Could we love Lupita Nyong’o more? She’s fierce, beautiful, intelligent and articulate. And she’s not afraid to use her voice to talk about what matters to her. Speaking to Allure, she recently opened up about the ever-evolving experience of her natural hair and learning to embrace it, and the results are just so refreshing that it’s taken our fangirl love up a few notches.
Nyong’o also had her hair stylist pal Vernon Francois recreate a few favourite looks, and she looks incredible.
In the interview with editor-in-chief Michelle Lee, she shared the sometimes painful experience of finding her hair unmanageable, and straight up undesirable, as a teenager. “Around 13 or 14, I had such a rough time with being teased and feeling really unpretty…I was really kind of envious of girls with thicker, longer, more lush hair,” she said, adding that peer pressure didn’t help, given that most girls in her class had their hair relaxed.
After her dad convinced her mom she should be able to have hers done too, her mother agreed to take her to the salon, after which she felt much more at ease. “I felt so much better because it was easier to tame. All the girls in my class had their hair relaxed. Very few had natural kink, so I felt a lot more acceptable.”
When she realized how much maintenance was involved in keeping her hair relaxed, Nyong’o decided to opt out altogether and shave off the whole thing, a style she kept for years. But in learning to find the right resources – be that the right salon, the right products, the right techniques to braid at home, or the right climate (she says her hair needs “warmth”), she’s come to embrace her hair for the naturalness it holds, as well as its potential. “Now I love my hair. I love it because I’ve also been able to really embrace the stuff it can do. It’s like clay in the right hands. Clay can be dirt in the wrong hands, but clay can be art in the right hands.”
Indeed – she posted the stylish shoot on her Instagram, she captioned it, “Hallelujah! Thank you to the great @VernonFrancois for always gilding my crown of hair, always empowering and transforming my kinks and curls.”
She also acknowledged the influence and power of location and language around hair and beauty standards, noting for example, that even in Kenya, salons wouldn’t learn how to treat natural hair in their formal training due to the influence of American cultural beauty standards, and that it took a long time for this to change.
It seems highlighting this couldn’t come a moment too soon. Remember the whole airbrushing/removal debacle? Other high profile black women, like Solange, have been affected as well, sparking the hashtag #DTMH – ‘don’t touch my hair’. We love that by showcasing her beauty by being her most natural, unfiltered self, and using such empowering language, Nyong’o is helping challenge accepted notions around what’s considered normal, beautiful, and natural. And all power to her.