NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Carla Tarkington has been styling hair for decades.

“I get to minister to my clients, I get to be their big sister, I get to be their little sister, I get to be the mom,” she said. “I get to be the best friend, I get to be everything they can’t tell their husband.”

Up until this year, it was technically legal for Tennessee businesses to discriminate based on natural hair.

“Long overdue. I really don’t understand why it was even a thing,” Tarkington said. “I never understood why someone’s hair affects their ability to perform what they went to school to learn to do.” 

Tarkington, who runs 2MuchHair, likened the time before the law to having to put on a mask before going into work.

“It’s like waking up every day and putting on makeup you don’t want to wear,” she said. “You don’t want to do that to make someone else comfortable to be in their presence.”

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The new law is called the CROWN Act, which also serves as an acronym – Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair. The bill, sponsored by Minority Leader Karen Camper (D-Memphis) in the House, makes it illegal to discriminate based on someone’s natural hair.

“We actually started hearing from people about feeling as if they lost their job because of the way they were wearing their hair,” Camper said. “We didn’t feel like that was fair.” 

It was a bill that passed by a hair in the Tennessee House. It needed 50 votes, and it got 50 votes. When the vote happened back in April, you could see the relief on Camper’s face.

“I had to really have some real, open, honest conversations with members about why this is important,” she said. “Some of them felt like it was a burden on businesses and for multiple reasons, people felt like we should not be doing this.”

Regardless, the act became law on July 1st, and the effects are already apparent.

“Clients have come in and they’ve cried, they have shed emotion. They’re so happy that they can go to work like they want to go to work,” Tarkington said. “They’re cutting time out in the morning. They don’t have to spend as much time presenting a look that is ‘accepted.’”