Growing up with tight, corkscrew hair in humid South Carolina, Kelly Foreman was called 'Fuzzy' by her classmates.
'My friends thought it was cute and funny,' Foreman recalls. 'But for a young girl, it was crushing.'
She dreaded rainy weather and swimming pools, subjecting her curls to the ravages of blow-dryers, hot rollers and chemicals. Combs broke in her hair. Nothing she tried could tame her mane.
Even her own mother struggled with how to manage Foreman's frizzy curls.
'The solution always seemed to be 'Cut it shorter. Cut it shorter,' ' she said. 'I was 16 and I was on the dance team, but I looked like a boy.'
Now 36, with three daughters of her own -- including a 3-year-old curly head -- Foreman hopes to help young curlyheads of the world feel confident about their curls. To that end, she has launched the Mop Top line of products -- a sulfate-free, alcohol-free, silicone-free line specifically designed for curly, frizzy hair.
Mop Top currently offers five products, with another 35 in the pipeline. Foreman also plans to offer a children's curly line within the next six months, which she will call Fuzzy Duck.
'We've been blessed with curly hair,' said Foreman, who now lives in Norman, Okla. 'Let's celebrate who we are and the way we look and be happy with it.'
'I want to start at the very beginning with my own kids. I want them to be self-confident and happy with who they are.'
Foreman, who has spent years working in sales, never envisioned that her curly hair would become the inspiration for her new career.
'It's been an absolute blessing,' Foreman said.
She was 30 before she began to accept her curls. Looking at her damaged hair, her hairdresser encouraged to wear her hair natural. He suggested she use moisturizing products to get it back into shape.
So over the next five years, she tried a wide range of products -- from inexpensive drugstore brands to exclusive salon brands. She also became a student of curly hair, reading everything she could on the subject. As she struggled to find the ideal combination for her curls, she began concocting product in her kitchen.
One day, she called up a friend in the cosmetics industry and said, 'Hey, I have a wild hair. Do you know anybody that could help me make some sample products?'
She said she had added incentive because her middle daughter had hair just like hers.
After finding a lab, she spent a year working on different formulas that would moisturize and defrizz without building up on the hair.
'The idea was to create sulfate-free shampoos and products with no silicones, no waxes and no alcohol,' Foreman said. 'That's the crux of the line.'
She recalls spilling a silicone-based haircare product on her countertop, and struggling to get it cleaned off.
'I began to wonder what it was doing to my hair,' Foreman said.
Her products contain honey and sea botanicals, which add moisture on the molecular level and define the curls.
The project took much longer than she had planned. She got pregnant and gave birth to her youngest daughter, Samantha, in the process -- a newborn who appears to be sprouting curls, Foreman said happily.
Foreman said she's thrilled with Mop Top. She said people stalk her to ask what she and Tatum, her curlyheaded daughter, use in their hair.
'For the first time in my life, I'm happy with my hair being curly,' she said.