Every natural hair journey is unique, but few result in a Guinness World Record. The mane of Brooklyn, N.Y., fashion designer Simone Williams is defying the odds, breaking the record for largest afro (female) previously set by New Orleans native Aevin Dugas, with Williams’ natural halo measuring 4 feet, 10 inches in circumference (Dugas’ measured 4 feet, 4 inches in 2011).
In fact, it was Dugas—along with the responses her own voluminous hair regularly garners, that compelled Williams to attempt the record.
“My mouth dropped, then my knees!” she told Guinness in its press release on the milestone, which was confirmed earlier this month. “I could not believe it! I opened the email to make sure it wasn’t a mistake. I took about 10 minutes to process.”
As Williams, who designs for her own label, Simone Imaani, explained in a video montage commemorating her win, her massive ‘fro is truly the result of a full-circle moment (pun intended). Sporting her natural texture as a child, once she reached junior high school (a peak time for peer pressure), “that’s when I convinced my mother to let me get a perm,” she recalled. Straightening her hair for the next decade, upon graduating from college she decided to return to her natural texture, a choice that was as much economical as aesthetic.
“It began because I wanted to save the money spent at the hair salon to help with the costs of moving into my first apartment,” she told Guinness. “The process was very difficult at first since I was accustomed to wearing my hair straight and I didn’t know how to manage my natural hair texture.”
Nine years later, Williams’ locks have since grown to just over 8 inches tall and nearly 9 inches wide when picked out. “When my hair is fully styled and big and voluminous I get a lot of stares, a lot of comments, lots of compliments,” she told Guinness. “I want to think that everything is positive, but there are some people who stare like they have no idea what’s going on or what they’re looking at.”
Speaking with CNN following the Guinness honor, Williams also shared her surprisingly straightforward hair regimen—though undoubtedly, her wash day requires a bit more product and labor than most.
There isn’t any magical serum or product that’s aided in her impressive hair growth, either. Williams told CNN that her hair regimen is pretty low-maintenance: she deep conditions once a week and makes sure to avoid as much manipulation as possible. Long hair also runs in her family—she’s got an aunt with locks that go down to her calves.
Aside from the honor of having her name in Guinness’ record book, Williams told CNN the accomplishment is an affirmation of “confidence and pride,” something her hair may now instill in others. “When I first decided to go natural, there was no one that I could really look up to,” she said.