Anthony Myles slumps into a plastic patio chair in JoAnn Baxley’s apartment. The senior forward on the men’s basketball team, who just turned in a seven-page paper on Descartes, downs a juice and chews through four bags of chips while Baxley braids his hair into 20 neatly arranged rows that curve in even patterns across his scalp. He’s got to look good because tomorrow the team plays on national television.
Myles isn’t the only one who’s been in this position. Teammates Dedrick Finn and Angelo Smith also have sat in the plastic patio chair. So has Cincinnati Bengals running back Corey Dillon. Baxley, a senior psychology major, is well known around the University—and the city—for her skill braiding hair. “Braids by Butta” she calls her work. Butta is short for Butterfly, which is her middle name.
What has made Butta so popular is her style. Before the taming begins, she washes the hair, picks away any knots and then uses her comb to start the first row, making sure the part is perfect. “That is what makes it look so good,” she says. “A lot of people can braid, but it’s the parting that can really make the hairstyle.”
Butta oughta know. She’s been braiding hair since she was 12 years old in her native Baltimore. She learned by watching her mother and practicing on her nephew’s long locks.
The first in her family to go to college, she uses the $20 to $40 she receives for each sitting in combination with a series of grants and loans, plus a part-time job at Target, to pay the remaining costs of tuition, books and living expenses.
As Myles sits patiently, she finishes the job with a little mousse and oil sheen to keep the braids down and looking shiny. He pops his 6-foot 9-inch frame out of the chair to check his look in a mirror. He’s happy.
“I love it,” he says. “I always like it no matter what she does.”