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The U.S Military maintains rules that govern military personnel behavior, actions and appearance. Occasionally, the responsible parties will revisit and revise some of the rules to fit social standards and to address new trends in pop culture. The latest revision of these rules includes a very  discriminatory, distasteful and irrelevant clause. The clause reads “Dreadlocks (unkempt, twisted, matted individual parts of hair) are prohibited in uniform or in civilian clothes on duty” (AR 670-1). The ban on dreadlocks is discriminatory to certain ethnicities and religions.

According to Dictionary.com, dreadlocks are “hair worn in the Rastafarian style of long matted or tightly curled strands”. It is when you twist chunks of your hair into  rope-like forms. These can occur naturally – by not combing your hair for a while or can be made in salons. Dreadlocks are mainly associated with people from the Rastafari religion. But people from many ethnic groups in history have worn dreadlocks before the initiation of the Rastafari movement. In Egypt, mummified remains wearing locked hairstyles and wigs have been seen in ancient artifacts and sanctuaries (Return of the Mummy- Toronto Life 2002).  Indo-Aryan people from the Near East and Asia Minor, some Nepalese tribes, Indians, the Maori of New Zealand, Ethiopians, Pakistanis and medieval Irish Warriors are also historically known to have worn dreadlocks. Dreadlocks have always been interwoven with ethnic culture and spiritually of people all over the world since time immemorial.

Dreadlocks came into prominence in the 1930s during the advent the Rastafari movement in Jamaica. The Rastafari, also known as Rastafarian or Rasta strongly reject western culture because they believe the West have perpetuated so much evil against black people in the form of slavery. So in revolt, they embrace afro-centrism which embodies letting your natural nappy hair grow freely. This is considered indecent and a sign of rebellion by the West. However, when Reggae music gained eminence in the 1970s, dreadlocks became in vogue. The fashion industry capitalized on this new trend and set up salons, new lines of dreadlocks hair products and accessories. This made most people revert from the belief that dreadlocks are a result of not washing, not cutting and not caring for your hair, but the contrary. Corporate United States have now accepted dreadlocks as “just another fashion statement”.

First of all, the U.S Military’s definition of dreadlocks is disrespectful to people with dreads. They call it “unkempt”. Unkempt means “(especially of a person) having an untidy or disheveled appearance”(The Oxford English Dictionary). Using the word “unkempt” already dismisses everyone with dreadlocks as looking sloppy regardless of how the dreadlocks were made or how they look.

Secondly, the ban on dreadlocks are discriminatory to certain ethnicities and religions. Religions like the Mouride Brotherhood ,an Islamic sect require their followers to wear dreadlocks (toubanc.org). Ethnicities like the Ashantis of Ghana reserve dreadlocks for their spiritual people (Sultan). Prohibiting people like these from keeping their dreadlocks is unlawful and goes against the first amendment which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”(Amendment I) . The U.S Military’s law against dreadlocks breaches the peoples’ rights because it directly contradicts the first part of the first amendment by being a law against the free exercise of certain cultures and religions.

Thirdly, the law is specifically bigoted against black people, especially black females. Black women are not allowed to wear dreadlocks so they are forced to use dangerous substances to chemically treat their hair. Unlike women of other ethnicities, it is relatively hard for black women to just comb and tie their hair to the back because it is usually very fuzzy and difficult to comb and tie together. Due to all the frustrations in grooming kinky hair given very short time, black women resort to using relaxers to make their hair look similar to white women’s hair. Relaxers are known to be harmful and painful. Otherwise, their only other alternatives is to ridicule themselves by wearing wigs or weaves or to cut their hair really short. Their Caucasian counterparts are not made to endure all these ordeals because they are fine the way they are. It is black women that have to conform to look like them in order to be accepted in the Military. This is prejudice at its peak.

Fourthly, it is common knowledge that the US Military values practicality. As a military personnel, you are expected to be prepared immediately when called upon. This is relatively harder for females because most have hair to worry about. Is it washed? Is it combed? Is the style comfortable enough to do military activity in? etc- People with dreadlocks do not worry about most of these. All they need to do is to wash it when they can while they shower and they are good to go. They do not have to worry about combing and comfort. Dreadlocks are so convenient and easy to take care of that it can be argued that dreads are the ideal hairstyle for military personnel and the ban does not make much sense.

The proponents of the ban against dreadlocks may argue that dreadlocks are a safety hazard. They may contend that military personnel with dreadlocks are unable to fit gas masks and gas helmets in case of emergency and will put their lives at risk in such situations. The premise is false because dreadlocks are as voluminous as regular hair and can be tied into a bun like regular hair, So if a hair without dreadlocks can wear a gas mask and a helmet with no problems, then someone with dreadlocks will have no problem doing the same, Football is a contact sport and the players need to keep their helmet on for safety reasons. Football players are known to have dreadlocks and there has never been an incident in football where a player’s dreadlocks have caused safety hazards. Their dreads fit into their helmet perfectly fine.

The dreadlocks ban advocates may also say that the ban is for aesthetic reasons and is not in any way discriminatory. They also add that dreads do not look professional. Firstly, professionalism is perception. There are no set standards anywhere on what looks professional and what does not. As long as your appearance is clean, decent, inoffensive and not distracting, you look professional. People with dreadlocks can look professional if people with long hair can.

Another argument defenders of the ban put forward is that in the U.S Military religion and individuality take a back seat with everything else. You are expected to be a soldier first and everything else follows. The argument is flawed in multiple ways. Soldiers are human beings first and American citizens second. They are protected by the first amendment. On the contrary, the military is forcing everyone, regardless of race, ethnic group or religion to adhere to their own laws and change their appearance and identity to be as close to mainstream “White” as possible. If the emphasis was so much on neatness, they would let every military member regardless of ethnicity look neat in their own right.

The ban on dreadlocks by the U.S Military is undoubtedly unfair and inappropriate. The U.S Military should consider revising their hair rules, especially those of women to cater to people of ethnic minorities. Military personnel are an important part of our community and the fabric of  the United States, therefore, we should not discriminate people that want to join based on trivial rules like the “no dreadlocks rule”. The United States is the melting pot of cultures, if tolerance is going to prevail, it must start among the defenders of this great nation.

 


Comments

Matarr
02/11/2013 9:17am

I guess the "white" standard of beauty or acceptable fashion in American institutions trumps all cultures that are considered foreign. It's a weird statement considering that America is a country made up of foreigners. Perception is everything.

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Oumie
02/11/2013 10:01am

Totally agree. It is ridiculous that the "melting pot of cultures" only recognizes one culture as the norm and the rest as deviance.

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Deedee
09/24/2013 8:37am

This isn't about recognizing a culture's norms as deviant; its the fact that they are inappropriate for enlistees in the US military. They are, as quoted above, "twisted, matted individual parts of hair" that are disrespectful. Bottom line, IF you decide those matted and twisted strands of hair are more important than enlisting into OUR military, then please by all means don't enter our military.

Serign
06/27/2013 8:23am

You make some very good points, I hope they do revise the law.

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slim
07/27/2013 4:27pm

Very well typed.

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Jemma
09/05/2013 12:51pm

The article is filled with misinformation. Not allowing dreadlocks is not forcing black women to apply chemicals. There are many other "natural" hair styles that are acceptable. I have had my hair natural for 14 years in the military without a problem. dreadlocks are just another hairstyle.....men can't have long hair either. Its the rule and if you don't like it then the military is not for you. You want to force your opinion on dread acceptance but have a problem with the military and its policy, smh at ignorance.

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Ounce
09/05/2013 4:19pm

Hi Jemma, may I ask what other "natural" hairstyles you say are permissible for black women in the military?

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Oumie
09/05/2013 4:23pm

Sorry I was using a joystick to type. Typed my OWN name wrong. Oumie**

quianna
03/24/2014 9:54pm

As a black woman in the military I know from experice that they will tell you that wearing your natural hair is faddish and you must change it.

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David
05/27/2014 2:06am

No, dreadlocks are not simply "another hairstyle"... for some people they are an element of their heritage, culture, and religion. It's unacceptable for them to be viewed differently, and discriminated upon as "unprofessional" when they can just as neat and clean, if not more neat and kept, than any other hairstyle. As a black woman, you should be concerned with the injustice being brought upon people of your own ethnicity! Not dismissing this issue with inaccurate claims of your own. I am a black male, with very neat and clean dreads that meet every criteria for the men in the military ( I have cut my hair short all around the sides and the back of my head)... and I plan on joining the military in a few years... and I'd see it as a huge atrocity for me to have to cut my hair, as dreadlocks naturally form in my hair, and there is no ethical reason why my hair should not be accepted as professional.

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dreads88
05/27/2014 11:08pm

They didn't say long hair they said dreads I don't see the difference between long blond hair and well groomed long jet blacked dreads. And just about as long as you were in the military I've been growing my locks for 11 years that's like some one just make in you get out the military and your so used to it

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Erin Berry
09/13/2013 1:13am

I would like to know who wrote this article I am currently serving in the U.S. Military and being faced with being chaptered because I have dredlocks.Mind you i have served in the army for 5 years and entered with dreds.Any assistance you can offer is welcomed and appreciated.Thank you.

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Oumie
09/13/2013 1:34pm

Hi Erin,

Wow that's unfortunate. I'm sorry to hear that. My name is Oumie an I wrote the article. If there is anyway I could help, circulate a petition or anything please let me know. I hope this blatant and unnecessary discrimination ends soon.

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Fran
09/23/2013 9:58pm

Hi Erin,
I'm being faced with the same dilemma. We don't even have a leg to stand on either. I heard through the grape vine that the ban was being discussed at this year's Army Regs review and I hope and pray they decide to lift this ban (try to hold on a little bit longer). If I hear more I'll be sure to post the info here okay. Stay strong.

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Fran
09/23/2013 9:58pm

Hi Erin,
I'm being faced with the same dilemma. We don't even have a leg to stand on either. I heard through the grape vine that the ban was being discussed at this year's Army Regs review and I hope and pray they decide to lift this ban (try to hold on a little bit longer). If I hear more I'll be sure to post the info here okay. Stay strong.

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Fran
09/23/2013 9:58pm

Hi Erin,
I'm being faced with the same dilemma. We don't even have a leg to stand on either. I heard through the grape vine that the ban was being discussed at this year's Army Regs review and I hope and pray they decide to lift this ban (try to hold on a little bit longer). If I hear more I'll be sure to post the info here okay. Stay strong.

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Fran
09/23/2013 9:59pm

Hi Erin,
I'm being faced with the same dilemma. We don't even have a leg to stand on either. I heard through the grape vine that the ban was being discussed at this year's Army Regs review and I hope and pray they decide to lift this ban (try to hold on a little bit longer). If I hear more I'll be sure to post the info here okay. Stay strong.

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DeeDee
09/21/2013 11:24am

Suck it up! I am a Sociologist who specializes in culture. Its inappropriate, dangerous, and unbecoming of a representative of our military!

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Mika
09/23/2013 10:06pm

How is it dangerous..multiple individal braids are authorized so how are dreds dangerous

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Deedee
09/24/2013 8:31am

Are you seriously asking how having dreads can be dangerous in a military situation? Think about this for a moment.....our military are enlisted with the anticipation of being deployed into hostile environments. Dreads can be used, as we have seen in football, as a weapon against an individual and in an essence are dangerous. If we are in hand to hand combat and you have dreads, they VERY first thing I would do is pull those damn things out!

Oumie
09/24/2013 9:51am

DeeDee, your premise if flawed. Any hair can be used as a "weapon" against you. Why single out dreadlocks? Ponytails are used against football players as much as dreadlocks.

So the military OKs wigs. Do you think wigs are much safer in combat than dreadlocks?

The military OKs single separate braids (micros), which are similar to dreadlocks but can be removed easily. How on earth can micros be safer than dreads?

The military OKs letting your unNappy hair down. These can be as long or longer than dreadlocks. How can not be used as a "weapon against you in combat"?

See.. We have heard these weak arguments repeated to us over and over again until we have internalized them without question. About time we really analyze what some of our laws really target.

Dueces

Colbert
11/07/2013 1:10am

You are a very rude person, "suck it up!" I'm currently serving in the USN ive been in for 6+ years, and i am a Rastafarian (female). I thank whom ever wrote this article. And as for you DeeDee, who do you think you are? To say its inappropriate and unbecoming of a represenative of "our" military... Boy boy boy ....To be honest, I don't care what your hair looks like when you are saving my life. PERIOD.

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LanLan
12/22/2013 1:47pm

I don't see how dreads are more dangerous than micro braids or weave. You can put them in a bun like other hairstyles.

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ronald
02/02/2014 8:27am

You keep saying "our military." Who are you referring to?

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Fran
09/23/2013 9:52pm

I totally agree and feel like you took the words out of my mouth!! I have argued this point SEVERAL times in the past. I am a black female with buttock length dreadlocks (eleven years on Christmas 2013) that I refuse to cut. Recently I was given an ultimatum and I told my leadership that cutting my hair was not an option. I used pretty much every point you brought up in this post and was still reprimanded. You know what the saddest part of this is, the most senior enlisted advisor in my unit told me he was sorry that I was allowed to wear my hair like this for so long and that it was a mistake. He called my hair choice, my ethnic right to wear dreadlocks a mistake. After those words, I don't see him the same and I never want to work with him again Unfortunately, I still have to work with him and just last month I wore a wig to work so that he would not bother me. He was so happy to see straight hair on me that he didn't know what to do with himself. He's soured my view of him and all of my counterparts who agree with him.

Needless to say, I'm not cutting my hair becasue I was told to. The length my hair has reached may never be reached again. If I cut my hair it will be MY choice and MY choice alone. I don't care what anyone says.

Thanks for your posting! I sure hope they make changes during the next review of military regulations.

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Oumie
09/24/2013 9:40am

Wow did he really say that? That's pathetic. And its a lot of people that think that way. In a parallel universe, AR-67 would have gone away with overt racial segregation laws. But here's to hoping they remove the anti-dreadlocs clause in the next review.

Good luck! Happy Nappying!

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Dozier
12/16/2013 2:09pm

How did you get all of that hair under a wig. I am being faced with the same problem and need help.

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Brotherhood ,an Islamic sect require their followers to wear dreadlocks (toubanc.org).

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Oumie
10/10/2013 12:00pm

Hi! Yes! That's true of the Bai Faals and Mourides of Senegal! But the US Military overlooks that. First Amendment rights anybody?

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ashley Serving in the Navy
10/08/2013 1:39pm

I feel Like that its not a dread issue it a black hair issue. I work with a prodominatly white work center. I hear it all. Natural hair to them isnt neat or professional. I hear them say sly comments and i address it and correct them to help them understand. The policies need to be re vamped period. It definalty is more to hair than some damn mirco braids and jail house cornrows.I really and truely belive its a black thing they dont and never will understand

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Oumie
10/10/2013 11:58am

Of course Ashley! The whole issue stems from the misunderstanding and misconceptions of black hair! See- black hair grows vertical and upwards, other hair grows backwards and downwards. It is hard to have hairs this distinct comply to the same standards. We cannot help our natural hair or our natural hairstyles!

I think this trend of more black women accepting their hair for what it is and wearing it out more will serve as a catalyst to others accepting it and hopefully, eventually, the military.

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10th grader
11/16/2013 5:30pm

Im trying to go to a branch of the military but ive been holding off on getting dreads because of this. While im holding off my hair isnt growing because its in a ponytail which is horrible. Hope this gets allowed :/

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shawnte
11/20/2013 10:53pm

I'm a junior in high school and I want to join the marines after I graduate high school. Its been my dream sense I was little. But I have dreadlocks and I really don't want to cut them off. They're a part of me. Would I have to wear a wig to cover them? Or just part with them?

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Manda
12/14/2013 3:44pm

Jemma is absolutely right, the arguments given in this essay are full of holes. However, with the admittance CPT Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, into the Army's medical corps...you now have a leg to stand on. Keep in mind though that he wasn't admitted into the Army until after his hair/turban was approved thru a waiver. For those pushing their local commanders to disregard AR 670-1, you're on real shaky ground. Find a way to band together and push reform at the top, asking a local commander to bend the rules for you is unfair to that commander.

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Val
12/23/2013 8:15pm

These are torts, not laws, meaning they are in house and are an agreed to contract within the military. Regardless of whether its impeaching on rights, you either agree to them or disagree and not join.

This is acceptable to some, and others not... However I feel, personally, that the military grooming you to fit a certain image and form is intrinsic to its motif. It is almost as bad as complaining that the military treats recruits rough, well I suppose the U.S military isn't that way before... I saw an enlisted actually stand up to an officer and back talk him... So more than likely the U.S military will cave and allow dreadlocks.

Though I will say that you are indeed wrong, Dreadlocks often have MUCH more volume, my ex girlfriend actually set dreadlocks and maintained them for people in a home run salon, you cannot fit a proper seal and the best hair style for the military is a shaven head. It's unfortunate that women are allowed longer hair in a bun and should shave it, but typically it is limited to a length not to interfere with your mask, if the U.S military actually allows you people to let the hair down the holy crap you might as well let people wear short shorts and god damn tank tops in combat, ridiculous.

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A.J
12/27/2013 4:21pm

You people?? What clothes have to do with natural hairstyles?? I suggest you people do some deep research on African Americans and our culture before judging an hairstyle or texture of hair you do not have and was not born with. If I am an America, then treat me like I am an American, not by the color of my skin and the texture of my hair that you do not
understand. I'm planning on joining the Navy, and I am wearing a wig all the way through and yes, I have neat medium length dreads.

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Leigh
01/01/2014 10:38pm

I've recently been looking seriously into dreadlocks. I've always been fascinated with them and how neat they are. I'm white so they're not necessary or even good for my hair, but I am starting one next weekend at the underside of my hair. I'm an officer in the military and even I think some of their regs are outdated. I love my country and would die for the freedoms the rest of America gets to practice freely, but some of those regs can suck it. My job is not dependent on my hair. I'll be hiding it in my bun like I hide the rest of my un-regulated piercings.

We're Americans and people first. Military second. The pencil pushers up at higher like to forget that.

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Malloy
03/17/2014 9:22am

I am a Army ROTC Student and I just begun my dreadlocks in June of 2013. I am hoping to enlist or graduate & become a Officer but this whole dreadlocks issue seems over rated to me. I have many friends in the military who have dreads and keep them neat and professional. I think there should be a petition going on and maybe a formation of a military dreadlocks organization to allow us to gain a public speaker for the group. Because I am sure there are others just like me regardless of race or ethnicity who just want to serve the country and be ourselves . Tattoos and Hair regulations being respected and not taken away from our personal identity.

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AB
03/27/2014 7:23am

So I just read this article today and didn't realize there are so many ignorant people in this world. First of all I am a black female in the AF and have locs. Before I went to basic my recruiter informed me my hair was fine because I was able to pull it up off my collar. The second day I was at BMT they cut my hair. No my hair doesn't make me who I am but it is a intricit part part of me. I was heartbroken as the clippers null and voided the hair that I worked so hard to maintain. I've been in the AF now for 3 years. You won't believe the amount of ACTIVE duty I see with locs. After trying to "conform" to the military standards I reverted back to my first love. If so many high ranking Airmen are "allowed" to express their natural culture then I believe its my right also. So because they have more stripes than me its OK for them and not me? I believe not at all. At this point in my career I wear a wig. Oh but as soon as my locs are long enough I will let them "free". My hair should not be a defining factor on whether I'm capable of doing my job. If I'm able to braid and/or pull my hair into a bun and it look "professional" than I don't see what the issue is. I think more time needs to spent on other important issues and not why my hair texture isn't like yours.

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Deedee
03/27/2014 9:31am

Here's a thought:
•They are considered faddish
•They do not permit the proper wearing of military headwear to include protective headwear required for many activities
•They do not permit proper hygene....if you think getting dirty in gym class or on a camping trip....wait unti you have been in the field for over a week without shower in the middle of August.
•They present an unkempt, unprofessional appearance
•You could not style the hair in a manner that fits within the standards of AR 670-1

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Deedee
03/27/2014 9:32am

Oh, and this was from a current enlistee.....

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Anonymous
03/30/2014 7:32pm

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/reconsider-changes-ar-670-1-allow-professional-ethnic-hairstyles/BnR900wx

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PriorService
04/04/2014 10:57am

I'm sitting here reading this and thinking.... when I was in the military in the 70's women couldn't braid their hair at all. It had to be kept above your collar at all times and I can tell you as a white woman who had waist length hair, that was almost impossible to do without braiding it. So more than just being an ethnic thing braids have been a female thing. I ended up cutting my hair as did 90% of the females I knew. All the black women wore their hair natural because they had no other choice.

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04/27/2014 2:13pm

No one with DREADLOCKS should have to CUT their hair . . . .
There is a company Called
Matted Tangled Hair, They offer discounts with anyone faced with this situation. They offer before and after photo's and they have been doing this for over 10 Years, Removing them SAFELY.

CALL THEM TODAY BILLIONAIREHAIR@YAHOO.COM

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