Black Panther” star Lupita Nyong’o shows off various natural hairstyles in the March issue of Allure magazine, which is themed “The Culture of Hair.”


The Mexican-born Kenyan actress discussed her own hair journey for the cover story, which was posted online today (February 12). Nyong’o explained that after she years of wearing her hair in its natural state, she chemically straightened it as a teenager in response to teasing and feelings of insecurity. Years later, she shaved her head:

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. She wouldn’t allow it, though her hair was relaxed. She felt that that was a decision I could come to when I was maybe 18. 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.

I had my hair relaxed for most of my teenage years, and that was a whole other world. The upkeep of relaxed hair is a commitment. It took styling it once a week and then having it retouched once a month. I remember doing crazy things, like sleeping with my head above the headboard so that my curls wouldn’t get messed up for the next day. I’d have these terrible neck aches because I was determined to keep my hair as pristine as possible. And it was super expensive. When I was about 18 or 19, I didn’t have a job or anything, so it was really my parents paying for my hair. So 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.” 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. … I had nothing to hide behind. I had my hair short for a very long time after that.

Nyong’o also recounted how she embraced her natural hair texture over time, and how confusing that was for some hairstylists in her native country: 

Even in Kenya—you’d think [we know our hair best, because] we are predominantly African and Black out there—but when I finally had my hair natural, the hairstylist that I had been going to for so long with my relaxed hair didn’t know what to do with my natural hair, and just kept offering me different chemicals to put in it. In the end I was like, “Why don’t you know?” And he was like, “We don’t learn how to do natural hair in school.” That baffled me. I just felt it was so unacceptable. So I couldn’t really learn what was good for my hair until I left, which is bizarre. Now, of course, things have really changed.

The issue also highlights Nyong’o’s hairstylist Vernon Francois and the style choices the pair made for the cover shoot. “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,” Francois explained. “Loving your true texture is important.”

Check out the cover image and looks from the photoshoot below: 


Back in November, Nyong’o called out Grazia UK for Photoshopping her natural hair when she appeared on the magazine’s cover. “I am disappointed that @graziauk invited me to be on their cover and then edited out and smoothed my hair to fit their notion of what beautiful hair looks like,” she wrote in the Instagram post below. “Had I been consulted, I would have explained that I cannot support or condone the omission of what is my native heritage, with the intention that they appreciate that there is still a very long way to go to combat the unconscious prejudice against Black women’s complexion, hairstyle and texture.”

 

As I have made clear so often in the past with every fiber of my being, I embrace my natural heritage and despite having grown up thinking light skin and straight, silky hair were the standards of beauty, I now know that my dark skin and kinky, coily hair are beautiful too. Being featured on the cover of a magazine fulfills me as it is an opportunity to show other dark, kinky-haired people, and particularly our children, that they are beautiful just the way they are. I am disappointed that @graziauk invited me to be on their cover and then edited out and smoothed my hair to fit their notion of what beautiful hair looks like. Had I been consulted, I would have explained that I cannot support or condone the omission of what is my native heritage with the intention that they appreciate that there is still a very long way to go to combat the unconscious prejudice against black women’s complexion, hair style and texture. #dtmh

A post shared by Lupita Nyong’o (@lupitanyongo) on Nov 9, 2017 at 6:11pm PST


“The Culture of Hair” issue is available on newsstands now.