Meet the 11-year-old girl who helped bring Afro wigs to life for sick children

Phoebe Dampare Osei
·4 min read
Carly Gorton: 'We tried for so long for them to accept my hair and they are trying to make this wig because of our efforts.'
Carly Gorton found she was unable to donate her hair to charity. (Pic: Supplied)

A charity that has donated thousands of wigs to young people suffering from hair loss is set to donate its first Afro wig.

Little Princess Trust, which was founded in 2006, last year announced it had helped create 10,000 wigs made from human hair – but not a single one was made using hair from a real Afro.

Now the charity, which helps young people suffering from cancer and other health conditions, has announced trials are underway using donated Afro hair in its wigs thanks, in part, to the determination of 11-year-old Carly Gorton.

Last August, Carly – then aged 10 – tried to donate her hair to Little Princess Trust just like her friends. But the charity said it was unable to accept her hair because no wig-maker could use Afro hair to make a real-hair wig due to technical difficulties with the manufacturing process.

Among other reasons, donated hair needs to be oil-free, but the heavy creams usually required to moisturise Afro hair means washing the oils out before donating leaves it dry and weak, and therefore more likely to break during the wig-making process.

Instead, Little Princess Trust used real straight black hair and curled it to look like an Afro.

Carly with her mum, Anna Mudeka. (Pic: Supplied)
Carly with her mum, Anna Mudeka. (Pic: Supplied)

Carly’s mother, Anna Mudeka, says she struggled to find an organisation in the UK that could take her daughter's hair.

She said: “How do I tell my daughter that her Caucasian friend’s hair is absolutely perfect, but hers is unsuitable? How do you start that conversation with a 10-year-old?

“As a mother I wanted to find a way."

Carly, who lives in Norfolk, said: “My hair will grow back, but for that person, their hair will not be growing back, so for them to have my hair, that would be really nice.”

Carly and her mother’s enquiries eventually led to Cynthia Stroud, a food judge and business owner.

In 2017, Cynthia had tried to donate her son’s hair to Little Princess Trust but was told, like Carly, that they could not accept Afro hair. She did not tell her son and instead hid the hair.

She said: “I couldn’t bear to throw it away. Fast forward three years later, just under a year ago, I made the assumption that it would be fine to donate his hair now. To my surprise the answer was still no.”

Inspired to do something about it herself, Cynthia watched YouTube tutorials and learned how to turn the Afro hair into weft hair extensions. She sent them to a wigmaker, who in turn created an Afro wig made from her son’s hair.

Last year, she set up the non-profit organisation Curly Wigs For Kids. “I started this so that people do not feel they have nowhere to donate curly hair,” she said.

Cynthia Stroud set up the non-profit organisation Curly Wigs For Kids. (Pic: Supplied)
Cynthia Stroud set up the non-profit organisation Curly Wigs For Kids. (Pic: Supplied)

Thanks to media coverage given to Carly’s story, Little Princess Trust has started working with Cynthia and has received more Afro donations, although trials have been delayed due to COVID restrictions.

The charity is also collaborating with Liz Finan, the owner of Raoul, a London wigmaker that has been in business for 120 years.

They are developing a new design of wefts for Afro hair to be able to sit in the wig base, as opposed to a full lace wig where each strand of hair is individually inserted.

Cynthia said: “I want other companies to know that the source of fixing their problems does not necessarily have to come from a hair expert, it can come from anybody of that race who has had that experience. People of all hair types are acceptable.”

Little Princess Trust is committed to offering more Afro wigs in the future. (Little Princess Trust)
Little Princess Trust is committed to offering more Afro wigs in the future. (Little Princess Trust)

In February, Cynthia became an ambassador for Little Princess Trust and now directs all enquiries to them.

Ian Morris, from Little Princess Trust, said: “The big fear in our minds was there would be a lot of children or friends together, they all get their Little Princess Trust ‘thank you’ certificates, and there’s one child who doesn’t receive theirs and they look around and see why they are different.

“What’s good now is we’ve gone past ‘no’, and we’re on to ‘let’s do this, let’s try and make this work’. Those challenges will still be there but the people we are working with are very experienced within the Black hair industry.

“Carly’s hair was a brilliant donation.”

As for Carly herself, she said: “It makes me feel really happy because we tried for so long for them to accept my hair and they are trying to make this wig because of our efforts.”