‘I didn’t tell anybody except for my hairdresser. When I got home, my mother was horrified.‘
She’s the Oscar-winning actress that almost singlehandedly changed the game for kinky and textured hair representation in Hollywood, rocking her natural hair on the red carpet in styles that celebrate high fashion and her Kenyan heritage.
We’re of course talking about the star of Marvel’s latest blockbuster Black Panther and our constant natural hair inspo, Lupita Nyong’o.
But the 34-year-old hasn’t always been so confident about embracing her signature hair.
Speaking to Allure as part of their The Culture Of Hair issue, which champions the variety and beauty of textured hair, Nyong’o revealed her struggles growing up in a society that solely promoted Eurocentric beauty ideals:
‘I didn’t love my hair when I was a child. It was lighter than my skin, which made me not love it so much. I was really kind of envious of girls with thicker, longer, more lush hair. In my tween years, I started begging my mother to have my hair relaxed.
‘Around 13 or 14, I had such a rough time with being teased and feeling really unpretty. My dad intervened and spoke to my mom about my hair, and she finally agreed. She took me to the salon in the middle of the school day, and I got my hair relaxed. 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.’
Nyong’o went on to explain the extensive rituals and processes she would undertake as a teenager to maintain the quality of her relaxed hair. Eventually the regular maintenance cost so much she made the decision to get rid of it entirely:
‘I was once asking for some more money to get my hair done and my dad joked, “Why don’t you just cut it all off?” And a few months later, I thought to myself, Why don’t I? I went into the hair salon, and I said, “Let’s cut it off”‘, she told Allure.
‘It was almost a dare to myself: Can I live without hair? He shaved it right off. It was so scary but so liberating because I went completely bald.’
Even then, the 12 Years A Slave actress faltered when her she revealed her now signature buzzcut to her mum.
‘When I got home, my mother was horrified,’ she explains. ‘Then I felt really self-conscious. It was hard to see the horror on my mother’s face. She was so disapproving, and I was so sensitive about it at the time, that I started to get scared that I had done the wrong thing.’
Thankfully Nyong’o’s dad stepped in and helped boost her confidence. ‘We had a good laugh about it. That was definitely a liberating stage. I had nothing to hide behind. I had my hair short for a very long time after that.’
#Repost @allure ・・・ Presenting our March 2018 issue, The Culture of Hair, starring @lupitanyongo. In addition to talking to Nyong’o about her relationship with her hair, we also gave her and hairstylist @vernonfrancois total freedom over the looks. “Lupita and I wanted to show that coil-y or kinky hair has many strengths and can be worn in lots of different ways, celebrating its beauty and versatility,” says Francois. Link in bio for the full story. ____ 📷: @patrickdemarchelier Hair: @vernonfrancois Styling: @alexwhiteedits Makeup: @dilokritbarose Nails: @deborahlippmann