Today we’d like to introduce you to Chanel Rhodes.
Hi Chanel, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I am a first-generation African American English/Western rider and third-generation entrepreneur. I have had a passion for horses my entire life. My mother encouraged me to live my life with passion and pursue my dreams. She worked very hard to purchase my riding lessons. Although I did not ride consistently, I never lost sight of my dreams of riding and owning horses someday. At the age of 20 years old, I conducted research on how to obtain and maintain a horse with little to no money. After scaling through Craigslist, I spoke to a man over the phone who gave me some great advice. He told me to become a working student to pay for lessons. I took his advice and found a trainer in Long Beach named Cliff Salter. I worked as his student for seven years. Through him, I obtained my first horse with my mother’s help. Fourteen years later, I am now a business owner, stunt rider, and a working student for a Hunter/Jumper Program called Mountain View Farms South with trainer Jasmine Wheatley. I now have two amazing horses(one belonging to my mother, who I inspired to ride). I have a Tobiano named “Lady” and an Off The Track Thoroughbred named“Gabriel” that I ride in both English and Western riding styles. I ride in Hunter/Jumpers, barrel races, sortings, trail rides, parades and Gymkhanas. Lady and I have also participated in few productions and photoshoots together. I consider English riding to be a solid foundation for my Western riding. Both of my horses have one English and one Western saddle.
In 2019 during Black History Month, I was inspired by the many creative Social Media posts from other African American Equestrians. I decided to get a little creative with my Tobiano’s sad and limp mane. I created a false mane prototype that matched her mane colors. Unfortunately, the prototype did not work on the day of my video and photoshoot with my fiancé, Andrew Garces. Andrew suggested to film me installing my loose leftover braiding hair from scratch. He edited and released the project the very next day. I named this project “Afrocentric Pony.” Shortly after I released Afrocentric Pony on Social Media, I was contacted by Abriana Johnson and Caitlin Gooch from the Young Black Equestrian’s Podcast to record an episode. During the podcast, they encouraged me to create a sellable item. Afterward, I started developing my horse extensions. I have been blessed with some wonderful opportunities and open doors. The name of my business is Mane Tresses, where customers can get “A Tress Above The Rest.” I have created synthetic lightweight, easy-to-install, colorful/natural colored wigs for horses. Mane Tresses launched on January 25th, 2021. My target market is equestrians, specialty horse shows, production companies, movie studios, photographers, and theme parks. I am thankful for the many opportunities that arose for me and I look forward to more open doors.
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
There have been a few struggles. As a young child, I was not sure if black people rode horses. Due to the lack of representation, the sport did not seem inviting. I also had to get used to being one of the very few(if not only) people of color at some of my competitions. Competitive riding can be very hard on your body and confidence. I have fallen at the barn and competitions(how embarrassing, but it happens). I had some horse-related injuries; broken bones, torn ligaments, hip injuries, sprains and a concussion or 2. Starting my business has also been a challenge. It took some time to develop my product. I to balance a full-time job, caring for my horses, excising other horses as a working student, and starting a business. As a new inventor, I developed around 50 prototypes, which became frustrating at times. I had to teach myself how to use a sewing machine. There was a COVID-related cancellation of a huge event that was going to feature my products. This event would have GREATLY helped me improve my business and my life. After losing this opportunity, I had to fight myself to not become discouraged. Breaking some traditions in a very traditional world has not been the easiest. I am a creative, right-brained sole proprietor and worker of my business. I am not afraid to admit that having to stay focused and work on developing the technical side of my business has been tough. I learn more through each and every new experience. The new challenge is striving to consistently work with the entertainment and fashion industry. I would love for Beyonce and Adidas to use my products in any of their upcoming Ivy Park Rodeo Collection photo shoots. I would also love to work with Cavalia, I think my products would be a unique addition to their productions. I have so many ideas, which at times can cause me to feel overwhelmed and make it difficult for me to organize my thoughts. Although my road has not been smooth, I am grateful for the journey and experiences.
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I am a well-rounded creative, crafter, and self-taught hair designer. I found a way to combine my love for horses and art. I am the inventor of easy to install, synthetic, affordable wigs for horses. These wigs are specially crafted with the user in mind. There is no braiding, sewing, adhesive, or crocheting required. Each wig is custom made to fit a particular horse and are also versatile at the same time. I am known for making wigs for horses and rocking matching hair with my paint horse, Lady. Although I have also used a few other horses (including my mom’s bay thoroughbred) Lady is my “mane” partner. My products have been featured in magazines, online articles, television shows, and mini documentaries. Lady and I participated in a Facebook Commercial with hip-hop artist Chika (https://www.ispot.tv/ad/OVik/facebook-groups-i-am-beautiful-featuring-chika-song-by-chika). This commercial premiered during the 2021 Grammys. We were also on an episode of Access Daily in 2020 during their sweeps week. Lady and I walked up the sidewalk at the NBC Comcast building in Universal City to be greeted by Mario Lopez, Kit Hoover, and Scott Evans(https://youtu.be/iIIdD0vzEFU). Here is my “In The Press” tab on my website if you would like to see more (https://www.manetresses.com/press).
My product is one of a kind. To my knowledge, I am the only one that creates anything affordable, colorful, easy to work with, and covers the entire mane. I may also be the only one that has invented a cosmetic solution to covering a horse’s patch of missing mane hair. I believe the only other products that can be found are clip-ins and real tail extensions for horses.
What would you say have been one of the most important lessons you’ve learned?
I have learned that it is okay think outside of the box and live my life with passion. It is ok to be different, I do not always have to fit in. I learned to not let society rule my mind or ideas and the outside voices do not matter. I have learned to never give up even when I felt discouraged. It took 50 prototypes and A LOT of crying before I had a successful product. I learned to keep the faith and keep moving forward. My mother has always told me, “If you are not living your life with passion, then you are not living at all.” Perseverance makes for a successful future.
- Pony Bangs $10-$20
- Equi-tails $40-$55
- Manes $170-$190
- Combos (Mane, Tail, Forelock pieces) $234-$238
- Mane Patches $95
- Email: Coco@manetresses.com
- Website: Manetresses.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cowgirl_chanel/
- Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/manetressescc/photos/a.100256612056084/100256592056086/?type=3&source=44
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/CowgirlChanel/status/1373793533048410112
- Youtube: https://youtube.com/channel/UCnJ0z2D1JXvdffpQsnS3gVw