At this year's Met Gala, Lupita Nyong'o turned heads as she arrived on the red carpet with her hair sculpted into a perfect tower of kinks. She explained to Vogue's Andre Leon Talley on the red carpet that her hair was inspired by "the sculptural hairdos from all around the continent." The natural style also mirrored Nina Simone's famous updo elegantly draped in pearls. Despite Nyong'o's acknowledgment to women of African descent for her look, Vogue Magazine pointed out that her hair was a nod to Audrey Hepburn. Nyong'o took to her Instagram and made sure to credit the women of the African Diaspora for her striking style.
The FADER spoke with Vernon Francois, Nyong'o's hairstylist who's responsible for all of her stunning natural hairdos, over email about how the two of them went about choosing the special look and the importance of Nyong'o embracing black pride and beauty.
Lupita embraces her natural hair through so many styles, how exactly did you two come up with this one?
VERNON FRANCOIS: We aimed to showcase the classic, towering structures which have existed throughout traditional African culture. Also, we wanted to demonstrate the versatility of textured hair and this was a great way to do that.
As the stylist, what was important for you to capture when crafting this look?
There is a wealth of inspiration when it comes to Afro textured hair. Lupita’s way of working is visionary. We were able to collaborate and encapsulate the essence and energy of deep rooted history while creating a futuristic and structure to the hairstyle.
What types of visual references inspired the style?
Nina Simone, of course is an excellent cultural reference. She embodies black beauty, and fearlessness. We wanted to keep the style up to date whilst retaining its historical power.
What women did you research while coming up with the style? Where were some of the places that they're from on the continent?
We did not focus on an individual figure during our research. We were greatly inspired by African tribes, sculptured silhouettes and the strengths of textured hair. Importantly, the Met Gala is a fantastic time to showcase the avant-garde. It’s a great opportunity to highlight some of the best ideas we have.
The theme of the night was technology. Would you say the look also spoke to an Afro-futurism aesthetic?
The art of textured hair is constantly developing. More and more people with textured hair are embracing their natural gift. I’m sure as the natural hair movement continues to grow from strength to strength, the aesthetic will also develop.
What does it mean to wear a style to the Met Gala in particular that represents so many women across the continent while also making reference to a strong and striking figure like Nina Simone?
It’s the ability to embrace beauty fearlessly. It’s looking at a ‘non conventional’ piece of art and completely allowing oneself to be submerged in.
Why is it important to the both of you to always creatively show the versatility of black hair? Especially when Lupita makes an award show or red carpet appearance.
Afro textured hair is always a topic of conversation. However, the red carpet allows us access to some of the largest media platforms, which is very important. We are able to not only inspire those pioneering their own natural stories, but also stand with them.