Lupita Nyong’o speaks about embracing her natural hair

‘I had such a rough time with being teased and feeling unpretty’

Lupita Nyong'o at the 'Black Panther' European Premiere
Lupita Nyong'o at the 'Black Panther' European Premiere

This month, Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o has graced the cover and pages of Allure magazine with a series of looks embracing the beauty and versatility of her hair.

However, she’s admitted that she wasn’t always a fan of her natural hairstyle.

From a young age, Nyong’o pleaded with her mother to allow her to have her hair relaxed, which involves chemically ‘relaxing’ natural curls so that they’re easier to manage.

“I was really envious of girls with thicker, longer, more lush hair,” Nyong’o told Michelle Lee, editor in chief of Allure magazine.

“Around 13 or 14, I had such a rough time with being teased and feeling unpretty.”

When her mother eventually gave in and allowed Nyong’o to have the beauty treatment, she felt relieved as so many of her classmates had already had their hair relaxed.

“Very few had natural kink, so I felt a lot more acceptable,” she said.

Although she then found it easier to tame her hair, she recalled doing strange things such as sleeping with her head above the headboard of her bed in order to keep her curls intact, which caused her neck to ache.

A few years later, Nyong'o’s father joked that she should cut all of her hair off.

His flippant suggestion sparked an idea in Nyong'o’s head, and so she decided to take the plunge and have her head completely shaved.

Despite feeling self-conscious about her new look, in part due to her mother’s disapproval, Nyong’o didn’t regret going through with the drastic transformation.

“That was definitely a liberating stage,” she said. “I had nothing to hide behind.”

Now aged 34, Nyong’o loves experimenting with her natural hair thanks to the imagination of her hairstylist Vernon François.

“My hair is the longest it’s been in over a decade. A lot of that is because I have an amazing hair stylist Vernon François,” she said.

“He’s been so helpful, helping me to learn how 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."

Nyong’o doesn’t like describing her hair as “African-American”, instead preferring to opt for the term “kinky”.

“The term ‘African-American hair’ is inaccurate because I’m not African-American,” she said.

“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.

“Curly hair differs so much."

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