By Kayla Henderson-Wood | Special to the OBSERVER
Mahisha Dellinger returned to her hometown of Sacramento on July 22 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of her hair care line, Curls. She partnered with WEAVE to bring products to the community and connected with the people of Sacramento at a meet-and-greet at an Ulta Beauty store.
Raised in Meadowview, Dellinger fondly remembers going to Florin Mall, Old Thyme Burrito and winning Miss Pre Teen Sacramento when she was 12 years old, but these memories are paired with the realities of what it was like growing up in the city during the ’80s at the peak of the crack epidemic.
Dellinger often was at the center of gun and gang violence growing up. Her home was shot at multiple times, her family members were involved in gangs and many people she knew didn’t live to 18.
“It was a way of life,” Dellinger said. “It was a direct relationship to where I lived. It kind of came with the territory.”
She also witnessed domestic violence. Her mother was physically abused by her boyfriend and Dellinger recalled not knowing what to do.
“I remember as a kid hearing about WEAVE, but I didn’t know how to connect it as a 7-year-old,” Dellinger said. “I didn’t turn him in. I didn’t ask for help.”
That experience was one reason Dellinger chose to partner with WEAVE to celebrate Curls’ 20th anniversary.
WEAVE is a nonprofit that provides resources and support to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and sex trafficking. The organization gives presentations to groups, including schools and law enforcement, about breaking cycles of violence. It also provides educational resources and crisis intervention services.
Dellinger and her team provided WEAVE a gentle, soothing and softening cleanser, a deep-conditioning mask, edge control, a leave-in conditioner, brushes and more to help serve their diverse audience. A lot of generic hair care brands simply won’t meet the needs of kinky and curly hair.
“We need something that’s made for us by us,” Dellinger said.
While in Sacramento, Dellinger also hosted a “Your Curls Can” tour in partnership with Ulta. The event included hair tutorials, a conversation with Dellinger and giveaways.
Being at Ulta was a full-circle moment for Dellinger. Early in her career, the store’s attitude towards her products was much different.
Ulta was one of the first places Dellinger pitched to when she launched her brand in 2002. The buyer was an older White man.
“He told me to my face, ‘I don’t see a need for your type of products here, I don’t want them, no thank you,” Dellinger said.
It was not Dellinger’s first experience with blatant disregard for the value she was bringing. A racist manager at Intel had pushed her to entrepreneurship after he tried to get rid of her based solely on her skin color.
“That was not a good feeling. I did not want anyone ever again to control my destiny,” Dellinger said.
From that moment, she shifted focus to creating her own business.
Dellinger stopped working at Intel and began working at Pfizer. At the same time, she grew her hair care business and raised young children. She was a young mom going through the natural hair journey herself and began thinking a lot about curls.
She started researching and found that many products available to Black women had terrible ingredients such as dyes and mineral oils. She soon realized there was space in the market for her brand.