"Is that a perm?"
Like many people with curly hair, Sharon Levy was sick of the question. She was so tired of it, in fact, that she decided to make herself a t-shirt that said "No, it's not a perm." The back says "Natural curls rule!"
"I thought I'd wear it as a novelty," says Levy, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based actress and comedienne. "I wore it to reinforce my pride. But when I would wear it, people constantly asked me where they could get the shirt."
So several months ago, she began selling her shirts.
"I figured, why not capitalize on something that I've fought my whole life," Levy says.
Levy says people have been commenting on her 3b curls since she was a young child growing up in New York. They would come over and touch her hair.
"It was always a topic of conversation," she says.
During the '60s and '70s, she tried hard to emulate stick-straight styles and Farrah Fawcett's feathers. She went through tubs of Dippity-Do and spent endless hours blow drying her hair straight, piece by piece. She has flat ironed it and set it on rollers, living in fear of the humidity that would turn her straightened hair into frizz. It was a constant battle.
She dated men who asked her to straighten her hair because they didn't like it curly. And she has lost jobs in the entertainment industry because she was told her ringlets made her look "too ethnic."
"It makes you very strong and very creative," she says. "You become like 'MacGyver,' figuring out different ways to do things."
Finally, she says, she has come to peace with her ringlets. Her shirts, she says, are a reflection of her newfound confidence in her curls.
The shirts sell for $25 (shipping is free) and are available in baby- ribbed, tank, cap sleeve and roomy styles. Spaghetti-strap tanks and long-sleeved styles are available upon request. Currently, the shirts are available in white with black writing, but she plans to offer other colors in the future.
"These shirts are a great ice breaker," she says. "They're a conversation piece. I wear the shirt and the curly-haired girls find me."
To order, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 1-877-826-3441.