Monday night, Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o showed up to the 2016 Met Gala looking absolutely regal. The Kenyan beauty wore a gorgeous metallic seafoam green gown, which criss-crossed her back and flowed into a long train, making her look like a queen. While Nyong’o’s dress was ah-may-zing, her hair was the true highlight of the evening.
Sculpted high atop her head, Nyong’o’s ‘do was a homage to the many African cultures–both on the continent and throughout the diaspora–that rock truly gravity-defying hair. Though the nod to the Motherland seemed obvious to those of us who know Nyong’o’s hair choices, like our own, often reflect her connection to the continent, apparently, some folk didn’t get the memo.
After the gala, Vogue wondered if Nyong’o was inspired by Audrey Hepburn.
“The sculptural style is also reminiscent of the updo Audrey Hepburn sported in a 1963 Vogue shoot with Bert Stern,” Vogue’s Laird Borrelli-Persson wrote. “And the similarities between the two ingenues extend beyond hair; both, like Hepburn’s famous incarnation of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, have mastered the art of transformation, from head to toe.”
On the Met Gala red carpet, Nyong’o listed Nina Simone among her hair inspirations, so it’s odd the fashion mag would skip over the style’s obvious African (or even Black) influences to credit Hepburn–a white woman.
The erasure of Black American and African influences in popular culture happen time and time again by the mainstream media. It’s how some have rebranded cornrows as “boxer braids,” and credited their popularity to people like the Kardashians instead of the scores of Black celebrities–and everyday Black folks–who’ve worn the style for years.
Nyong’o set the record straight over on Instagram, sharing a video that showed her sculpted style next to several African women. The ever-classy actress didn’t go on a rant against Vogue or take the magazine to task for its lack of cultural knowledge, but rather linked them to her video so they could watch it for themselves.
Vogue’s hair gaffe is yet another example of the mainstream media getting Black folks, and our cultures, wrong. And though I wish publications would use these moments as clues to hire more people of color to prevent them from looking ignorant in the future, I’m pretty sure another culturally clueless moment is on the way.