Opening up about intense relationship with hair, she says Black women should give themselves some grace and not let hair define them
CHICAGO -- By now, many of you have probably seen the video of a woman's appeal on social media after using Gorilla Glue spray adhesive on her hair.
Tessica Brown said she spent weeks trying to get it out.
Brown opened up to ABC7's Samantha Chatman about why she put the product on her hair, which is opening up a bigger conversation about Black hair and acceptance.
"My hair has been like this for about a month now," Brown says on the social media video. "Y'all, it don't move. It don't move!"
Brown said she posted the now-viral video thinking it would only be seen by her small circle. She was in a crisis and needed advice on how to get the glue out of her hair.
The post has now been viewed more than 4 million times on Instagram.
Brown said she wanted to make sure her hair was neat and in place, without any loose strands.
The Louisiana woman said in January, she ran out of hairspray. So, she turned to a product in her home that she thought would give her the hold she needed: Gorilla Glue.
"I can spray this and when I get home I can wash it out. That did not happen," Brown explained.
In her video clip, she walked viewers through her hair crisis, showing them what bad shape she was in.
"I used this. Gorilla Glue. Bad, bad, bad idea! I've washed my hair 15 times and it don't move," Brown says in the video.
Brown said she went to extreme lengths to get the glue out, trying items like cooking oil and even nail polish remover, to no avail.
"We started putting it right here, and as we were wiping it, the hair was coming off with it," she said. "I really went a month without being able to touch the inside of my head."
Brown explained that her intense relationship with her hair started when she was in middle school.
She said as a darker-skinned girl, she felt pressure to ensure her hair was perfect to make up for her complexion.
"(I thought) if you have another flaw, if your hair is together, you know you look better," she said. "If I can't do nothing else, I'm going to make sure my hair is on point. This has been a problem for me for a long time," she explained. "If I wouldn't have cared so much about my hair, I wouldn't be going through this right now."
It's a struggle that Chicago salon owner and hairstylist Rahni Flowers said is all too common among Black women.
Flowers, of Van Cleef Hair Studio, said while Brown's story doesn't come as a surprise, it does sadden him.
"African Americans, especially African American women, have had to have 400 years of assimilation to a white standard of aesthetics. We have to always be in place. That means having our hair straightened, having it all neat and sufficient in order to assimilate. It's a very daunting and difficult and exhausting thing to have to do," he said.
Just when Brown was ready to give up, she said she received a call about a plastic surgeon in Los Angeles, Dr. Michael K Obeng, who said he could remove the glue from her hair, free of charge.
"When I heard about Tessica, the ordeal she had been through, the pain, the suffering, having her hair stuck to her scalp for a month, the least I could do was to reach out and extend my services," said Dr. Obeng.
His foundation, Restore Worldwide, provides and covers the cost of reconstructive surgeries for people across the world.
Brown called Dr. Obeng a Godsend.
"I feel like he was sent to me. Like, who just goes in their kitchen saying, let's mix up some stuff and get this out of this girl's head? Dr. Obeng. I really, really love this man. I really, really do," she said.
The surgery was a success, Brown's hair is officially Gorilla Glue free.
"It feels like Christmas morning! I don't think anyone will understand how amazing this is," she shared.
Brown is now turning her mistake into a message. She's hoping to help other Black women learn to accept themselves, and their hair.
"I want all the little girls my children's age, women my age, my mama's age to know, don't let hair make you. People will go through a lot of stuff for their hair," Brown said. "You have to keep in your head, 'I am not my hair.'"
Brown said she's received more than $25,000 in crowdfunding donations. She said the bulk of that money will be donated to Dr. Obeng's foundation to help other women who need emergency surgery. She said she's also sending checks to families in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As for Gorilla Glue, Brown said she realizes the company shares no blame in her decision. Gorilla Glue does carry a warning label on the spray that states, "Do not swallow. Do not get in eyes, on skin or on clothing." The Gorilla Glue company said it wishes Brown the best.
"We are aware of the situation and we are very sorry to hear about the unfortunate incident that Miss Brown experienced using our Spray Adhesive on her hair. This is a unique situation because this product is not indicated for use in or on hair as it is considered permanent. Our spray adhesive states in the warning label 'do not swallow. Do not get in eyes, on skin or on clothing...'
It is used for craft, home, auto or office projects to mount things to surfaces such as paper, cardboard, wood, laminate and fabric.
We are glad to see in her recent video that Miss Brown has received medical treatment from her local medical facility and wish her the best."