The Louisiana woman who has set the Guinness world record for the largest afro three different times in the last 13 years says she keeps breaking the mark to personally vouch for the beauty of natural hair.
“I didn’t decide to grow an afro as much as I decided to go natural,” Aevin Dugas told Guinness World Records in an interview earlier this month. “It’s about pride in textured hair which leads to self-love.”
Guinness, known for its database of more than 40,000 world record-holders, describes the 47-year-old Dugas as a resident of the community of Reserve, which is about 35 miles west of New Orleans. She remembered growing up coveting the database’s record for longest hair because some cultures have historically associated straight hair with beauty.
But by the time Dugas was in her 20s, she had come to admire the natural hairstyles that many Black women wore as an expression of identity and pride. And she was convinced that nobody would style her hair better than she could after an unsuccessful trip to a professional hairstylist whom she had asked to give her braids like those of the character Thelma Ann Evans on the 1970s CBS television sitcom Good Times.
In a recent video on her TikTok account, where she provides hairstyling tips to nearly 48,000 followers, Dugas recounted how that stylist braided her hair so tightly that it made even the bottom of her feet ache, so she took out the braids within hours.
“From that day on, I knew: ‘You know what? If you want to do your hair, do it yourself – learn it yourself,’” Dugas said. She was comfortable braiding, perming and coloring her own hair by then, and she was certain she could also learn how to cut it without too much difficulty. She did.
Dugas began growing the afro hairdo which is her trademark in about 1999. Its circumference in 2010 measured 4ft 4in (132cm), which gave her the Guinness world record for largest afro for the first time.
She bettered that record in 2021 with nearly 5ft 2in (157cm) before setting the current mark of almost 5ft 5in (165cm) this past September.
The record-setting afro – which is also more than 9in (25cm) tall and 10in (26cm) wide – requires “frequent trims and styling regimens” to maintain, according to Guinness. She also said she gets a wide array of reactions from the public whenever she lets her afro loose in public.
Dugas said some people yell words of admiration out to her in those instances. Some ask her questions or simply stare – and, unfortunately for her, a few have walked up and tugged on her hair without asking for permission to touch it.
“I’ve learned to just give them a little pop on the hand with a few words of choice I won’t repeat,” Dugas told Guinness.
In her 6 April interview with Guinness, Dugas said she liked how her distinctive hair helps her “become this figure in a room full of people that everyone will notice”. But she said she wears her hair in numerous other styles as well, if for no other reason than to survive south-eastern Louisiana’s infamously scorching temperatures, which regularly soar above 90F (32.2C) during the summertime.
“It’s hot,” Dugas said of her record-breaking afro. “It’s not something you wear out in the Louisiana heat just because.”