Black Panther actress Lupita Nyong’o has become a symbol of accepting ones’ natural beauty, regardless of societal critique and judgement. The Oscar winner is now speaking her truth when it comes to her own personal struggles with accepting natural hair, revealing in an interview with Allure that she felt “more acceptable” as a teen once her parents gave her permission to chemically straighten her hair.
“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.”
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
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She continued, “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. 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.”
While she admits relaxing her hair gave her new found confidence, the price of upkeep simply wasn’t worth it for the respected thespian.
“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?’
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“It was so scary but so liberating because I went completely bald.”
Many times, Black actresses feel pressured to change their natural hair for auditions, hoping to give off a more mainstream appearance. Today, Nyong’o can happily say she’s never had that problem.
“Well, you know, the beginning of my career was so different than most. I didn’t really do a whole lot of the auditioning thing. I booked 12 Years a Slave before I graduated. So, I already had that under my belt by the time I got to New York.”
She went on, “Also, for auditions, I really do think about the character. There are going to be characters that have relaxed hair or whatever different hairstyles.”
Check out Allure for the full interview.
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Born and raised in Compton, California, Jessica Bennett began her career as an intern at The Oakland Post, and later, The Source Magazine. She went on to write for respected hip hop publications such as DJ Booth and Hip Hop DX before becoming the Urban Editor of pop culture website, Wetpaint.com. She joined Ebony as the Entertainment Editor August 2017. Bennett has interviewed such names as Vanessa Williams, Spike Lee, Tyra Banks, Forest Whitaker, Magic & Cookie Johnson and several others.