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Godly Locks: Inside L.A.'s Bizarre Human Hair Business
August 5, 2012 9:00 PM   Subscribe

Wig-making may be the only industry that relies on religious devotion, Hollywood glamor, and raw materials harvested from human heads.
posted by Chrysostom (17 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Scientology too.
posted by cmoj at 9:25 PM on August 5, 2012 [10 favorites]


And cancer patients.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:45 PM on August 5, 2012


There's a portion of the documentary "Good Hair" that covers the ceremony at Tirumala Venkateswara. It's a great documentary, especially if you've ever wanted to know how harmful straightener is for your hair/body/brain.
posted by sleepy pete at 10:12 PM on August 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


'You can't just breed people because you want their hair. You know what I mean?"

Weird, lady. Weird.
posted by redsparkler at 10:13 PM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well that was pretty fascinating.
posted by XMLicious at 10:38 PM on August 5, 2012


I seem to remember a debate in some Orthodox Jewish circles about whether wigs made from hair offered in a Hindu devotional ceremony were acceptable. I'm surprised the article didn't mention this obvious angle.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:02 PM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just wanted to mention, my wife is from Andhra and giving your hair to Lord Venkateshwara at Tirupati is a hugely important thing. Going to the temple is a overwhelming experience for a Westerner. Many of the devotees have walked there from all over Southern India, and the queue to get into the inner sanctum is *days* long on important holidays. There are very very few non-Hindus there and I had to sign a register attesting to my belief in Venkateshwara to get in. When we were there, we arrived in the middle of the night on the eve of an important festival but the relatives we arrived with were politically well connected and we were ushered in to the line near the front to walk in with groups of people that had spent weeks walking to the temple and waiting in line for more than 24 hours. The sight of the only whitey for hundreds of miles around being given preferential treatment barely registered a response from the pilgrims who, at this point in their journey were whipped into a joyful frenzy of dancing and chanting. When you get to the room with the idol, which is being guarded by 24 hour security guards and guards armed with automatic weapons, there is, needless to say, a great deal of pushing, people prostrate on the ground, with the priests trying hard to shuffle people through, cognizant of the thousands waiting behind. At the point I am spotted, the priest steps behind me and holds the line which is pushing and shoving me through back, and tells me, in broken English, "Stop! Spend a moment gazing your eyes upon the god!"

You see, Venkateshwara is one of the human incarnations of Vishnu, a figure who appeared among the humans, did his great works, at the end of which he turned himself to stone, and this is what people are lining up to worship and offer their devotion to, not a statue of the god, but the actual god. The fact that there are Greek historians' works who describe the temple as always having been there at Tirumala back them, only adds to the power and mystery.

The whole thing was life changing, a bit scary, the kind of thing I never thought I would witness or even thought existed in the 21st century. Not for the faint of heart. I chickened out on having my head shaved. The ones I saw getting it done, we're having it done by temple priests with straight razors and it just felt like more hepatitis c risk than I needed to take.

But now we are going back to India in the winter, with the two boys for the first time and there's family pressure to get in good with LV (Lord Venkateshwara) and if we actually do decide to take them, you bet we're going to get our heads shaved, dad included.

I guess there's gonna be a natual blond extensions showing up in southern California that's not going to need any additional treatment. It doesn't matter much to me as long as some of the money filters back to the temple. Also, I take a little amusement from the knowledge that superficial people fork over thousands of dollars so they look more screwable while others a world away freely give themselves over to baldness for their very deeply held ideas of how to achieve a heightened state of spiritual fulfillment.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:36 PM on August 5, 2012 [24 favorites]


Slarty Bartfast : Have you seen the movie "Good Hair" by Chris Rock? A lot of the demand for weaves comes from African-American women who want straight, flat hair, because that's the standard of beauty. Worth checking out, at least to see these superficial people talking about their hair and their motivation for spending thousands of dollars on it.
posted by Grimgrin at 12:42 AM on August 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Previously covering the entire topic
posted by infini at 1:05 AM on August 6, 2012


Slarty Bartfast: You can actually ask the barber to come to your accommodation in Tirumala; it's easier that way. Also, you *should* ask for new blades, if and when you get tonsured, absolutely no exceptions there.

Just to add, the belief there is that Venkateswara had borrowed money from the Vedic god of wealth, Kubera, for his marriage to his consort, Padmavathi.

Yes, it's also the world's most visited religious structure, with an average of 19 million visitors annually. The Vatican, in comparison, gets 4.6 million.
posted by the cydonian at 3:24 AM on August 6, 2012


So, lakhs of locks are a guaranteed lock, eh?
posted by ShutterBun at 4:03 AM on August 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


... Having some luck would also help!
posted by the cydonian at 5:12 AM on August 6, 2012


MetaFilter: human hair is insignificant when compared with, say, bananas.
posted by Splunge at 5:27 AM on August 6, 2012


I seem to remember a debate in some Orthodox Jewish circles about whether wigs made from hair offered in a Hindu devotional ceremony were acceptable. I'm surprised the article didn't mention this obvious angle.

Orthodox Jews in Williamsburg burn wigs after discovering that the hair was cut in Hindu ceremonies, rendering them non-kosher.
posted by acb at 6:44 AM on August 6, 2012


Wig-making may be the only industry that relies on religious devotion, Hollywood glamor, and raw materials harvested from human heads.

Clearly you are not aware of how many stars have enjoyed a relaxing retreat at my Kung Fu-themed Cootie Dude Ranch in the Mojave.
 
posted by Herodios at 7:50 AM on August 6, 2012


I'm sure there's an interesting story in here, but I'm not going to fight the writer's prose to find it.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:14 AM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


at my Kung Fu-themed Cootie Dude Ranch in the Mojave

I call dibs on Mojave Cootie Dude Ranch as a band name.
posted by The World Famous at 10:30 AM on August 6, 2012


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