Lupita Nyong’o is on the cover of Allure next month, and her hair is the big star.
The Oscar winner and “Black Panther” star sat down with the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Michelle Lee, to talk about her incredible hairstyles.
Experimenting with her hair goes back to being a teenager, the 34-year-old said.
“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?'” Nyong’o recalled. “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.'”
While Nyong’o’s mom was initially not happy to see her shaved head, she eventually came around. “I remember once when I was dressed up for church, she actually said, with a very quick mouth, ‘You look nice.'”
Nyong’o told Allure she’s currently growing her hair out, with a little help from her hairstylist.
“My hair is the longest it’s been in over a decade,” she said. “A lot of that is because I have an amazing hairstylist in Vernon François. He’s been so helpful, helping me learn how to maintain my natural hair texture.
“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.”
The actress explained that she didn’t always have it so easy with her hair, especially when she was living in Mexico.
“The beauty standards had nothing to do with me in Mexico,” she said. “It was such a bizarre, dire time for my hair. I was living in a small town where there was not any semblance of an African community. I’d have to take the bus to Mexico City to find a woman who could braid my hair. That was two and a half hours away.
Nyong’o also talked about the trouble with terms used to talk about hair, particularly in a racial context.
“I’m not an authority on this. But the term ‘African-American hair’ is inaccurate because I’m not African-American,” she said. “And I think the term ‘African-American’ is often used as a racial term when it’s a cultural group that does not encompass every single person of African descent.
“I like the term ‘kinky.’ Some people don’t like that term, but when I think about my hair, I think of it as African kinky hair. But I’m not really in deep with the politics of it all and the language choice,” she added.
Nyong’o also talked about the exciting experience of starring in “Black Panther.”
“On set, it was just such an inspirational experience because so much thought was put into this film, and every single aspect of it was rich and beautiful and just arresting, actually,” she said. “To see this aspirational African world that actually becomes an example for the whole wide world was spellbinding. We were all very much aware that we were in something extremely special.”
As for how the fame from “Black Panther”, “Star Wars”, and “12 Years a Slave” has affected her, Nyong’o said, “Well, I have to be just more cautious in public spaces. That’s a big change.
“It’s about negotiating with that illusion because oftentimes you encounter people who have encountered you, but you haven’t encountered them.”