JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A group that advocates limited government is suing Mississippi over the state's licensing requirement for people who earn money by plucking eyebrows with thread.
Mississippi Justice Institute filed the lawsuit Monday on behalf of Dipa Bhattarai, a University of Mississippi graduate student. She grew up in Nepal, where she learned the technique of using a single strand of cotton thread to remove hair.
Mississippi requires people who receive money for eyebrow threading to earn an esthetician's license. The license requires training and exams, but none of the training deals with eyebrow threading.
The Mississippi Board of Cosmetology shut down Bhattarai's eyebrow threading business, and she wants to reopen it.
Bhattarai told the Clarion Ledger that she started earning money by threading eyebrows while she was a student at Mississippi University for Women in Columbus.
"It's going to sound cliche, but I just started my business with $240," Bhattarai said.
She had a chair, some thread and not much else. Bhattarai said the owner of a shopping mall in Columbus let her set up a kiosk for free and later gave her a discounted price when she moved into a storefront.
"They didn't believe I was going to make any money," she said.
Bhattarai said she worked up to 20 hours a week at the eyebrow threading kiosk. In less than two years, the kiosk grew to a store in Columbus and a store in Starkville. Families, sororities and members of the Mississippi State University football team came to her business to get their eyebrows threaded, she said.
In December 2017, Bhattarai said she was threading eyebrows at her business in Columbus when a state Board of Cosmetology inspector handed her a citation.
"The lady walked in and said I couldn't do it. ... I was really surprised," Bhattarai said.
Her Starkville business was soon shut down, Bhattarai said, leaving two full-time employees and one part-time employee without jobs and her on the hook for rent.
Mississippi Justice Institute director Aaron Rice said in a news release that Bhattarai wants to "pursue the American Dream, by putting her own skills and work ethic to use in a safe and worthwhile trade."
"Unnecessary laws and regulations are preventing her from doing that," Rice said in a news release. "We want to help people like her fight back against this kind of job-killing red tape."
Mississippi Justice Institute is the legal arm of Mississippi Center for Public Policy, which advocates free markets and limited regulation. The lawsuit names the Mississippi Board of Cosmetology and Attorney General Jim Hood as defendants. The attorney general's office represents state agencies.
The institute's news release said eyebrow threading does not involve skin-to-skin contact between the customer and the person plucking the eyebrows, does not use the same tools on different customers and does not involve sharp instruments, harsh chemicals or heat.
The institute said the Texas Supreme Court struck down a similar law in 2015. It also says Louisiana, Tennessee, and Arizona repealed licensing requirements for eyebrow threading after lawsuits were filed.
A similar lawsuit filed in June challenges Louisiana's cosmetology training requirement for people who earn money with natural hair braiding techniques that are widely practiced in African American communities. That lawsuit was brought by the Virginia-based Institute for Justice, which once challenged Louisiana licensing and permitting requirements for commercial flower arranging and cosmetic eyebrow threading.
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