Meet Annie Malone, St. Louis’ Beauty Pioneer

By Rikki Byrd
In Style

In May, St. Louis celebrated the Annie Malone Day Parade (also known as the May Day Parade), which unfolds annually in Downtown St. Louis. Local dance troupes, high school bands, black sororities and fraternities, politicians and more participate in the day, which commemorates the illustrious service of Annie Turbo Malone. While most people know her for her extraordinary philanthropy in the city of St. Louis and beyond, it is her haircare business that made her contributions possible.

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Photo courtesy of Ebony (online archive)

Malone was born and raised in Illinois. Although she never finished high school, she had an affinity for science and later began to dabble in hair care. Considered among the first of African-American women to become a millionaire (alongside the likes of Madame C.J. Walker, who would become one of her beauty agents and major competition), Annie Turbo Malone had a knack for science that propelled her into a more than successful career in hair care industry.

Her claim to fame would be a hair straightening product for African-American women that she called “Wonderful Hair Grower.” After opening her first beauty school at the age of 31 in Illinois, she relocated to St. Louis and opened Poro Beauty College and became an international sensation. She eventually relocated to Chicago, where she furthered her business until her death in 1957. According to Ebony, she grossed $5,000 a day and during the peak of Poro, Malone’s net worth was an estimated $14 million. During her career, Malone opened 32 beauty schools across the nation.

In 1919, Malone became the Board Chairman for the Women Temperance Union in St. Louis. According to the Annie Malone website, in 1920, she donated $10,000 in an effort to build a home for St. Louis orphans, which is currently located on 2612 Annie Malone Drive in St. Louis. The home was named after Malone in 1946.

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