On the stoops of New York, Arlette Pender who is Brooklyn born and raised, began her journey in the natural hair care industry. She began braiding hair after being inspired by her mother who did hair for women in their home, or as it was called then, a “kitchen beautician.” Although her mother did hair, she didn’t know how to braid so Arlette taught herself how to braid by practicing on Barbie dolls and by braiding the hair of a little girl she babysat. Later, she started doing hair for more little girls in the neighborhood for no charge.
In 1974, Arlette wanted to attend dance classes and her mother told her she couldn’t afford to pay for them so Arlette started charging $8 to braid hair so she would be able to pay for the classes. She later raised her price to $12 but ended up not taking the dance classes because she was making money and enjoyed doing hair.  She developed a reputation in New York for doing hair, her business began to grow and she opened her first salon. Over time, Arlette was doing hair for celebrities, music videos and publications such as Sophisticate's Black Hair Styles, Ebony and Essence. and her work was featured on the cover of some of these magazines.
She moved to Arizona with her daughter in June 2005. As soon as she arrived, she started looking for a place to do hair. She found Hair Society on the south side of Phoenix but she didn’t work there long because it was too far. Next she started working at Uzuri Salon in Old Town Scottsdale but that didn’t last long either. She met a woman from Signature Salon Studios that encouraged her to open her own salon and that’s where Hairloks by Arlette has been since July 15, 2005 which was just a month and a half after moving to Phoenix. It was in this salon that Arlette developed her clientele, trained other stylists, and would go on to receive the Master Pioneer Award for being a trailblazer of the natural hair care industry in 2015.

Arlette laughed as she recalled how the My Hair is Beautiful program started. In 2011, she wanted to sell t-shirts. She was inspired by a shirt that she saw that said “I ❤ My Hair” so she came up with “My Hair is Beautiful” and started to sell the shirts at an expo in 2011. People were buying the shirts and asking what the phrase was and asking if it was a program and she said it was even though it hadn’t actually become a program yet. This led her to receiving a message from Catherine who, at the time, was the project coordinator for the Mary J. Blige Center for Women. As a big fan of Mary J. Blige, Arlette was excited and developed a program to pitch to the organization. They accepted her proposal and it was started in the beginning of 2012.
My Hair is Beautiful is Arlette’s signature mentoring program for girls 5-18 years old to inspire dreams, encourage entrepreneurship and teach self-love. Mentors in various professions are invited to share with the girls about their careers and are asked to share a story of a time they struggled to show that success isn’t easy. During the programming, the young ladies learn positive affirmations, work on building confidence, and interact through therapeutic play. The program bridges a gap between cultures through different types of hair. Her goal is to create an inspirational cycle by reaching girls who will then set an example for their peers and future children.
Since it is her way of giving back to her clients and community, she has never charged for the program, even when she had to fly back and forth to upstate New York for the Mary J. Blige Center for Women once a month and later when she would start the My Hair is Beautiful program in Arizona. Mentors donate their time, sponsors donate supplies and she covers everything else that is needed on her own.  
During the program, Arlette finds herself getting emotional at least once at every event. Some of her favorite parts are when the girls are reading the creed and they say “I am {insert name} and I am beautiful.” She watches the girls read this and some of them are shy, some of them are sassy, some believe it as they read it, but she loves that each girl gets to say that phrase out loud. She also loves the “Walk of Confidence” where Camille Sledge shows the young ladies how to walk like they are in a fashion show with their head up and shoulders back because it teaches them that the way they carry themselves impacts how others perceive them. Lastly, at the end of each event, each girl is given a swag bag of goodies such as personal hygiene items, school supplies, and other fun things. Arlette loves to see the smiles on their faces as they go through their bags.

Personal experience played a role in the creation of the My Hair is Beautiful program. When Arlette was growing up, she was always vocal and straight forward which was perceived by others as a negative trait. She became introverted because parents judged her for being so vocal. She feels that young girls shouldn’t have to feel bad about who they are and how they look. They should be taught that they can be whatever they want to and be successful in their own terms. She feels that creatives and intellectuals learn differently but everyone plays a role in society of equal importance.
If she had been able to attend similar programming when she was a little girl, Arlette feels she wouldn’t have internalized the negative comments from others. She says that she might have known that her peers were dealing with the same things. She doesn’t feel it would’ve changed anything about her professionally but personally, it would have improved her self-esteem and would have taught her to love herself just the way she was.
Arlette shares that she runs this program from her heart because she loves young people and sometimes forgets what an impact the things she does has on other people so she is surprised when blessings come back to her from people. There have been multiple events for the My Hair is Beautiful program including one in the Phoenix Public Library for 75 girls that was featured on NPR which had tickets that were being scalped by people even though they were free because there was such a demand to attend.
Hairloks by Arlette will be releasing a new product on November 15, 2020. There will be more programs and events with My Hair is Beautiful when the current pandemic is gone. If you are interested in learning more about the My Hair is Beautiful program, would like to attend, be a mentor, or become a sponsor you can go to hairloksbyarlette.com/myhairisbeautiful.
Arlette, thank you for encouraging little girls to love themselves and inspiring them to make their dreams come true. For some of these young ladies, it might be the first time the receive this message and for many, it may be life changing. You're appreciated for the difference you are making and teaching us all to be proud of the crowns we were born with. ❤