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Local Hero: Father-Daughter Bonding, One Braid at a Time

“What this is really about is taking time to connect with our daughters, which is when the magic happens.”

A New Skill

Philippe Morgese had his hands full when he became a single dad to his daughter Emma in 2007. Everything from feeding to dressing the 1-year-old felt like a challenge. When she grew from toddler to preschooler, he was faced with yet another tricky task—doing her hair. “She barely looked presentable compared to the other girls,” he says. “At that time Emma was in love with the movie Tangled and wanted to grow her hair super long. I could stick in some clips and manage a ponytail, but that was about it.”

Philippe, 35, realized he needed to step up his game. So the Daytona Beach, FL, resident gave himself a crash course in basic styling by watching YouTube tutorials. “Emma was my guinea pig,” he says. “I failed 90% of the time, but she loved it even when I messed up.” Eventually, practice made perfect—and his newfound expertise didn’t go unnoticed. “I dropped Emma off at school one day with a nice braid,” he recalls. “The other parents and even her teacher all said, ‘You did that?! You’re such a good dad.’ ”

Online Success

By the time Emma was a second-grader, Philippe had graduated from simple plaits to sock buns and fancy fishtail braids. Philippe, who works at home selling vintage audio equipment and electronics on eBay, posted pictures of his handiwork on social media and received plenty of compliments from friends—as well as pleas from other dads wanting to learn the tricks of the trade. “I decided to offer a free class, using Emma as my model,” he says. He put out the word on Facebook, and within an hour 10 daddy-daughter teams had signed up. The 70-minute class was held at a beauty school and “covered everything from basic brushing to braids and buns,” he says. “The guys were fast learners.”

Unconditional Love

What Philippe thought was a one-off back in October 2015 has turned into regular monthly workshops known as the Daddy Daughter Hair Factory. They’ve become so popular they’ve expanded to 11 states, and other dads now lead classes in their own communities. “We even have one dad in the Netherlands,” he says. For those living outside of Daytona, Philippe teaches the basics via weekly live shows on Facebook and tutorials on his YouTube channel. “These are just regular people—we have a police officer and a mechanic, and some are married and some are single. They’re not experts, but they don’t have to be. What this is really about is taking time to connect with our daughters, which is when the magic happens,” he says. “It’s not about the braid, but the bond.”

Emma, now 10, is still the model for every class and looks forward to their time together. “We talk about life, school and our dreams,” she says. “I love it, and having cool hair is a bonus. He recently did a corset braid, which was awesome!” For his part, Philippe is not worried that she’ll cut him loose anytime soon. “Emma’s already old enough to do her own hair,” he says. “But half the time she’ll hand me a brush and say, ‘Try something new.’ ”

Check out Daddy Daughter Hair Factory on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.