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Mielle Hair Care announces new partnership with HU Swim and Dive Team

Howard women’s swim and dive team’s recent sponsorship from Mielle Hair Care opens up a discussion about the relationship between Black hair care and swimming.

The Howard swimming and diving team supports their teammates during a relay at “The Battle at the Burr” against Georgetown University. (Hunter Holiday/The Hilltop)

Monique Rodriguez, the CEO of Mielle Hair Care, recently revealed a collaboration with the Howard University swim and dive team marking the launch of their inaugural campaign, “From One Queen to Another.”

Mielle provided the women’s swim and dive team with their Pomegranate & Honey Collection, including shampoo, conditioner, styling products, bonnets and more. 

According to the announcement from Mielle, “the multi-year partnerships include exclusive sponsorship rights, free products for players and coaching staff, and student events for occasions including homecoming.”

Karci Gibson, a senior electrical engineering major from Kingston, Jamaica, is overjoyed that she has Mielle products to help with hair maintenance after practicing six days a week. 

“I was very surprised that we [are] sponsored by a top natural hair care brand in the U.S. and also happy that we’re getting recognition in the hair community,” Gibson said.

With these new products, Gibson and others on the team will be able to give their hair the much-needed attention, especially because chlorine can be very damaging to the scalp. Chlorine removes germs from pool water but can leave hair dry after stripping it of natural hair oils, according to Skinkraft.

“After training, I either wash out my hair or cold wash because the chlorine can build up and I don’t want my hair to smell like chlorine or get too dry. To help moisturize, I use [a] leave-in conditioner and a styling gel to define my curls a bit,” she said.

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At the first team meeting of the year, athletes on the swim and dive team “jumped out of their seat with an explosion of screams and hollers,” excited for a new hair care partnership, creating a proud coach moment, according to Nicholas Askew, director of the program.

Askew believes this partnership helps combat a larger issue, which is the relationship between Black people and swimming.

“As a learn-to-swim and water safety advocate, especially in the Black and brown community…Black hair is a significant challenge for our culture to want to even get in the water and get their hair wet,” Askew said. “This partnership is going [to] grow our messaging of being able to eliminate that barrier that we have had historically with our relationship with water.”

Kelsey Roberson, a junior political science major from West Orange, New Jersey, has used Mielle products before and was also surprised by this sponsorship. Until her second semester of freshman year, Roberson had relaxed hair because her mother felt like it was easier to manage as a young swimmer, competing since the age of seven. The decision to cut her relaxed hair was hard but she says she’s happy she did. 

“Doing my hair now is more difficult and time-consuming, but I think it was worth it. I value the courage that I had to cut my hair because it’s been for the better,” Roberson said.

Darin Johnson, a junior sports medicine major from Houston, Texas, has used Mielle products since high school, recommended by his mom. 

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“I was using a different brand and my hair was very stringy and dry. That’s when my mom told me about Mielle and it protected my hair from the chlorine,” Johnson said.

The men’s swim and dive team has not received any products as of now, but Johnson hopes that this is soon to come.

Askew hopes this positive and excited reaction to this new partnership will help motivate them at the start of the season and throughout. 

“I’m buckling up my safety belt… ready for the charge and excited to be on this journey as a  program and team. They have been working so incredibly hard in and out of the pool and now we’re ready to compete,” Askew said.

Copy edited by Whitney Meritus

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