Quarantine was a time period for people to dive into a new hobby. 

For 28 year-old Sierra Lepley, that new hobby was baking. 

The Alliance native and Canton resident works as a full-time nurse practitioner who suddenly found herself some free time thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lepley said that she has baked in the past but cookie making would be a whole new challenge she wanted to face.

“I started doing just cakes and cupcakes a few years ago but I have a family member who makes cookies like that.” Lepley says, “I kind of just said to myself ‘You know what? I’m going to learn how to do this myself.’ So I started watching some videos and things have definitely slowed down over the last year so that was kind of when I started picking it up.”

With this newfound hobby, Lepley found an opportunity to shed light on an issue that not a lot of people even think about.

 “I was talking to my coworker and she told me ‘That was something that I have never thought about.’ Lepley says, ‘Not even an issue I knew was an issue.’

Lepley is talking about hair discrimination.

“This has gotten better over the last few years but if you searched on Google professional hairstyles, what came up was straight, blonde, white people's hair. If you typed in unprofessional hairstyles, what came up was natural African-American, black people’s hair and dreadlocks and afros. It is something that when someone walks into the workplace and they are wearing braids or more of a bigger hairstyle, it has been legal up to this point for someone to say that is an unprofessional hairstyle for the workplace and we don’t want it here.”

The CROWN act (which stands for Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.) is a legislative piece that has been passed by nearly one-fourth of all states in America and currently being reviewed by the U.S. Senate. If passed, it will be illegal in all 50 states to discriminate against hairstyles in the workplace.

Lepley created cookies that highlight different black hairstyles and ended up gaining some traction on social media with the reaction being mostly positive but she says that she felt initially shocked when she found some negative comments.

“There were some people that disagreed and were leaving rolling eye emojis and basically saying that hair discrimination is not a real thing.” Lepley describes, “I was actually sitting in the parking lot of a nursing home getting ready to see a patient and I had to call my mom like ‘Mom, I’ve got haters!’ Of course, my mom is ready to fight tooth and nail for me. It wasn’t anything crazy but I was not prepared for that. I think I took it to heart a little bit at first but I took a step back and now I’ve pushed it off to the side.”

Lepley says that her husband and two kids have been extremely supportive of her baking. She gives credit to her husband for helping out with the cookies while she is working at her full-time job.

“He has taught me some things. He’s like the janitor and cleans up the dishes, he takes care of the delivery of orders while I’m at work, he’s been absolutely amazing trying to keep on top of all of that stuff.”

When it comes to next steps, Lepley wants to take her baking skills to bigger heights. But when it comes to her passions of nursing and baking, the former comes first for her.

“I think someday I would really like to make it blow up and put the time into it” says Lepley, “But nursing is my first passion so I can’t see any time soon giving that up.”

Lepley may not be ready to take her passion for baking to a larger scale. But for now, she’s looking to make the world a better place.

One batch at a time.