool in the backyard, it takes two hours to dry. When it's humid and cloudy or cool outside, it might take all day for her wet hair to lose its dampness.
It may take a few weeks for certification from Guinness World Records. Afterwards Mandela will then have to defend her title against all the unknown contenders with dreadlocks who would just love to take the title away from her. Guess who she fears the most - the Rastafarians of Jamaica.