Co-owners of Miss Jessie’s and sisters Miko (left) and Titi Branch (right) attend the 2011 Diva Lounge celebration at the Tracy Reese Boutique on May 18, 2011, in New York City.
JOE CORRIGAN/GETTY IMAGES
By Kai EL’ Zabar
I am horrified by the news that Titi Branch, one of the co-founders of the wildly successful natural hair care line, Miss Jessie’s, died Dec. 4, according to an obituary by NV Magazine, which stated that her death was an apparent suicide but there was no independent confirmation of that. I was regretful that the young woman who semmingly had everything to live for with things growing and on the horizen. But then again isn’t that the issue. is it. Celebrity creates the delusion that we know people that we don’t and reality TV makes it even more so. But here was an attractive woman in her prime with a successful business that is growing so what could have been the issue? For now we don’t know.
What we do know is that Miss Jessie’s was one of the first major hair care lines to grace the shelves of Target in the new wave of natural hair enthusiasm. It joins ranks with Afro Sheen owned by George E. JohnsonIn 1971, when Johnson Products became the first African American-owned company to be listed on the American Stock Exchange. In the early stages, when the company was following behind the success of Carol’s Daughter, the long-time hallmark of natural hair products, it remained difficult to find many options for Blacks with natural hair in mainstream stores. I remember being inttroduced to the product by my girlfriend and immediately falling in love with it. That was the late 9o’s when we had to order it on line. It was delivered in a tupperware type kitchen container with a product description. The ingredients that were natuural and fresh tranformed by wild and free mane into wild and controlled. I would go crazy if I ran out before receiving my new order because sometimes orders were backlogged but it was worth the wait.
Marsha Ambrosiusformerly of Floetry
Once the word spread the Miss Jessie’s business success was explosive, and the company’s presence soon expanded to Wal-Mart and several drug store chains mid 200o’s making their trtied and true customers happy as can be while introducing it to the world. The success of lines such as Miss Jessie’s and Mixed Chicks helped spearhead substantial expansions of real estate dedicated not just to black hair care, but natural hair. Titi, instantly recognizable by her crown of fluffy blonde curls, was credited with creating Miss Jessie’s Curly Pudding, one of the brand’s signature products. The sisters opened their Brooklyn salon dedicated to curly hair in 1997 and launched their product line, named for their grandmother, in 2004. Their pricey but effective products became a hit with many natural-hair celebrities like Marsha Ambrosius of Floetry. “I get so inspired when people meet us,” Titi Branch told Ozy last December. “It’s just a hair product but to them it’s so much more. It has such an impact.” Yes it does, it is a staple for the natural hair movement that ccontinues to unfold.