Meet Asha Mandela, whose amazing 55ft locks are longer than a London bus!
The 47-year-old already has a world record but wants to go even bigger – despite doctors warning it could leave her paralysed.
‘My hair has become part of me. It is my life. I will never cut it,’ says the mum-of-one, from Atlanta, Georgia. ‘Cutting it would be equivalent to suicide. It would be like being a zombie.’
Asha, who calls her dreadlocks ‘her baby’, credits them with helping her overcome cancer, two strokes and two heart attacks.
Her incredible hair has also brought her fans across the world and she has launched her own secret hair formula on the back of her success.
But they can also be a bit of a drag.
Her hair weighs almost three stone – equivalent to the weight of a 5-year-old child.
It takes two days to wash and dry and is even heavier when wet. It can also get easily trapped in doors or snag on bushes.
Asha has to wind it up into an African-style baby sling when she leaves the house which gives her a greater degree of freedom. But she still worries that ‘someone with a hair fetish’ will cut off a lock of her hair when she’s not looking.
Doctors have also asked her to consider cutting her hair for health reasons, including the risk of bacterial infection.
But their main concern is the weight.
‘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.’
However, there is one area it has not affected – her love life. She was married to a Welshman for eight years, then met an Englishman with whom she had her son, 11– and is now happily married to a Kenyan, who also has dreadlocks.
‘My hair has never caused a problem with intimacy. I think it adds a little spice on top,’ she says.
Asha, who was born in Trinidad and Tobago, began growing her hair 25 years ago following a ‘spiritual calling’.
It was against the wishes of her mother, who thought it would make her more likely to smoke cannabis. But she persevered and continued to grow her locks – even when she underwent chemotherapy battling cancer.
Eventually a friend suggested she speak to Guinness and in 2009 they crowned her with the title of world’s longest dreadlocks.
They officially measured 19ft 6in but an unofficial measurement more recently put one strand of her hair at an incredible 55ft 7in long – almost three times the official length.
Asha is mobbed wherever she goes but only allows a lucky few to touch her beloved hair.