Are your eyebrows on fleek?

When Mississippi residents needed to tame their unruly eyebrows, they would turn to the popular method of eyebrow threading from a Nepalese graduate student at the University of Mississippi.

Dipa Bhattarai, who came to the U.S. to study, started threading eyebrows for her friends and fellow students. The ancient hair removal process, which doesn’t use wax or tweezers but cotton threads, was so popular that she opened her own shop. 

Bhattarai was so successful she opened a second location and employed multiple employees — all while continuing her education.

Things were fine until a local inspector from the state cosmetology board came knocking at her door. Bhattarai needed a cosmetology license to keep operating and because she didn’t, her shop was shut down.

Bhattarai was the victim of occupational licensing, government certifications that allow a person to work in a job or vocation. 

Mississippi requires taking 600 hours of beauty classes, which could cost as much as $12,000, to obtain a cosmetology license. Nevermind that the classes don’t teach threading and that it reportedly takes fewer hours to become an EMT (165 hours).

Often occupational licenses lock people like Bhattarai out of opportunity – particularly poor, low-skilled, and less educated individuals who just want opportunity. 

Proponents claim they protect consumers and the public, but they really just protect established businesses from new competitors who charge less than they do.

As Institute for Justice’s Dick Carpenter explains in a new video, How Occupational Licensing Perpetuates a Cycle of Poverty, licensing often carries more severe requirements than the job demands, which erects hurdles that are impossible for low-income workers to jump.  

Bhattarai is not giving up. She’s teamed up with the Mississippi Justice Institute to sue the state. She may have success given a precedent in Texas where threaders successfully sued the state licensing board for requiring that they obtain an esthetician license to practice.

The more that people like Bhattarai challenge occupational licenses, the more opportunity they will open the door of opportunity to others who just want to pursue their American Dreams too.