Though it’s been weeks since the Black Panther’s record-breaking weekend premiere, the magic of Wakanda isn’t showing any signs of stopping. Off-screen, the star-studded cast continues to celebrate their achievements and lately, we’ve been seeing them pay tribute to African heritage through style. By now you’ve probably seen Lupita Nyong’o‘s stunning Oscar red-carpet look, but what you may not know is that there’s actually a lot of backstory behind Lupita’s hairstyle.
Lupita’s celebrity hairstylist, Vernon François, never intended to stop at just a pretty hairstyle for the Kenyan-Mexican actress. Instead, François wanted to channel the cultural pride of Rwandan Amasunzu hair.
Separated into crescent-shaped sections and accented with a thread of gold, François’ inspiration came from Amasunzu hairstyles traditionally worn by men and unmarried women. Looking gorgeously and meticulously sculpted, these hairstyles are used to signify roles and status in Rwandan communities.
According to AnOther mag, “Common among warriors, amasunzu would show one’s power, bravery and nobility, as well as prestige. When worn by women, amasunzu was intrinsically linked to marital status and virginity, and was only worn by teenage girls until they were married.”
In an exclusive interview with Refinery29, François shed more light on his thought process. “As we have traveled around the world for the Black Panther opening, creating looks of empowerment that showcase the strength of African heritage has been our priority,” François explained. “For Lupita’s Academy Awards look, we knew that we wanted a structured hairstyle with a strong identity, and [we were] drawn to Amasunzu hairstyles.”
It is not surprising that there is an interesting story behind Lupita’s co-star, Danai Gurira’s Oscar hair as well.
Like Vernon François, hairstylist Vernon Scott put a lot of thought into his work, down to the very last detail. Starting with a storyboard of photo references, Scott set out to focus on ancestral tribal African design.
From there, Scott decided that he wanted to incorporate paint and a close cut on Danai’s hair to give the design an inverted, three-dimensional look.
“I wanted the design on the side of her head to literally levitate, to exist above everything else,” Scott said, also in an interview with Refinery29.
Needless to say, these two Black Panther stars looked flawless from top to bottom and we can only expect more looks that celebrate Africa’s various traditions and cultures in the near future.